Champions are made when no one is watching

“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching,” wrote the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer coach, Anson Dorrance.

As an outsider looking in, many think of our season as being the time we put in the extra hours, become obsessive over our technique, and find out just how much we are capable of. But any athlete knows, it’s the time where the score doesn’t count that determines the type of player you’ll become. 

The off-season is a time to improve your weaknesses and make your strengths unflawed. It is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding where you can find moments of doubt in your abilities. Every detail becomes critical and the amount of energy exerted sculpts not only the player you envision yourself but builds a team who has worked in an unselfish manner in effort to grow a championship season.

It’s easy to run past the end marker when your coach is standing behind it with a stopwatch in her hand. It’s easy to complete one more rep when you feel your teammates eyes watching you. It’s easy for adrenaline to kick in when the crowd fills the sidelines. But when it is just you on an empty field, standing alone on a court and hearing the silence on the green, difficulty sinks in. To motivate yourself and maintain discipline is one of the hardest components to any offseason athlete. There are many obstacles and excuses as to why you can take a day off, but the time spent training is time you will never get back. So, for you to drive in full speed or ease off the gas is a decision made solely based on you. 

“Why does your team work so hard? Your season isn’t until Fall. You guys train way too much.” Sometimes I would catch myself in response with laughter and a “I know right?” or your typical “Gotta do what you got to do.” But my real answer for any outsider questioning an athlete is this: 

We train an excessive amount to get out of our comfort zone, to prepare us for moments in season where they matter. We hold each other accountable to a high standard because we know the momentum we build in the offseason will carry with us when everyone is watching. When we get into a critical situation in a game, we want to have the knowledge of the best decision to make because it was practiced repetitively in training. We strive with a championship mentality knowing every extra sprint, cross or touch is one more than our opponent is doing. Everything is a step closer to wearing that ring on our hand. 

At the end of a training session, game, or season we want to look back andknow that deep down there was nothing else to give. There was no day I could of pushed a little harder, I could of listened a little better and I could of dug a little deeper. When it is all over, there is no doubt in anyone’s eyes of the effort and time that was sacrificed.