Hard work fueled by passion pays dividends for Minnehaha student athletes
“Dawson just filled a role as a defensive player last year, and it’s a role that we really needed because we weren’t that great at defense,” said varsity basketball coach Lance Johnson, laughing.
Toward the end of the basketball season last year, Dawson Rademacher, then a junior, worked hard on his defense, making strides to become a better player every practice through his work ethic.
“I think that is attributed to me showing up every day, as well as my teammates, trying to get better, and having the coaches push us,” Rademacher said.
Most, if not all, high school students have worked hard at some point.
Homework that needed to be done, grueling sports practices and menial jobs all require students to work hard without instant gratification.
In high school sports and beyond, hard work will bring varying levels of success, depending on other factors like natural skill.
Some coaches and athletes would say that hard work is insufficient for success in the long run, but many argue that work brings many athletes some measure of success.
The hard work that actually amounts to success comes from having a passion for what you are doing.
Without passion, no one would put in quality effort in the first place. Just showing up to practice every day isn’t always enough for success.
“I think hard work is the willingness to give 100 percent of your effort and try your hardest,” said sophomore Jack Bridgeman.
English teacher, head track and field coach and assistant cross country running coach Kristofor Sauer sits on a stationary bike after school, getting in his workout for the day.
He is often seen by athletes while supervising the weight room, his “other office,” but not everyone sees his daily exercise in the winter months.
“It’s easy to work hard and it’s easy to compete when everyone is looking,” he said. “What people don’t want to do are all of the ugly little things in order to make themselves better.
“You have to be willing to go to bed at 10 o’clock, when all of your friends are staying up,” Sauer continued. “You have to be willing to carry a water bottle around with you. You have to be willing to make good choices about your nutrition. You have to do all those little things.”
One of the challenges is working alone, with no support from teammates and no immediate payoff. Especially in a setting such as this, you may think you are working hard, but compared to someone else you may not be.
This is where passion is crucial. Sophomore runner Tristan Tew, who began running a mile before school every day in eighth grade, can define this passion. He describes when to know when you are working hard.
“You just have to hold yourself to a certain standard. Go out, put the work in and if someone tells you to do something, do one more,” said Tew, “Go do another one.”
“I feel like people who are intrinsically motivated have a significantly greater propensity to put in work in the off season,” said Sauer. As would be expected, a cross country captain is a great example of this intrinsic motivation.
According to Bridgeman, it isn’t all a physical game, however much it may look like it.
“Some people have [inner drive] and some people don’t,” claimed Bridgeman, though athlete’s opinions are differing.
“I began cross country half-heartedly running, I did it to get in shape for basketball,” said senior and cross country captain Christoffer Schold (pictured in cutout).
“When I realized that through hard work and [from] watching the upperclassmen put in hard work and get good results, it gave me that incentive to do the same, so I started putting mileage in over the summers and winters.”
“A huge part of coaching is figuring out what works best relationally speaking with each athlete,” continued Sauer.“One of the challenges of coaching is figuring out what it is that motivates person A, person B, person C. There are certain guiding principles [to motivating athletes], but in the midst of a competition I could yell the same thing at two different people, and get two different results.”
This innate inner drive is just one of many factors that can separate the great athletes from the good.
But if you don’t have an incredible work ethic, how far can hard work get you in high school?
“We have had a ton of athletes [at Minnehaha] who have outworked other kids, even kids with more ability, and played more than them or had a more successful career,” said Johnson.
“At the high school level, there are some people who are just freaks of nature,” said Sauer. “They’re just genetically superior. However, you get to college and the playing field starts to even out. Desire wanes. The willingness to work hard wanes.
“Those people who previously were able to step out and throw down an impressive performance purely on the basis of their God-given ability now get beat by people who have put in all of that work in whatever the sport is,” Sauer said.
“The people who put in their time, start to beat the people who were genetically superior. Now that’s not saying that hard work is a magic bullet,” Sauer said. “I also don’t believe that people are capable of anything.
“Hard work is paying attention, trying your hardest and giving 100 percent,” said sophomore Luke Burnham. According to Burnham, hard work can get you a long way in high school, but at some point natural ability comes into play.
“Everyone has their ceiling: athletically, abilities-wise and natural gifts,” said Rademacher, “but hard work will get you to that ceiling, hard work will get you to the point that is the best you can be, and if that isn’t as good as other people, at least you know you are doing the best you can do.”
Reaching this ceiling is often what athletes strive for, also known as being at the “peak of their game.”
“I think the peak of your game is when you are physically trained to your maximum extent, and your inner drive is on,” said Bridgeman.
Beyond sports, however, many other things require hard work.
Taking detailed notes on the right ideas isn’t easy, and requires the same amount of focus and inner drive as sports do.
The drive that can be learned in any hard sport can be applied to school work, using the learned mental effort to persevere through assignments.
For example, running cross country is not purely physical.
“You have to keep running even when your side hurts, when you get a stitch in your chest,” said Bridgeman, “you have to keep running through it, so I think everything requires a certain amount of mental effort.”
“My father,” said Sauer, “who was a far wiser man than he probably realized, was fond of the expression, ‘to be better than anyone else, you have to be willing to do what everyone else won’t do.’”
All that needs to be done is put in the work.