Talent is a fantastic gift that is often wasted.
It takes more than talent to transition from a professional prospect to a full-time professional athlete. Many athletes rely on natural abilities and downplay the need to work hard. Others lack a commitment to fitness or to any one team.
The trouble starts with the first “I’m better than any of these guys!”
Inevitably, that may be the case early in a prospect's career, but as he climbs the ladder, the differences between players become something else entirely. Everybody on the team has talent, or they would not be at this level. Here are some other areas that define a pro.
Teamwork – Is the athlete a team player? Can he utilize his talents in concert with the other members of the team? What kind of person is the athlete after the game? Do the other members of the team respect him? Is the athlete a good representative of the team? How is he with the public? Do people really like him?
Determination – How bad does the athlete want it? Is he willing to do what it takes to transition his game? Is he out of bed at 5:00 AM for a morning run? Does he understand the value of his education? What is his diet like? How about his level of social responsibility? Does he put in the hours as a student of the game?
Fitness – Practice should be about tactics and repetition, each athlete’s level of fitness is his own responsibility. Coaches will often test that level of fitness to get an idea of who is ready and who still needs work. Does he have the air needed to play at 100% for the entire game, season, or career? There is no longer an off-season for today’s professional athlete...or professional prospect.
Comprehension – Can the athlete apply what is said in the classroom to his game? Can he transition instruction into production?
Coaching – The guy with the whistle is not a friend. His livelihood is tied to his ability to get the most out of each athlete and to get that athlete to buy into his system. Coaches have hearts and will go to war for the guys that do the same for him. Players that give everything they have to the game are often the coach’s favorite. Players that still have energy to go out dancing after the game are generally not.
We all have a friend that could have been a professional. Heck, he tells us all the time. Now you know the difference between could have been and actually cashing professional hockey paychecks.
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