Fans see the glory of talented high school athletes. They get high-fives in abundance. They get the girls. They get letters from top colleges across the country. All fun stuff.
But there is a price to pay for all that glory – it’s called sacrifice, and it’s the epitome of mental toughness.
Just what do you sacrifice as a high school athlete if you desire to excel in your sport?
- Physical sacrifice: No denying this. Pushing your body through the pain and fatigue of workouts, team practices, and injuries can challenge the integrity of your body over the long run. Fueling your body with healthy, muscle-building nutrition is a sacrifice when all you want to do is gobble a giant bacon-filled burger, a pile of fries the size of Mount Everest and a double-chocolate milk shake. But eating like that will hinder progress and slow you down. It takes conscious, calculated mental toughness to stay the course. Athletes must realize when to cut their bodies some slack for muscle recovery and proper rest, but it takes sacrifice to consistently fuel up like a champion.
- Relational sacrifice: High school athletes might get the girl, but keeping the girl is easier said than done. With rigorous and demanding schedules to keep up physically and educationally, there often is very little time left to devote quality time to relationships. It’s crucial to surround yourself with a strong support network. When someone is attempting to sabotage your efforts with guilt or manipulation – run far away. You don’t need them in your life. You do need people—whether friends, family, or coaches—who understand your goals and who will stand by you through the good times and bad.
- Monetary sacrifice: This is a no-brainer. It costs money to engage in sports. Sometimes, pay-to-play fees can run $700 to $800 per season, depending on the school and the program. There’s a multitude of random expenses that also put a major crimp in many family budgets. But athletes who are devoted to their sports will sacrifice to make it happen. Teams often huddle up to find creative fundraising ideas to pay for out-of-state trips, uniform upgrades, and coaching clinics. The Oregonian online news reported on a high school football coach who posted a picture on Facebook of himself holding a sign that said: “Will Work For Helmets,” so his program could raise money for equipment. He received donations from across the country ranging from $5 from a woman in Georgia to $7,000 from Hampton Hotels. Individual and team sacrifice serves up big results.
- Mental sacrifice: To excel as a high school athlete, this is perhaps the most important element to keep in mind. Instead of focusing on video games, mall trolling, and spending idle time with buddies, athletes sacrifice by spending time mentally rehearsing plays. Take the time to visualize winning on the field. Put time aside for the amount of sleep required to command the field with excellence. Find solutions to keep up with your academics. To avoid burnout, use off-field time wisely by engaging in fun activities or hobbies not related to a specific sport.
Some break under the pressure of sacrifice. They say it’s too hard. It requires too much time. It’s too much work. You’ll see them – they’re the ones sitting in the bleachers, watching. They’re the ones who won’t amount to much in their career because they see sacrifice as the dreaded “s” word. Do you have what it takes to sacrifice for your sport? The pungent smell of sacrifice yields a crop of tougher, healthier, superior athletes.
This article orginally appeared on USA Football.com. Click here to read the full article, or go to the USA Football website.