By December 14, 2012 One Comment

Preparation is the key to success. Without preparation, the chances of success are greatly reduced. Confucius said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” This week we’ll take a look at three prominent athletes and how their dedicated preparation has allowed them to excel within their sport.

The first athlete we’ll look at might bring up some bad blood for those of us in St. Louis. He used to own the town and now he plays for another team. [amazon-product text=”Albert Pujols” type=”text”]B005FOEM4Q[/amazon-product] is one of the best players to every play the game of baseball, in any era. Pujols is known for his legendary swing, which has produced the most prolific 10 year start to a career in the history of baseball. Albert is great athlete who uses every opportunity to improve and become the best. Pujols said he takes around 5,000 swings each season before spring training begins. During the season he takes around 150-200 swings every day for nine months out of the year. That puts him well over 30,000 swings for a season. There is a reason why he is the best hitter in the game. His preparation has allowed him to have the confidence and ability to perform a level the game has not seen before.

A second athlete known for his regimented and dedicated preparation is 16-year NBA veteran [amazon-product text=”Ray Allen” type=”text”]630514415X[/amazon-product]. He is an All-Star, NBA Champion, and the All-Time 3pt record holder. Allen has one of the best shots you’ve ever seen. People envy his ability and often wish they had his God-given talent. When asked about that, Ray replied by saying, “It is an insult, God could care less whether I can shoot a jump shot.” I would have to agree with Ray there–God doesn’t care about who wins games much less who can shoot a jump shot. It’s not about the natural ability one has been blessed with; it’s about what they do with that ability.

Before every game, over 1, 167 games in his career, Ray Allen has arrived to the arena three hours prior to game time. This is much earlier than players are required to report. Allen has a very structured shooting routine that he goes through religiously before every game. He takes jump shots on both baselines, both elbows, and at the top of the key. Ray has hit thousands of shots, hundreds of big shots, record breakers, and game winners. For every one of those big time shots his career has been built off of, he has made and taken that shot countless times in practice. To me Ray Allen is a perfect example of humility and hard work. The guy has won it all, has everything you could want, but he still practices and prepares like a rookie trying to make a team. Ray Allen reminds me that no matter how long you do something, you must always work on perfecting your craft. Greatness doesn’t just happen by chance; it is a result of thousands of hours of dedicated preparation.

The last person we will look at is one of the most recognized names in sports. Heck, he is a commercial star and has hosted Saturday Night Live on multiple occasions. [amazon-product text=”Peyton Manning” type=”text”]0061020249[/amazon-product] has been one of the faces for the NFL for over a decade now. He is a multiple time MVP, Pro Bowl Quarterback, and Super bowl Champion.  His father was a former NFL quarterback and he also has a brother who is an NFL quarterback. Coming from a family with that type of background is great, but that is not what makes Peyton great. What makes him great is his unmatched preparation and work ethic.

There are many stories out there on Manning’s legendary preparation and attention to detail but, there is one account that sticks out to me. In 2007, Manning’s Indianapolis Colts drafted a rookie Wide Receiver from Ohio State University. The receiver’s name was Anthony Gonzalez and the story isn’t so much about him but rather what Peyton Manning did. Under NCAA and NFL rules, players are not allowed to participate in mini-camps or off-season programs until after the school’s graduation date has taken place. Ohio State’s graduation was not until early June and this would put Gonzalez behind the learning curve. Knowing this, and that he needed Gonzalez during the upcoming season, Manning took matters into his own hands. In one of his books, [amazon-product text=”Tony Dungy” type=”text”]1414326823[/amazon-product] explains what occurred. Peyton drove three hours each way to Columbus, Ohio to work out with Gonzalez and teach him the Colt’s offense. Manning knew how important it was to be on the same page with his receivers. He constantly works with them before practice, after practice, and during the offseason. If at practice he sees something he doesn’t like, he will take the entire offense off to the side and go over the mistakes until they run them perfectly.

Peyton Manning is successful and will go down as one of the all-time greats because of desire to win and prepare. He is willing to put in the hours of work that precede game day. Manning understands and values the process, saying, “It’s about efficient preparation and a lot of mental preparation.” His will to win, and more importantly, his will to prepare is what separates him from his peers.

There is a reason why these three athletes are among the very best at what they do. In any field, take a look at who the best are. Study their habits. I am willing to bet you find that they have similar habits of preparation as the three men we’ve discussed. People who are successful make time for what’s important to them. If being successful and becoming the best are goals that we have, we must be willing to pay the price and put in the preparation. Before anything else in life, preparation is the key to success.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes to think about from Bob Knight: “Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.”

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