If You Want to be Great. You Have to Put in the Time

It’s a recurring theme you read from all the best athletes and coaches: You have to put in the time.

If you want to be great. There are no shortcuts.

You have to put in the time

Nobody can do this for you. You have to put in the time. Develop the habits and discipline to be great.

In the words of some of the best ever, here is some key advice:

Train on Your Own:

Here’s Connor McDavid the Oilers Captain interviewed at SportsNet:

How much of what you do on the ice is ability and how much is a result of work ethic and practice?

“I’d like to think that it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of practice. I don’t think too much is given to anyone — I don’t think that’s the case. In my case in the summer you’re shooting pucks, you’re at the gym, you’re on the ice, you’re doing all types of different stuff. What fans see is the game and the finished product, but what they don’t see is all the hours spent that goes into that finished product. So it’s definitely a lot of work and there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff.”

Or here at the NBA site a tidbit about Ray Allen who retired at 41 after a Hall of Fame career:

“Our nickname for him is ‘Everyday Ray,’ ’’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said when he had Allen as a Heat sniper from 2012-2014. “It’s every day. It’s not every other day. It’s not some days. It’s every single day Ray. His work ethic and his discipline are in the top percentage in this league. Ninety-nine percent of the players do not have that type of consistent work ethic.’’

Here’s the great researcher Anders Ericcson on the Finding Mastery Podcast discussing intrinsic motivation and independent work:

“If you as a parent have more or less just trained your child, that’s quite different from preparing your child to be an independent performer who is actually in control of their training so that once they reach an adult level they will be actually able to take over responsibility for their development.”

Nutrition and Recovery

The other day there was a great article at The Guardian about Tom Brady’s longevity.  What shone through was how much his consistent work ethic and discipline paid off later:

But what really impresses Orlovsky is Brady’s discipline. “We talk about his lifestyle and what he does today, but Brady’s been living this way for 15 years and is now reaping the benefit,” he said, “He’s been living with such a different mindset, one that most Americans just don’t have. He truly has slowed time.”

Here’s Sue Bird at GQ discussing the changes in diet and workout after the first year or two in the league. She credits that with her longevity.

How different is your preparation now compared to earlier in your career?

It’s entirely different. You can break my career down into thirds—the first one began at 21, when I came into the league. When you’re in your early 20s, you don’t really care. You eat and do what you want, and it doesn’t really affect you. The second third—I felt like I hit a bit of a lull. At that point, you start thinking about what things can you can control, and nutrition is one of them. It wasn’t really until this last third, though, that I changed my entire diet. I met with a nutritionist, changed my workout regimen, and hired a sports performance coach. I wish I had done it all when I was 22. That’s really the message I give to all my young teammates: “You can never start too soon.” That’s the reason I’m able to play at 37.


The links could literally be endless but still it seems that we have to win this argument with young professionals and college players year after year.

Putting in the time is not simply extra work, but also deliberate appropriate work.  It is taking the information you learn from a coach, mentor or peer and working on your own. Accept the feedback and get to work.

Putting in the time is going out of your way to learn about nutrition, to eat well, prioritize recovery, sleep etc.

You want to be great? You have to put in the time.

There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter

You also might like this Harry Kane interview from NBC Sports

3 thoughts on “If You Want to be Great. You Have to Put in the Time”

Comments are closed.