When my son was in pee wee football, they would have conditioning at the end of the practice. The boys would come in off the last lap or sprint, tired, hot and just gassed. Their coach, who was a veteran of 12 years, would say, “I know you are tired and hot, but I have an optional challenge. For those who want to, let’s knock out one more. You don’t have to, it’s optional.” Some of the kids would sit and say, “I’m done, I’m not going” and others would get up and go knock out that last one. My son ran with his team.
When the boys were finished, he told them it was a test. It was a test of who wanted it. It was a test of who wanted to be on a team and who wanted to do the minimum for themselves. He did not get angry with them, although their parents were fuming mad. It was a teaching moment and he wanted the boys to know what the commitment was and what it would take. He wanted the boys to ask themselves how much they wanted it and how much they wanted to be part of the team. He would do this every season and the beautiful thing is, the veterans would grab the newcomers, who were sitting, and compel them to do the optional lap. The veterans were becoming leaders with concern about the team. This was probably one of the best lessons a coach could teach.
The lesson taught was there is no optional workout, there is no off season. More than that, it was a lesson of values. Sports, at every level, has an “Optional” and it may be organized, or it may be just an opportunity you need to grasp yourself. Heck, it’s not just sports but life too. How much do you value? How much are you willing to do the optional lap? How much do you care for your teammates that you would take that extra lap?
Look at the behaviors of your starters. I will bet most, if not all of them, are doing the optional as if it were mandatory, because to them it is. If you are not a starter, for whatever reason, there is no optional for you. If you are a starter, don’t rest on it. Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard. This is not a cliché but the song of the 2nd string. I cannot promise you a starting position if you do the optional, but I can promise you will not start if you don’t.
Also, how motivated are coaches to play any player in the game, even 4th quarter, when that player never made it to an optional workout or offseason lift? There might be a reason the Ones play all game even when the score is out of reach for the other team. It might be that the Twos and Threes are not entitled to play because they have not earned it.
Now, the last 3 months have been a test of not just the planet but of what you value. Covid 19 and the quarantine was your optional lap. Did you take it, or did you sit it out?