As I age, I am noticing a change in the behavior and purchasing patterns of athletes. Maybe I am old school, but principles, respect, and hard work seem rare to come by. I suspect the rise of social media, instant gratification, and gamification have psychologically reprogrammed the way we interact and live our lives.
Perhaps it is only us that feels this way, but growing up, you never lived to tell stories if you were soft. In sports, the ones that are tough won all the championships.
To be clear, mental strength (toughness) isn’t about acting tough or suppressing emotions. It’s also not about being unkind or acting defiant.
Instead, mentally strong kids are resilient and they have the courage and confidence to reach their full potential.
Written on our wall, “Pressure creates diamonds.”
PK Subban once told me about a coach who was on him every minute, every day after practice he was in that coaches office. At the time he hated the coach because he felt he was just being picked on. It wasn’t till years have gone by, and going through coaches from other teams that he realized that the coach that was hard on him, was the one that made the most impact on him. Both professionally, and personally.
More than a decade ago, a water polo team won championships, year after year. They were the dominant team led by a tough coach. The club became popular, and naturally, everybody and anybody gravitated to the club.
Soon you had parents who pretended to know about what it takes to make champions and started complaining about the coaches’ methods as some felt his practices were too long, too tough, and the penalties were too harsh if they missed practice etc.
Eventually, the pressure caused the board to let the coach go. They became soft, and the team has never won a championship since. Many years later, they tried to bring the coach back realizing their mistake, but he refused.
“It is impossible to bring out the true potential in someone if they are pampered.”
Steve Sandor is another tough-as-nails coach I’ve looked up to and observed closely. An ex-olympian himself, he led his son Akos Sandor to two Olympics, and a national record holder.
[Image of Steve Sandor]
Around 2014 at a competition, one of Steve’s lifters was fighting to get a record-breaking lift in the Clean and Jerk. He missed his first 2 lifts but did it on his 3rd attempt. His lifter was so excited he jumped up and down with excitement and he looked at his coach Steve for approval. Steve looked at him as if to say, “What the f**k you should have lifted more than this!”
No pats in the back. He expects more from his athlete. Higher expectations, cause good isn’t good enough. Striving to be great and raising that bar.
That interaction I observed never left me. It took years for Steve to recognize me as a weightlifting coach (breaking records with Maya), but from getting to know him on a deeper level, I understood that he simply refuses to accept anything less than the true potential of an athlete. This made it hard for athletes to work with Steve, especially the newer generation of athletes.
He holds no filter. He will let you know clearly and directly where you are fucking up and where you need to improve. Not afraid to be politically correct or polite. But if you understand his true intentions, you come out the other side a champion mentally and physically.
Training soft yields soft results.
Technology has been making lives easier, our workforce seems to have gotten busier, and I see that we’re always looking and/or trying to create that magic bullet that will remove all the hard work immediately. The cost of living has gone up, but the athletes in Canada are so underfunded in comparison to athletes in other parts of the world.
In 2017, a company wanted to franchise our LPS brand to build up their client base. They had all the new shiny toys, the best equipment, best services (towels, showers, bar, etc.) you name it, it was beautiful. As we got deeper into launching the brand from within, and going through the trial runs, we were asked to cut the workout down as it would increase profits and we were asked to make it easier so more people could participate.
We eventually pulled out of the deal. Our values didn’t align. Our missions didn’t align.
They wanted all the results but none of the hard work. We live to build dominant athletes.
They were more interested in profit margins. We live to build dominant athletes.
In 2019, a few of our athletes were poached by other athlete facilities in the promise of better connections, better sport-specific exercises, and better service. The owners were ‘buddy buddy’ with some of the biggest team franchises. They mimic the sport with weights (weighed skates, weighted sticks, etc.). They got pampered with towel service, full treatments, meals, a full-service bar, etc. Let’s just say, these athletes no longer play professionally, and some of them were even injured.
Former professional hockey player Joel Ward once said to me, “Clance, I get pampered all the time, 365 days a year. Training at LPS is like a reset for me. Brings me back to the root of the grind, competition, and the drive.” and that struck hard with me. That is exactly what I am creating.
Someone asked, do you have air conditioning? I said no.
Someone asked, can I get the same results training 3x a week? I said no.
Someone asked, do you have ice baths? I said no.
If it doesn’t increase the performance of athletes, and it wasn’t something that aligned with our vision, the answer will always be no.
We are only after one thing, building DOMINANT athletes.
To make that happen, we must create an environment that will bring the best physically and mentally out of each and every single athlete that we accept in our doors.
No compromise. No babysitting. No settling for the status quo. No pampering.
Only when it rains does a flower grow.