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Prepare to Win: Irrefutable traits of winning athletes, part 1

First, I have been frantic in waiting to do this. In the last paragraph of last week’s column, I mistakenly referred to Jordin Canada as a pennie instead of a bennie. Dang it! I apologize to my thousands of fans. On to today.

My book “10 Traits of Winning Athletes” was published in 2010. Since that time, the number of traits has grown to more than 20, leading to the next book in 2013.

In 10 Traits, I told readers that winners are conditioned beyond what their opponents are prepared for. That means they made conditioning a priority and it showed in their winning results. Unfortunately, based on comments made by players on the UCLA men’s basketball team, it seems that they didn’t read my book even though I sent copies to coach Ben Howland and former player Josh Smith.

The comment in question came from the Bruins’ heralded freshman Shabazz Muhammad. He said, “We were all getting a little tired,” in reference to their win at Arizona in January. Several other Bruins echoed the same idea of fatigue and exhaustion. Within a week of this win, they lost twice in a row to opponents who were anything but tired. In those games, the Bruins couldn’t perform even the basic skills required to win because of fatigue.

Muhammad is 19 years old and he’s tired? I’m not down on the kid, but that’s not winning behavior. If you’re planning on winning championships, you’d better be conditioned beyond what your opponents are, because games come down to conditioning too many times to mention.

Heck, all the Bruins had to do was watch Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic perform. Just days before the finals, he defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in a 5-hour match. He beat Wawrinka by being prepared to go beyond what Wawrinka was willing to do. Djokovic then defeated Andy Murray in the finals. After the finals, one headline read “Djokovic Wears Down Murray for Australian Open Title” while a different article mentioned how Murray “gradually faded.”

Winning conditioning allows athletes to outlast their opponents and keep their mechanics intact while the opponent breaks down and eventually quits. This is my philosophy of “bream ’em, then shake ’em,” which athletes at Bigger Faster Stronger learn. Had Djokovic subscribed to UCLA’s program of conditioning, he never would have made it to the finals after his 5-hour match.

What do winners do (WDWD)? Winning athletes make excuses to train, while most find excuses to not train. Training to win is not easy, so that is why most don’t win. I have the privilege to train many athletes throughout the High Desert, like those from great programs like So Cal Magic Softball and So Cal Rush Soccer. They’re taught Mangum’s Rule of Two every season. This is the simple idea that we prepare each athlete to go two beyond what their opponent is willing to do — two yards, two quarters, two miles, whatever.

We instill in them that they should let their opponents “leave it on the field,” or “give it their best” or some other slogan. Winning athletes realize these slogans are clever but are not recipes for winning. When prepared with the Rule of Two, winners first break, then shake their opponents. You think the UCLA men’s team needs to get this? Let’s hope so, before it’s too late.

Let me leave with this about a champion athlete. Back in the day, as I was reading a sports magazine, there was an ad sponsored by Nike. In Nike’s typical dramatic fashion, there was a picture of an athlete, bent over and sweating profusely. You could tell she just had an epic training session. The caption was “This is her day off!” Bam! Did you just feel those shivers when you read that? This is her day off. Are you kidding me? Who was that athlete? It was none other than the legendary women’s basketball player Lisa Leslie, who won championships at every level. Tired? Really? The only ones tired were Leslie’s opponents, who were tired of watching her win all of those championships.

Winners, repeat after me. “On the days I rest, my opponent will be training; and on the day of the game, they will beat me!” Don’t let it happen.

George Mangum, M.A., is a WIN psychologist and the founder of Bigger Faster Stronger- High Desert, where athletes at all levels are prepared to win physically, emotionally and mentally. George can be contacted at (760) 403-3449 or on Facebook at Bigger Faster Stronger-High Desert.


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