Being Good Under Any Condition

Aug. 05, 2009, 11:05 a.m. (ET)

Hello from Taiwan.

After going 1-2 during the first of three weekends of ‘regular season’ Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro, our next trip took about 33 hours (hotel to hotel) and 3 flights (11-hour flight from Rio to Paris, another 11 hours to Hong Kong, and about 2 to Taipei, plus layovers) to complete.

I was impressed at how well the players handled it – normally a group this young might find more to gripe about, though that would be a mistake, since complaining never made any trip go faster or more smoothly. Amazingly, all flights were on time; the only glitch was that 5 bags didn’t arrive, so there is some gear-lending until the bags show up, though that might be wishful thinking on our part to assume that they will show up. After just enough time to lug baggage upstairs, jump in the shower and eat lunch at our surprisingly luxurious hotel, we got right back to work in the gym.

And that’s what Hugh told the players to begin practice: “Let’s get right back on that horse.” When I played on the National Team, one of the most difficult skills we had to learn was to be good under any condition, even if it meant stepping off a plane and heading straight to the gym for a practice or a match. This team has already improved in that department, partly by necessity, since long travel is a given in competitions like Grand Prix and World League. The first practice after arriving in Brazil was not a thing of beauty, but I thought today was better. Being good under any condition means learning to control the things you can control and learning to stop trying to control the things you can’t. It means being good when that night’s referee seems to have it out for you. It means preparing only to win the next point, then only the next point, and then only the next point, even when you’re having a really lousy day. It means being good when you’ve lost two of your first three matches in Grand Prix. It means finding ways to make your team better and stay focused when you’re not getting much playing time - you never know when your opportunity, when your instant of competition, will suddenly arrive in front of 10,000 screaming fans.

Since the team gets such a limited amount of time together each year (typically from early June until September), being good in every practice is doubly important. Every practice, every drill, every pepper session, even every contact is an opportunity to learn and to improve. Waste a few of those practices just because of a new time zone and pretty soon a team could be weeks behind the level it wants to reach. The good news is that this team is hungry to learn, to improve, and to strive for new heights. So keep an eye out.

All the best, Karch