I am looking forward to having Junior World Champion Lalo Portillo (MEX) here in Stillwater to train with me for a week. We will be doing some on court training but also plenty of other off court activities to work on strength and power.
There’s a long blog post coming up, for which I make no apologies. A year of experiences takes time to explain!
I began competing in racquetball 11 years ago when I entered my first tournament as a novice to find out whether I really did love the sport. Eleven years later, I still do.
Although I have improved steadily over the years, I have never had an opportunity to really train and improve like I wanted to. I knew I was a decent player, but how good was I really? I was also now a coach of athletes, and I was asking them to work and train at a level I had never done myself, at least in racquetball. I knew that if I could do it with my busy lifestyle, anyone could do it.
At the end of 2017, I asked my wife Terra-Leigh whether she would support me training and competing seriously for a year. I wasn't talking about becoming a full-time competitor, of course, but spending more time training and traveling to compete. Something would have to give, and that something was primarily family time.
Competing seriously is something I’ve never been able to do before. Yes, I’ve played in a variety of tournaments over the years, but I’ve done so knowing I haven’t been able to give them my best. Work, family, and a lack of training all affected the outcomes. I hated losing a match, knowing the outcome could and would be different if I had been able to put in the work. I hate losing, but if I lose to a better player than me then I can accept that and work on getting better. But losing to someone you know you could have beaten if you had the time to put in the work… that I really hate.
I was now 38 years old, and I knew that physically the opportunity for becoming my very best was slipping away. No one beats time! I wanted one shot to really play this sport like I knew I could. Terra-Leigh agreed to support me for one year. She’s an amazing woman!
January 1, 2018, began a new me -- someone who was dedicating a large portion of the year to training and competing in racquetball. My life and daily schedule changed completely. With the help of OSU faculty member Melissa Jensen and strength and conditioning coach Chantel Anthony, I developed a nine-month training and competition plan.
I won’t describe the weeks and months of training, other than to say it was lonely and unpleasant. I didn’t have a training partner on or off the court, so the only person who pushed me was me. The gym, court, and yoga studio became regular features in my life. We won’t talk about the planks and wall sits. It was all hard. I can’t really describe how hard it was.
My nutrition changed a lot. I quit alcohol completely. I quit desserts, candy, and chocolate completely. I really mean completely! I tracked my exercise daily. I logged my workouts to set improvement goals. It was an all-or-nothing approach. If my wife was willing to deal with my time away from our family, then the least I could do was take it seriously. In many ways, as an amateur I trained harder and was more dedicated than most professionals. I committed everything to being my best for nine months.
I had a successful year. My training and diet worked, and I improved off and on the court. I challenged myself to play the very best players I could. Some I beat, some I didn’t. But I have no regrets. My fitness improved consistently; so did my power, my speed, and my agility. My weight and body fat percentage came into line. I became living proof that my training program works. If I could do it, so could others.
I challenged myself to play the best, to discover how good I was and how good I could be. For more days than I could count, I trained alone. As I said before, it was hard. But I had goals and one shot to give it my best. And I regret none of it. Did I miss the ice cream, or having a drink, or taking days off, or coming home an hour or two earlier? Yes, I did! But sometimes you have to give up something good for something better.
I finished playing completely in early October, but September was my primary goal. I tracked data three times during the year: January, April, and September. Here’s what I found:
I was never that interested in the actual numbers, but improving each time I measured them. I was interested in the improvement.
As 2018 comes to a close, I asked myself whether I could continue to become better than I am now. Absolutely yes. I’m still improving as a player and learning more and more in every tournament. Having only played in maybe 35 racquetball tournaments in my life, I’m still a novice in the sport. My skills as a player continue to improve faster than my physical attributes decline with age. But the time has come to focus my attention back on my family and on helping others achieve their goals. Continuing with my own athletic goals are unsustainable and unfair to my family. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy.
The year 2018 is one I will remember for the rest of my life. I gave everything and pursued my goals relentlessly. I bettered myself in so many ways. So I ask the question: if I can do it, even with a job, family, and many other responsibilities, why can’t you? My year was not based on my skill level, ability, or because I had “talent” and a future in the sport. Rather, it was based on my desire to become my own GOAT. It came down to commitment and discipline and a desire to fulfil my goals.
I have new goals for 2019, but they are professional goals this time. I challenge all of you reading this to set New Year goals and achieve them. Only about 8% of those who set New Year resolutions achieve them. I was part of that number. If you'd like to discuss how this could look for you in the new year, give me a call, send me an email, and let's talk it over!
I believe I'm good with words. Thousands of published pages of my writing help to justify this claim. But, there are experiences and feelings that, no matter how much I try, I struggle to convey. Once such instance came this weekend, when I had the opportunity to watch Lalo Portillo in person, as he defied the odds to become a Junior World Champion.
Many doubted Lalo's ability to overcome a very talented group of competitors, but we knew he was prepared. He had done the work. He had trained for this. In front of a packed house, Lalo showed composure, confidence, and control to overcome what could have been a crushing 15-14 first game loss to demonstrate his will by winning games two and three.
I have worked with Lalo for the past year, and I confess my input may not have been much compared to the many, many hours of training he has put in over this year and the years before. There is no doubt he earned his title by beating the very best.
I have been amazed at Lalo's willingness to listen and learn. He is truly a remarkable athlete and young man. In many ways he has demonstrated professionalism well beyond his years. Those interested in sponsoring young athletes would do well to consider Lalo as an ideal candidate.
Lalo, I'm so proud of you. You have listened and taken care of the little things. Your title was not given you to. You earned it. To see you achieve it in person is something I will never forget. Thank you for allowing me to be part of that experience.
"To be the best, whether in sports or business or any other aspect of life, it’s never enough to just get to the top; you have to stay there, and then you have to climb higher, because there’s always someone right behind you trying to catch up. Most people are willing to settle for good enough." (Tim Grover)
Keep climbing Lalo. Keeping becoming your GOAT.
My wife and I have really enjoyed hosting professional racquetball athlete Marie Renee Rodriguez for the past 10 days. We spent a considerable amount of time working on developing a training program, practicing weight lifting, spending time on the court, discussing strategy, practicing emotional control, and analyzing her game. It was a busy period but we both gained much from the experience. Be sure to click on her name and keep up to date with her career progress!
Congratulations to GSP Athlete Maria Renee Rodriguez (far left) who took home silver in women's doubles at the 2018 Racquetball Pan Am Championships. Finishing runner up in doubles is a first for Guatemala Racquetball, and I'm excited at the professionalism and effort MRR has made in improving each month and year. It was especially exciting for me, as I was able to be in attendance for her performances at the Championships.
She and teammate Gabriela Martinez also finished a combined second place in women's teams overall.
Congratulations to GSP athlete Maria Renee Rodríguez on two silver medals at the Bolivarian Games! Maria claimed a silver in women's doubles with partner Gaby Martinez, and they took a second silver in the team event based on their points total from both singles and doubles.
Here is an article I wrote recently for Reaching Your Dream Foundation about working with and interacting with referees and officials. Great advice for coaches AND athletes!
A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Rafael Filippini, the owner of Gearbox Racquetball. He has some great advice for athletes in niche sports trying to become successful on and off the court.
We discussed the sport of racquetball, the importance of professionalism in sports, and what athletes can do to boost their visibility. I hope you take the time to listen, learn, and apply.
Closed Captioning is available and sharing is encouraged!
I interview World Racquetball Tour Professional Jaime Martell (Mexico) about life on the tour, how he trains, and what his plans are for the future.
I had the pleasure of interviewing 5-time racquetball world champion Rocky Carson about a variety of topics including training and competing on the International Racquetball Tour. The picture is from when we first met back at the International Racquetball Federation - IRF World Championships in 2010, where this picture was taken.
Progress Takes Time
In racquetball, levels progress from Pro to Open, A, B, C, D, and Novice. In 2009, I entered the C and age 25+ C divisions of the US Racquetball National Championship where I finished second in both divisions. It was my first major tournament.
Last week, eight years later almost to the day, I was able to compete (and do a little coaching) in my second National Championship. This time I entered age 35+ Open as well as both the Centurion Doubles Open and A divisions with two different partners (partners must be a combined minimum age of 100). I came home with a gold, silver, and bronze. It was a great honor to compete in front racquetball legend and a mentor of mine Dr. Bud Muehleisen (see picture below).
Now there are days when I hate training, hate playing, and wish I could stop and just be a sports fan. There are days where I don’t feel I’m improving, my body hurts, and my mind quits. However, a reflection on what skill level I played in 2017 compared to 2009 is a reminder that although I have my bad days, I continue to improve. It’s encouraging and motivating!
Coaching Makes a Difference
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is not about the bronze medal I earned in 35+ Open singles but why it wasn’t a better color. I lost two matches, one in which I was outclassed by a much better player (for now…), and one in which I was close, but couldn’t seem to put it all together. It was very frustrating to be on the court knowing that I had the skills, fitness, and mental strength to match my opponent, yet feeling the match slowly slip away.
On reflection, I lost because I didn’t have a coach in my corner. I had the arrogance to think that my coaching education and knowledge would be good enough. And, unlike most players, I did have a game plan that I developed from speaking to his other opponents (I actually beat one opponent quite comfortably because I was able to watch one of his matches on YouTube before the tournament began and the game plan worked superbly).
But it didn’t work the way it was supposed to, and I needed a coach to help me change my tactics. On the court, I couldn’t see what they would have seen. Tactically, I got it all wrong, and a good coach would have seen the small things that I now recognize on reflection.
Too many of us, including me, make the foolish decision to rely on our own intuition and ability to carry us through a performance. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. I prefer it working out! There is value in coaching. I’ve learned my lesson. Will you learn from my mistake?
An article appeared recently in a variety of news sources making bold claims: “Good Sports: Longer Lives Linked to Swimming, Racquetball” said one headline I saw. It wasn’t long before similar headlines bounced around social media as a means to justify participating in one sport or not participating in others. Essentially, the news article I read suggested that playing racquet sports and swimming leads to a longer life than if playing other sports such as soccer or participating in fitness classes.
But we have to be careful how we interpret journalistic headlines and we need to understand the background behind the scientific discovery. Having written so many scientific articles and seen journalists and others create “eye-catching” headlines from my work to manipulate what I wrote to catch the attention of their audience, I understand how dangerous this can be!
This is why athletes, coaches, and those working in sports organizations need to utilize the services of experts and scientists to take what science has discovered and interpret it and apply it correctly. Without doing so, mistakes or misinterpretations are made that can be costly. Although this headline above is just an example that I’m using, headlines like this show up all the time.
Let’s go back to the headline that I just mentioned. One would assume that the article then mentions racquetball right? Well, no, it doesn’t. At no point in the article did the writer reference racquetball again. Yet many people will assume that longer lives are linked to swimming and racquetball because of the headline. But that isn’t what the original research said!
Here is a link to the original scientific article. Within the article there are several mediating points that should be noted (there are more but these are the main ones in my opinion):
It’s difficult to make wholesale conclusions from one study, but media outlets do have a tendency to do this. They sensationalize information without clearly placing the information within the specific parameters in which the study was conducted.
My point is not to suggest that some sports are bad for you or that others are better for you. Really, the study’s actual findings aren’t that important for the point I’m trying to make. My point is to highlight how necessary it is to have scientific experts in your corner to provide guidance when you, your athlete, or your organization is trying to perform at an elite level.
Headlines are everywhere, especially when it comes to diet and nutrition, and taking information at face value can be detrimental to performance. Sports performance should be based on science, but it should be based on science that works and can be applied within the context of the experiment.
Be careful how you interpret headlines. Search for the facts, and if you need help, contact someone who can help you get it right, which ultimately leads to better outcomes. That’s what GOAT Sports Performance is all about: becoming the best you’re capable of becoming.
Stay current with my professional activities and recent articles.