Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Rope Around Our Ankle"

Last week the Circus came to town.  Every other year Ringling Brothers Circus comes to Jonesboro and performs at the Convocation Center.  During most all of my motivational speaking opportunities or team bonding workshops I like to refer back to the first time that I recall the Circus coming to the Convocation Center.

 It was nearly fourteen years ago, around the time I had just been hired as the Head Women's Basketball Coach at Arkansas State University, when the Circus came to the Convocation Center.  The Circus was to perform on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  So on Tuesday, as I was going for my daily run, I walked into the arena (I was running indoors since it was raining outside) and noticed a HUGE elephant just inside the door.  This elephant appeared larger than life and I was amazed that it was just standing there with a small rope around it's leg.  The first thing that crossed my mind was that my office was just across the hallway from where this BEAST was standing. I had been sitting at my desk all morning with the only thing separating me and this elephant was some cinder blocks.

I of course couldn't let this go . . . I was curious as to why this elephant was standing alone in our arena and also why it had just a small rope around it's leg, knowing that the giant could snap it with very little effort.  The trainer happened to walk in and I asked him these questions.  First off, he informed me that they bring the elephants into the arena a couple days before the event to get them acclimated to their surroundings.  I can certainly relate to this . . . as a basketball coach we try to take our teams into the oppositions arena to practice the day before a game and also the morning of to try to get our team acclimated to their surroundings.  Secondly, I quizzed him about the small rope holding the elephant in place . . . and how it wouldn't seem to do any good if the elephant were to get spooked.  The trainers reply was quite humorous in that he said that elephants aren't the sharpest of mammals.  He said that while the elephants are babies they train them with this same type of rope around their ankle . . . and while they are that small the rope is strong enough to hold them in place.  He went on to say that as they grow older there really is no rope strong enough to hold them, but that they refuse to try and break it because of the sensation (of the rope) on their ankle.  He said that in their mind they feel the sensation on their ankle and don't think they can break it so they don't even try.

I thought about this for a while and it hit me that so often as humans we do the same thing.  We give in to these perceived limitations that are placed on us . . . the "rope on our ankle" so to say. But what's really amazing is that we humans are considered much smarter than elephants. But, far too often, we give in when we are told you can't do that, you're not good enough, you're not smart enough, etc.  One of the things I love about coaching is that I have the opportunity to try and break some of those perceived limitations with our athletes.  Daily we try to take our athletes from average to above average, from good to great, from great to the best.  So often athletes come into my office wanting to drop a class because they just know they can't get through it . . . and surprisingly they get through it.  Often times during preseason conditioning the thought of "can't" crosses their minds . . . and surprisingly they get through it.  And of course there is the occasional "upset" when everyone else says it can't happen . . . and surprisingly the upset takes place.

I refuse to let my athletes, or coaches for that matter, think like the elephants . . . failing before even trying is not going to cut it in our program.  We will continue to break through those "perceived limitations"  and break the "rope around our ankle".

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