Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lessons From The Farm

As many of you know, I grew up near the small town of Memphis, MO.  My two brothers, my sister and I were raised on a farm.  It's safe to say that I, along with my siblings, have spent a lot more time at home over the past few months since the passing of our Mother and I can speak for all of us in that we've never appreciated home more than we do now.  And while I'll be the first to admit that I couldn't wait to leave the farm, when I graduated from high school, I absolutely love going back to visit now.  And even though I moved away from the farm, the farm never "totally" left me.  Many of the lessons I learned while growing up on the farm have stuck with me to this day.  In fact, as crazy as this sounds, many of those lessons I try to apply in my life as a Coach and hope that I can pass them along to my team.

So, since our team is currently in offseason and soon to be starting preseason conditioning and workouts, here are a few lessons I learned growing up on a farm and how they can apply to athletics (especially the offseason workouts):

1. Clocks not necessaryIt's safe to say that my Dad could go through each day without looking at a clock.  My Mom or Dad (like ALL farmers) never needed an alarm Dad to this day still
doesn't need an alarm clock...he wakes up when the sun comes up (or in most cases earlier than that).  My Mom or Dad never looked at a clock to know when to stop working...they worked until the days tasks were done (and sometimes this was after the sun went down).  I hope our athletes can take the same approach to preseason.  Yes, I realize the NCAA puts hour limitations on what we can do as coaches (in the weight room, on the court, etc.) but there are no limitations on what athletes can do on their own time.  Have a goal of what needs to be accomplished to be the best and don't simply "punch the clock".

2. School clothes, Church clothes, Work clothes:  The four of us kids were always well provided for...we didn't always get the "wants" when it came to clothes but certainly our "needs" were always provided.  And even though we often times wore the pass me downs (Brad's clothes passed down to me and from me on to Kevin...pretty sure Beth wasn't included in this) our clothes were always clean and always ironed nicely.  But, growing up on the farm, you did learn that sometimes the school
clothes became chore clothes and sometimes maybe the work clothes needed to be worn to Church if in a hurry (and that was ok).  Our athletes today are being trained to be very materialistic.  We, here at Arkansas State, are fortunate to have a great all-school contract with Adidas and we pride
ourselves on making sure our athletes have the best in shoes and gear.  As I always say in recruiting, "if I expect my athletes to perform like Big Time Division I Athletes then it's my job to see that they look the part."  But all that nice, sharp Adidas gear is meant to get's meant to get sweaty...while it may look great wearing to class or around town, it also is meant to "go to work in and do your chores."

3. Toughness: Simply have to be tough to work on a farm.  Whether it's 100 degrees out or below freezing the job has to get done.  I've witnessed my Dad have to go chop ice in one of the ponds (twice a day) in sub-zero temperatures because the cows needed water to drink.  I've seen Mom take a jug of ice water to my Dad while he was on a tractor in the middle of the field during 100+ degree temperatures.  Farmers do not work when it's comfortable.  I still to this day wonder how my sister Beth survived being raised on a farm especially in a family with three boys.  If there's a tougher person in the world than by sister I'd like to meet them...bumble bee stings to the eyes, bicycle wrecks, aluminum doors to grain bins flying open with a gust of wind, barbed wire fences (and electric fences).  Farmers are tough...wives of farmers are tough...sons and daughters of farmers are tough.  For an athlete to get anything out of preseason workouts they have to be tough.  There is no substitute for pushing out of your comfort level and being tough.  To be a successful team or athlete you have to be tough.

4. Farmers understand PATIENCE: While you have to practice patience in a lot of professions,
none more than in farming.  Farmers put in long, hard days to make sure their crops are in, but they won't recognize the results of all that hard work for months and months.  Planting may occur in May...harvest will probably take place in September...but they may not sell the crops for a few more months.  Imagine in your current job if you worked day in and day out but might not get paid for eight or nine months...welcome to farming.  Imagine in your current job if you work really, really hard all week but may not see the results of that work for another four to five months...welcome to farming.  Athletes need to take the same approach.  While we all like instant results and instant rewards, an athlete (and team) will not get rewarded right away.  All the hard work in the weight room, on the court or on the track in August will not be rewarded until months down the road.  Last February when our team celebrated by cutting the nets down for winning a Conference Championship...that was the reward for the work from last July and last August and last September.  Athletes can't expect immediate rewards they have to be very dedicated but yet patient.

5. Farmers are the most ACCOUNTABLE people: People that are self-employed, and in this case farmers, understand the idea of being accountable.  My Dad still to this day rarely takes a day off.  My Dad still to this day doesn't have a boss or anyone telling him to go to work.  Nobody follows up on a farmer to see if they're doing their job...nobody checks on a farmer to see if things are done properly...nobody checks on a farmer to see if they're putting in enough hours.  My Dad has always been accountable for his own success.  The ol' saying "you don't work, you don't eat" are words that farmers live by.  As a farmer if you don't work hard you won't raise a crop, or your cows will not
bring in any money at market...if you don't raise a crop or your cows don't sell well at the market you won't make a living...simple as that.  Athletes have to have the same mindset during offseason (and preseason).  Athletes have to be accountable for their own work...coaches can draw up workout plans but the athletes have to put in the work.  As I often remind our team, once preseason gets here the NCAA allows us eight hours of work (with the coaches) per week and every team in the country will be putting in the same eight hours.  But who's gonna go beyond the eight hours on their own time and who is gonna do the work when nobody is standing over them making sure they put in the hours.

6. Farmers know how to deal with disappointments: While I absolutely love my job, I'm guilty (as most coaches probably are) of getting frustrated at times and saying "it's tough making a living
depending on 18 - 21 year olds."  Several years ago I made the mistake of saying that to my Dad and he quickly responded "could be worse, your livelihood could depend on whether it rains or not."  The point was well taken.  So much of being a farmer is out of their control...because of the weather.  You can be the hardest worker and you can do everything perfectly as a farmer and some years you may not get rewarded.  While it's tough, farmers understand that. I've witnessed the years where the crops were a loss due to a drought.  I've seen the years where some of the crops couldn't get planted because of too much rain and flooding.  I've seen the years where the crops had an amazing growing season but then almost turned into a loss because they couldn't be harvested because it wouldn't stop raining and eventually the rain turned into snow.  But you know what I never saw...I never saw my Mom or Dad give up because of these disappointments.  Disappointments are a part of athletics as well.  Injuries are going to happen...frustrations are going to set in...there are going to be days where you want to throw your hands up because it's just too hard.  But, athletes need to learn from farmers and realize you have to handle disappointments and push through them without giving up.

7.  You reap what you sow: While there are certainly a lot of things that are out of control for a farmer the bottom line over time is that "you will reap what you sow."  No different for an athlete...all athletes want to win championships...all athletes want playing time and they want to be starters.  But
while there are some differences in God-given abilities, more times than not you will "reap what you sow."  You will be rewarded (or not rewarded) by how much time and effort you put into your offseason workouts.

8.  Farmers never compete against their neighbor: One of the things I've always admired about farmers is how unselfish they are and how in times of need they always pitch in to help one another.  Farmers get the true meaning of "community."  I've never once heard my Mom or Dad wish bad on a neighbor.  Farmers get the idea that they're all in this together...if I have a good crop most likely you'll have a good crop.  I've seen first hand neighboring farmers pulling together to
help someone harvest their crops.  I've witnessed farmers pulling together when haying season was getting late (one mowing, another raking and another bailing) and then all returning the favor for the next neighbor.  I've seen cows get out into a neighbors field and instead of getting angry they pitch in to help return the cow to the pasture.  Let's face it, in most professions this wouldn't happen.  In most professions if someone was struggling the others would be smiling, deep down, thinking it might help their business.  While, in athletics, we're in the business of "competing", offseason and preseason is the time to lift each other up and make each other better.  Just like the farmer, a teammate has to recognize that if you have a good season, I'll have a good season...if you win a Championship, I'll win a Championship.  Preseason is about being unselfish and being an encourager and pitching in to help that neighbor (teammate) be successful.

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