Courage is the strength of will to do what is difficult. Life (and softball) is so much better when you are good at it, and a huge part of being good at it is being courageous. Great athletes do this despite the risk of falling, getting hurt, making mistakes, looking bad, and feeling bad. They are dedicated to the truth and they work on weaknesses, often scheduling pain now to enhance pleasure later. Great athletes are open, comfortable in the knowledge that they are not invincible. Everyone has both good and bad habits; courageous athletes work hard to turn their weaknesses into strengths.
The word courage comes from the Latin root “COR,” which means heart. It is a common theme in softball that “you have to have heart.” Some people equate heart with fearlessness, but this is not accurate. Wrestling icon Cory Lester said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is being afraid but being able to control that fear so you are able to perform at your highest ability. That’s what makes a champion.” It’s being scared, but not acting scared!
Courage can be divided into two categories: physical and moral. Having one does guarantee having the other. For example, NHL teams are made up of athletes with high physical courage.
All the players have the toughness to play through pain or risk injury. We know this because we can count the average number of teeth per player. However, that same team will have a normal distribution of moral courage. A couple individuals will be high, a couple low, and most somewhere in between.
Moral courage also requires a risk of significant pain, but it is emotional rather than physical. It is the ability to do what is right even if that goes against social norms or peer pressure, or risks embarrassment, discouragement, or adversity. Here are examples of moral courage
Saying no to pressures to do things that are counter to your own values (alcohol/drugs/cheating!etc.).
Striving for perfection, knowing that you will fall short.
Facing the unknown and giving your best effort even though you have no idea if that will be enough to win or make others happy. What you do know is that your best is all you can do and you have faith that your best is always good enough, not necessarily to win, but to produce success.
Victims of crime who testify against their attackers.
The anorexic or addict who seeks help and wins the fight.
The athlete who recognizes how her personality keeps her from leading or performing effectively, so she changes what comes natural and creates a new habit.
Courage is seeking the truth at any cost and having the motivation to use what you find, for knowledge without action is useless. When courage and motivation are combined, mountains will be overcome one step at a time, then look like molehills in the distance behind you. Without courage, even a molehill is insurmountable. With courage, an ingrown toenail becomes irrelevant during competition. Without courage, the injured athlete loses focus, intensity, and balance. With courage, adversity is good and mistakes are viewed as critical components for growth and happiness. Without courage, adversity is bad and mistakes represent the end of the road. With courage, we can identify and change bad habits, making excellence itself second nature. Without it, we can make excuses. Without courage, the fear of failure debilitates, but with it, that same fear gives us juice to help us reach new heights of personal and human achievement. Courage reveals fear and pressure for what they really are: the shadows of great opportunity.
All of this is why Winston Churchill said, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.” If motivation and courage are sufficient, you will find a way! You will ‘win’ the mental side of the game and perform up to your potential when you have the courage to say (and act out), “I will give my best effort one step at a time and accept whatever happens!”.
|Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting www.CoachTraub.com, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. CoachTraub.com also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.|