Lesson Learned: Natural Ability Isn't Worth Much
In 1980, I was the second fastest 1/4-miler in the State of GA.
(For my age bracket.)
It was 8th grade, and I was weirdly tall for age. At 13 years old, I'd reached my full 6'1" stature (where I still am to this day), but without the appropriate girth. Unusually tall, super-skinny, no coordination, with poodle-floof of hair on my head and giant 1980's styled glasses. I was the epitome of a nerd.
I was also incapable of functioning in a sport which required a ball.
But, I could run. Running was natural. It came easy for me. Once my wiry long legs hit their rhythm, I could typically outrun most people my age. Especially the boys, who hadn't yet hit the time of the typical male growth spirt.
So, at 13, I exhibited a lot of natural ability and won my share of races.
The next year, I entered high school and ran cross-country in the Fall. Of course, I won nothing because the competition included seniors and I was a mere freshman.
That wasn't fun.
Since I have a late birthday, I still qualified for youth track in the Spring, and I made the decision to do that - with the logic that I stood a chance to win more competing at the top of my age bracket versus the bottom of the slush pile.
The problem was, I'd used up the last of my natural ability. I now had to get better.
But I didn't get better. Youth track coaching is volunteer dads. So, in fact, I got worse - and still won nothing.
If I had chosen getting better (working under a top-rated coach at my high school), I also wouldn't have won anything (probably). But I'd have been a better - and most likey a faster - runner.
I confess I didn't learn my lesson then.
Over the years, I've chosen easy, versus the difficult things that make you better many times.
However, I do believe I've learned something about this now. (As a bright-eyed, 50-year old).
Natural ability is way over-rated - and will only take you so far. Professionalization means getting better over the long term, and not the immediate win.