Character & Mental Toughness-The Lesson of the Ankle Hawk

One of the great rewards of coaching is that you spend a great deal of time outdoors.  By 2:30 PM on most days of the Spring and Fall I am out there on the practice field.  We have a beautiful location, with a nature area on one side of our fields and a view of the foothills of the Berkshires off in the distance.  We practice under a big sky.

Sometimes during football season a team goes through a rash of similar injuries.  We have had the year of the broken collar bone, the year of the concussion, etc.  During those years you feel somewhat cursed.  The like injuries pile up beyond logical explanation.

We went through a couple of seasons where we encountered a prolonged string of ankle injuries.  In our human quest to link cause and effect we seemed to recognize that anytime there was an ankle injury there was a flock of  hawks circling the woods just moments before.  We came to call these birds of prey “Ankle Hawks.”  Their circling a sure sign of demise as one of our players would soon be struck with an ankle injury.

This past season, as we prepared for our annual Thanksgiving Day game, I turned to see a white hawk had perched on the cross bar of our goal post.    He sat there for a while.  We stopped practice and all of the players took a knee and I discussed how he embodied the spirit of a long past football player who came to make sure we practiced with intent as the big game approached.   The coachable moment is not in my ability to resist.  We got up and practiced well.   The white hawk flew off, apparently convinced we had done our part to adequately prepare.

There are some lessons to be learned from birds.  The first might be the demise of the Ankle Hawk.  A few years back the nearby Air Force base became the home of F-15′s.  They buzz our practice field with regularity.  We haven’t seen much of the Ankle Hawks since the F-15′s moved in.

Seems the Ankle Hawks learned a valuable lesson.  There is always a bigger meaner bird out there.

Likewise, birds can teach us another lesson.  For example there are some types of birds that do not fly.

The first group is made up of birds like the ostrich and emu.  Birds that slowly lost their ability to fly because they became too large.  Little by little, day by day,  they grew too fat to fly.

The second group is made up of birds like the penguin.  These birds could easily find food without having to fly.  Little by little, day by day,  they grew too lazy to fly.

The lesson is a simple one,  if you want to soar to great heights you must sacrifice some effort and exercise your wings each day or you won’t be able to use them anymore.

I just want you to know what is possible.

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About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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