The Jack-In-The-Box

The jack-in-the-box.

You turn the crank slowly. Nothing happens.

You turn slower and slower and slower in anticipation of the freaky clown popping out when the lid springs open. With every turn, your heart beats faster and your eyes get a little wider. The chime rings out the tune one slow note at a time as you get closer and closer to the always surprising endgame and then…

POP!

Jack-in-the-box

Developing athletes is similar to a jack-in-the-box. The athlete cranks the handle by practicing and training. When the time is right, the breakthrough comes, and the performance “pops” for all to see.

I saw this with several of the baseball kids we coached this summer (I know, I know, I retired. Insert Mrs. Hays laughing). Starting this spring, these particular players worked and worked to become better hitters. We worked with them on staying vertical and using their tall, lanky frames to generate angular force through a short, compact swing.

These players slowly cranked the handle of their athletic jack-in-the-box to get better throughout the season. They put in meaningful time at the batting cages and at practice. Honestly, they hit the crap out of the ball more often than not this summer. Finally, for one of the players, the catch was sprung on the lid and he hit his first home run to seal a victory in our final game of the summer. It was a legit shot that easily cleared the left field fence. I even smiled—during an actual game, if you can believe that.

This is how athletic development works. You work toward a goal. You grind it out day after day to what often seems to no avail. You get frustrated. You despair. Sometimes, you quit. But to those who keep turning that handle on their athletic jack-in-the-box with grit and determination, success will come.

You will improve.

It is inevitable.

So, keep lifting, keep running, keep swinging, and throwing. Practice ball-handling and shooting baskets every day. Continue to work on your technique, your footwork, and your mental game. Just keep cranking and good things will happen.

I’ve said this many times in the past, but one of the most important things a coach or teacher can do is to see the potential in a kid and help them achieve that potential. Teach them to keep working and to keep turning their cranks of improvement until their talent springs forward.

Now, it’s time to shove this old, tired, jack-in-the-box of a coach down, snap the lid shut, and throw him back into the storage closet. I am retiring from active coaching…again.

Maybe (Stop laughing Mrs. Hays.).

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