Probably the most-used coaching cliché is the desire to “outwork” the opposition. OK then, how are you going to define it?
Sweat equity? What if you’re someone who just sweats a lot? You need to be on my team so we can out-sweat the others. Work done? We can pile all kinds of useless work on top of athletes to say they’ve done something.
You must remember that what matters is the amount of quality work performed, and in the end, the performances it leads to. What matters is the result.
I remember reading a Charlie Francis quote a while back about swimmers, something to the effect of, “you can do all the yardage you want in training, in the end, it’s about who can swim the fastest from one end to the other.”
Hard work is an ambiguous term that simply doesn’t have meaning. Because it’s not the hardest working team or individual that wins – it is the team or athlete who has the most genetic gifts, trained intelligently, with the consistency and diligence necessary to bring about the requisite physical skills and abilities for success.
The terms consistency and focus are far more important in the training of athletes. Do they show up, day after day? Do they put focus into what they are doing to reap the intended benefits? Or do they just go through the motions? Do they do what they need to, outside of training (sleeping, eating) to meet their goals?
As Charles Staley has said, what you do is what matters, not how it feels getting there.
I pretty much never talk to my athletes about hard work, because it’s simply a prerequisite. They should be putting forth the necessary effort to accomplish the task. They should be focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes this will be quite fatiguing, other times not so much. In fact, there are plenty of times that athletes leave feeling as good, if not better than, they felt when they arrived.
Dan John refers to “park bench workouts” – you show up and put in the work, but there’s no immediate urgency. This is where a lot of training should be. This doesn’t imply “easy” workouts, or that there is not focus and attention paid to them – quite the opposite, in fact. They should be planned out and have a purpose. But you’re also not attempting to run yourself into the ground or grind yourself into dust for the sake of it. You’re putting the work in. Showing up, day after day, with focus on the task at hand.