After spending the last year on the sidelines, I was pretty sure my NFL experience was over. I injured my hand in the preseason and spent the rest of 2019 on the proverbial “couch.” Along came COVID, and for the first time since the 2012 Lockout, NFL facilities were shuttered. As the door to my football dreams started to close, I felt the need to re-evaluate.
Experiencing my first year away from football in over a decade, the lack of structure was most noticeable. Our schedule is normally not flexible; telling us exactly what to do and when we need to do it. While some players disdain this form of control, I’ve always found comfort in the rhythm of the football season. In my opinion, team programming provides a great environment to find your process and outlines a framework for improvement. With time as the limiting ingredient, it teaches the importance of valuing efficiency when preparing for an opponent, recovering your body, or becoming a better athlete.
Without the rigid football schedule, I had much more time on my hands. It reminded me of making the switch from college to the pros. No academic obligations meant there were more hours in the day. Following the lead of some more veteran teammates, I used this extra time to invest in my body but found myself doing too much (i.e. using every piece of equipment available in the facility). I had difficulty sticking to my routine, as it was hard to commit to this lengthy process day in and day out. In my experience, these manic efforts never deliver lasting benefits or progression towards my goals. Consistency was key. As a function of the routine’s complexity and my resolve in its efficacy, bringing the same energy every day required me to set small and simple targets for improvement.
I consider myself lucky to have crossed paths with some great coaches throughout my journey who have taught the importance of continuous improvement. “1% better each day” they would preach as they praised us for repeatedly doing the little things right. While encouragement helped them teach their standard, holding us accountable for things they already taught is what made them great coaches. This coaching style introduced me to the importance of routine, establishing behaviors and core values that go beyond football. More so, the culture nurtured in this space exposed me to the network effect of involving others in your routine. Whether that takes the shape of accountability or collaboration, being a part of a team adds an undeniable synergistic benefit.
With interactions limited by the pandemic, I set my intentions for this quarantine. I felt pressure to make a drastic goal like polishing off my conversational Spanish, but knew I was better off picking something I could measure and hold myself to. Aware that I needed to close the resource gap created by not having teammates or coaches anymore, I set a goal to make investments into my network just as I had been making daily investments into my body. To accomplish this, I added touching base with an old friend to my weekly routine.
Like good teammates, the good people in my life would do anything in their power to do right by me. Reconnecting and using them as a resource has shown me the power of the company we keep. Measuring by messages of encouragement and new opportunities for growth or collaboration, the return on time invested has blown past my expectations. In this way, involving others in my routine holds me accountable to be prepared for the next opportunity, whenever or whatever that may be.
Unfortunately, today I was released by the Jaguars. It’s the harsh reality of life in the NFL, but while this was a short stay in Jacksonville, I am thankful for the moment of validation. My routine is keeping me ready and my network is pushing me in the right direction. When we invest time and energy into ourselves and others, we are often doing so without guarantee of ever reaping the rewards. All we can do is wait, improve and be ready to take the shot when our number is called.
In the meantime, I will continue to rekindle my network and look forward to adding another new wrinkle to my routine. As a result of this process, I was introduced to Stew and Kunal who have generously invited me to join them at El Cap. This is a unique chance to not only learn and develop my skill set, but also add to my team away from football. To the friends of El Cap and anyone else who has read this far, I hope we can connect and encourage you shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’m excited to share my journey and be a good teammate to you all.