More Than Just a Sprint: How 60 Seconds Changed My Entire College Career
It was during one of my first-ever practice sessions in the USA 🇺🇸 that I learned one of my most profound life lessons. And it happened after running one of my best sprints!
A few weeks after arriving from Ireland 🇮🇪, I had the opportunity to practice with my college team, UC Santa Barbara. The practice was pretty standard; an agility warm-up followed by some possession drills, finishing up with a scrimmage. But as we were preparing to pack up, our coach, Leo Chappel, yelled those dreaded words:
"EVERYONE ON THE LINE!" 🗣
He then proceeded to put us through a series of timed runs - two teams switching off for intervals of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 seconds. By the 40-second mark, he was shouting at the first group to pick up the pace or we'd be doing extra runs. I was in that group, running at the front but maintaining a steady pace to conserve energy.
We finally got to the 60-second run. Just as we were about to start, Coach Leo walked over and softly said to me.....
"Go for it! Push yourself, and run them into the ground!" 🗣
"LET'S GO!" I thought to myself!
I saw it as a chance to impress Leo and demonstrate my fitness. So I gave it my all - sprinting full speed from the start. I was lapping several teammates after about 20 seconds, doing it twice by the 50-second mark, and leaving them struggling to keep up. After 60 seconds of flat out sprinting, I was exhausted but sitting way out in the lead. I had shown everyone how fast the guy from Ireland could run - or so I thought.
Then came the unexpected. Instead of the rewarding confidence boost I had anticipated, Leo called me out.
"WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!? You're an absolute CHEAT, Byrne! Why did you wait until the last run to do that? You better check yourself and NEVER let that happen again!"
I was baffled. As far as I was aware, I pushed my limits on that last run and lapped a bunch of guys. What was his problem?
It took me a second......but I began to understand. He had called me out for not pushing myself from the beginning, for pacing myself instead of challenging the group. Little did I know this moment would shape my college career - whenever we did fitness drills after that, I was put at the back of the group and told to finish first or we'd all have to do it again.
This experience, although initially discouraging, became the turning point of my college career. Coach Leo taught me a valuable lesson to push past perceived limits and never settle for less than my best.
Over time, I became fitter than I ever imagined. Every sprint, every battle to get to the ball I took personally, elevating my level of play. I always felt I could outrun anyone on the field.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS CLEAR
Success often lies just past your comfort zone. It's easy to pace yourself and save your all for the end, but real growth comes from pushing boundaries early on. Embrace challenges, confront discomfort, and strive to consistently be your best self.
In life, as in soccer, it's not just the finish; it's about how you start and sustain effort throughout. By doing so, you'll discover new resilience, strength, and unlock your full potential.
So, remember this lesson when challenged: don't wait for the last sprint to give your all. Start strong and finish stronger.
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