“Let’s go Parks, we gonna work today son.”
These were the words Coach Atterberry barked out at me after a 2.5-hour wrestling practice. Coach Atterberry was my dad’s assistant wrestling coach and was known for his personal work ethic, along with pushing athletes to their limits. He was a longtime football coach but loved the mentality in the sport of wrestling.
Coach Atterberry would keep me after practice almost daily and put me through extra workouts. I didn’t mind because I wanted to be the best and knew that Coach Atterberry had my greatest interest in mind. I was certain he would push me and just as certain that he loved me as a person and not just an athlete.
On this particular day, Coach Atterberry had a little something in mind that I wasn’t ready for mentally or maybe even physically. We had just completed a grueling wrestling practice when I heard Coach’s call for me to stay and work. As usual, I reported for duty and waited to see what extra workout I’d be performing that day. Coach ran me through a circuit of stationary bike sprints, bear crawls around the wrestling room and swings across the monkey bars (which spanned the length of the room.) To make matters worse, he had another wrestler stay and complete the circuit with me, but he let that wrestler go home after a couple of rounds.
In my mind, I’d surely get to go home soon just as my teammate had done. But as the moments flew by and the sweat rolled down my body, it seemed as if there would be no reprieve from the pain. Coach Atterberry kept pushing me with words that I could no longer make out in my state of exhaustion. At one point I was bent over taking a 30-second rest when my dad walked into the wrestling room and looked at me and then Coach Atterberry. I didn’t say a word, but with my eyes, I tried to yell, “Help! Get me out of here.” My dad shook his head and walked out of the room. I looked down and watched as blood dripped from each finger and made a puddle on the floor. My calluses had been torn off my hands by the tape we put on the monkey bars to keep them from getting slick with condensation from the heated room.
It was in this moment that I wasn’t sure if I could take any more. Coach Atterberry yelled, “Bear crawls, get ’em.” I started to bear crawl around the room but stopped. I stood up and begin to walk. Coach hollered for me to continue, but I didn’t listen. He had done it. He was the first and only coach to ever break me mentally in a workout. I looked at him and said, “No.” Even as the words left my mouth I couldn’t believe I was telling a coach no. Where was this coming from? What was going on here?
I continued to walk for around a half lap and then something inside clicked. There it was, that place in the mind that a human can go when they really need to make something happen. The mental lapse was over, a decision was made, and I was back to work.
I’m not sure how much longer the workout lasted. It didn’t matter at that point because now I was all in and that made all the difference.
You and I, we have mental walls. We are not sure where they exist and will never be certain until we push the limits and discover a wall. It’s in the moment of discovery that a decision has to be made to turn around and retreat or keep pushing until the wall is driven back. Then next time we will be able to travel a little further to hit the wall and again push it back. This requires getting out of our comfort zone and journeying into the unknown. It’s scary, it’s uncomfortable, and it might cause us to cry out for help. But if we will persist, then what was once a wall, a stumbling block, or a limitation will no longer exist. It’s in these moments that we grow stronger and get better.
Outside of each individual, there is a major key in this growth process… someone to help us find our wall. We all need a Coach Atterberry to push us further than we’ve been and beyond where we think we can go. This person can be a coach, a spouse, trainer, boss, or best friend. But this I’m sure of, we need someone to help us discover our walls and push them back. Once this has been experienced enough times, then it becomes part of our internal fabric and we can push ourselves to new levels.
Let me make this personal for you. In life, there is a guarantee that you will be pushed outside of your comfort zone. This might be a personal choice such as pursuing a vision for a sport, job, or your family. There are also times that life will throw at you tests that you are not ready for physically or mentally. It’s in these moments that you can break and quit or you can go to that place deep inside and decide to keep pressing on. The circumstances might be out of your control, but your mentality is totally up to you in the midst of the circumstances.
Where is your wall? Are you willing to find it and then push it back? When life yells, “We gonna work today”, how will you respond? It’s your choice and I hope that you will embrace the discomfort and allow it to push back your walls in order to make you stronger and weave within you a fabric that cannot be broken.
Game Changing Moves:
- Think of a time in your life when you were pushed to your limits and beyond either mentally or physically. How did you respond?
- Who do you have in your life that challenges you to get uncomfortable and grow?
- Read Proverbs 18:10. Where do you turn when you need help?
P.S. Thank You to Coach Duke Atterberry and my Dad (Coach Martin Parks) for pushing me so hard in high school wrestling. When I wrestled in college, we did workouts that would make a billy goat puke, but I was ready for them because I’d been there before. Your influence impacts how I train even today. I love you guys.