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Can Sports and "The Grind" Really Be Said Together?

Mike McCarthy

| Aug 1, 2013 6:19:00 AM

I'm not sure if you are a Twitter person or not...what are they called anyway? Twits? (I can say that as I am one of them) But if you type in the following hashtags:



You will see that they are quite popular, with someone out there Tweeting them several times a minute across the Twittersphere (and yes this IS a word - check it out in the Oxford Dictionaries).

I have also heard it mentioned frequently among the teens that frequent our facility, seen and heard it on TV, radio, in print, etc., posted on Facebook, you name it. I guess it is in vogue these days to be "grinding it out" as it were.

Now if you look up the term "the grind" it has quite a few meanings, some pretty funny if you check out the Urban Dictionary. However, I am going to assume that the context within which I see and hear and read it is that of the sports world's current nomenclature, including but not necessarily limited to athletes and coaches.

the grind"I'm grinding it out"

"It's a grind"

"Gotta grind it out boys!"

So, playing and practicing sports. Maybe coaching them. A few hours a week. Maybe more than just a few.

Players that maybe have 2 practices and 2 training sessions a week - The Grind.


Coaches that guide and continue to participate in a sport that they love, maybe even travel a bit, maybe even get paid for it - The Grind.


Maybe even higher level athletics, practicing or competing 5-6 days a week, 3-4 hours a day - The Grind.


Now I am not meaning to take away from any of the above. They are all usually balancing their participation with a job, studies, family life, etc. All admirable. Not necessarily easy. Sometimes challenging, requiring sacrifice, even pain at times. For the greatest at their craft they have usually given unusual effort.

But The Grind?


This is sports. It is fun, a release, competition, challenge, pursuing a dream, sometimes a job, sometimes a responsibility. It is NOT A GRIND.

Chances are greater than 99% that if you are even reading this, you are from North America, live a middle- to upper-class lifestyle and get to enjoy particpating in sports at some level. You work hard, are diligent, take pride in your work. But a Grind? Sorry but I'm likely not buying it.

Want some perspective on what a real Grind is? Check out the video below of former University of Oregon football coach, and current coach of the Phildelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly, and his own experience and thoughts on what "grinding it out" really is...and isn't:

On a personal note, a few years ago my wife and I volunteered for a week in New Orleans in the Lower 9th Ward helping to rebuild a home after Hurricane Katrina (over 3 years after actually...when still only 18% of the community had been able to move back). It was over 100 degrees Farenheit every day, humid, hard labour, stinky, smelly, sweaty.

The Grind, right? No chance.

Was it hard? Oh ya. Then at the end of the day we hopped on the bus, arrived at our hotel, showered with unlimited water, had a nice dinner, maybe a beer and a stroll through New Orleans and then hit the sack in our air conditioned room. Then on Saturday morning we flew back to Toronto and our safe, intact home.

No Grind.

Now our leader for the week was an amazing guy named Darren, born and raised in the Lower Ninth. Adopted by a wonderful Lower Ninth couple when he was young that we had the great pleasure of meeting and sharing chicken necks with after our last day (Yep, chicken necks. Hadn't had them before, haven't since, but they were pretty tasty).

Darren was displaced after the Hurricane, was bussed to Houston along with many others for a while, spent some time living in the Astrodome with 25,000 other IN IT! Not "living the dream" in it as an athlete. Sleeping on the floor with all of those people. Sharing a bathroom with 1,000's. Not real sanitary. Then eventually back to New Orleans in time.

Upon his return he decided to volunteer full time to rebuild his community. Full time. Took on odd jobs at night and the weekend to make ends meet...barely. Now this volunteer gig wasn't just for a week, or a month. He's still at it. Almost 8 years later, still working every day to rebuild his community, his home. New group of volunteers every week, same old Darren every week. Rebuilding. One plank, one shingle, one nail at a time. Then hustling odd jobs at night. One of the most amazing people we have ever met. Quite possibly the most amazing.

Is this The Grind? Ya maybe. It is still North America, but it is pretty much the closest I have personally been able to see in my life.

So what's The Grind?

It is not throwing a ball around.

It is not taking BP for an hour every day.

It is not pumping iron.

It is not watching video.

It is not gameplanning at 11PM at night.

It is not running sprints.

It is not riding on a bus for 10 hours to a tournament.

If these are The Grind to you, then maybe you're taking it too seriously. It is too hard, too work-like, laborious. Maybe take a Humility Pill.

If you think these things are pushing you to the max, testing your limits...they aren't. You have a lot more in you.

If these do represent The Grind to you then maybe you need to take a step back, find some perspective somewhere that helps you to love it, live it, embrace it. Take the burden off of yourself that you've allowed to accumulate over time, be it internally or externally influenced.

If "Sports" represents "The Grind" in any way, then you're in a great place in life. Enjoy it. Let it all out. Don't leave anything behind. Don't second guess. No excuses. No regrets.

If this is The Grind, you ain't seen nothin' yet. 99.9999% of the world would love to trade their Grind for your Grind.

So stop saying it. Stop writing it, Tweeting it. Let The Grind story go somewhere it won't be seen again and you might be amazed with the results.


Mike McCarthy

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Topics: baseball coaching, mental training, mental performance, The Grind, coaching

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