Growing up on a farm I got very familiar working with different types of machinery and tools. If your tools are not in top working order, then it makes your job that much harder. It is always better to take the time to ensure the maintenance, safety and efficiency are in place before you begin your body of work. This reminds me of the axe. I often heard the quote from Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I love what Ecclesiastes 10:10 says: “Using a dull axe requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom: it helps you succeed.”

A ll of us strength coaches have worked, strained and pushed our guys through the summer, we can’t just wipe our hands clean of our players and expect the position coaches to take them over and we take a back seat. We must stay at the forefront of our player’s well-being. We have developed them physically and mentally. Now the time is ripe for us to keep developing their will, determination and spirit.

As we go through August Camp, many of our players will face adversity. Adversity or struggle is the bridge that will allow them to grow. This could be in the form of an injury or it could be they have fallen on the depth chart. It may even be they are facing discouragement through some situation at home, in which they can’t be there. This is where we can build them up, encourage them to find a way, and tell them not to ever, ever give up!

“The Spirit Makes the Master”
W hen I was the Head Strength Coach at Western Kentucky University our Head Coach David Elson would refer back to his mentor Jack Harbaugh’s saying, “Mental is to physical, as three is to one”. Even greater than that, the school Motto was, “The Spirit Makes the Master”! Whatever Master you have, it is going to control your mind or what I call the General . Therefore, the General has to always have control of the army in which I am referring to the body. I understood this in greater detail as a Head Strength Coach in my early forties than I did as a Head Strength Coach in my late twenties.

At Clemson, Coach Batson would have shirts that read Speed Kills, Strength Punishes and Power Crushes. I would like to add one to that and say, "Execution Finishes!" Emotion and motivation only take you so far. You will always fall back on your preparation. Therefore, a sharpened axe always allows for a greater opportunity of success.

My grandfather used a whetstone on the farm to sharpen his blades. It is an abrasive stone that sharpens knives and axes. Our challenge as strength coaches is to be that whetstone to our athletes. Now that we have made our players faster, stronger, and more powerful, let’s not forget to “Sharpen the Axe!” The sharper the Axe, the easier it is to swing and get the job done. Big, fast and strong has always been great, but the player executes most effectively when they are sharp.

How do I put this into practice? It's simple, love them as your own. Be a great teacher, not just a motivator. Model the way and walk the talk. Sometimes these concepts are easy preaching but hard living. As they see you face adversity, they are watching to see how you respond in your own walk. I want to always tell the players the truth. The truth may seem negative at the time, but truth always wins. It is their job to love each other and your job to love them. Think of charging a car battery. It can’t be done without a negative and positive charge. Be that abrasive whetstone that sharpens the axe and be the smooth cloth that cleans the blade with some type of optimistic hope. Players follow those they can trust, so let us lay a path of hope and optimism.

Thanks for reading! Stick around for the next edition of Coaches Corner every other Wednesday.
About  The Author 
David Abernethy is currently the assistant athletic director of strength training & conditioning at Furman Unversity. He is a certified member of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Association of Speed and Explosion, and is recognized by the American Fitness Professionals Association as a Certified Sports Nutrition Consultant.  Abernethy is married to the former Kelli Iddings of Denver, N.C., and the couple has a daughter, Madilyn, and a son, Brooks David.
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