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January 11, 2019
What's Inside > What's Outside
In Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship, the Clemson Tigers routed the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 to capture their second national title in the last four years. It was a dominant display of football that highlighted Clemson’s championship culture and capped off the unparalleled careers of the program’s senior class, including one of its all-time great players in wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.

Renfrow’s story really is remarkable, and I hope inspiring for you and the work you’re doing to raise a champion athlete and person today. The redshirt-senior came to Clemson five years ago as an unheralded, unrecruited walk-on, who at 5’10” and 150 pounds, looked as much like a waterboy as he did a wide receiver. Today he leaves Clemson as a team captain, the school record holder for most games started by a wide receiver and most consecutive games with a reception, and a two-time National Champion. (He also owns the most iconic moment in Clemson football history, the game-winning catch in the final seconds of the Tigers’ national title win two years ago.)

So what does Hunter Renfrow have to do with you, or with the young athlete you’re raising today? Not much, maybe. If your child is a top-ranked, elite-level athlete who you think is gonna set foot in a program and headline it from day one, then Renfrow’s example might be mostly irrelevant. If your kid’s physical ability level is so high that you think he or she’ll always be able to just show up and dominate, with that and nothing else, then this former walk-on probably isn't an example worth sharing.

But if your kid’s like most kids, there’s great value in learning from and being encouraged by Hunter Renfrow’s story. I hope, as a champion sports parent, you have the foresight to see that at some point – sooner or later – your child is going to face some huge challenges or struggles in achieving the goals they’ve set for themselves. At some point, someone’s probably going to say to your child, “Sorry kid, you’re just too small, or too slow, or too (fill in the blank) to do what you say you want to do.” At some point – even if they’re a top-ranked, elite-level athlete – your child’s physical ability isn’t gonna be enough, on its own, to get them what they want. If you have the foresight to recognize those realities as part of your child’s experience, then a story like Hunter Renfrow’s has a lot to offer.

His freshman year, Renfrow himself estimated he was the lowest-rated among the team’s 17 wide receivers. How did he go from last on the depth chart to the cover of Sports Illustrated only a few years later – especially when, by all accounts, he lacked many of the physical gifts those other receivers possessed? He was supposed to be too small, too slow, and too unathletic to make it at Clemson. But like any champion athlete, Hunter Renfrow understood that there’s more to becoming a great athlete than just physical ability. This is the message at the heart of The LENS book and this weekly newsletter, that helping your child become their best means developing more than just their body. It also means developing the mental skills and abilities that separate the very best from everyone else. Here we refer to those skills and abilities as the talents of a champion:
Hunter Renfrow is a great example of an athlete who’s reached his full potential – and who’s separated himself from many of his competitors – because what he has on the inside trumps what he has on the outside. He may not be as talented as many other wide receivers in some of the most obvious, easy-to-measure areas. He’s not as tall or as fast. He doesn’t put up eye-popping bench press or vertical jump numbers. He is, however, extremely talented in many of those less obvious, harder-to-measure, but just as important areas. You can measure an athlete’s bench press or his 40-yard dash, but it’s hard to measure his heart, or his effort, or his toughness. It’s hard to measure someone’s desire to learn, their coachability, or their selflessness. Their courage or their attitude. In those intangible areas, Hunter Renfrow is elite, like all champions are. If you want your child to become their very best, he or she needs to be elite in those areas, too.
Because they aren’t as obvious – and honestly, for most people, not as glamorous or as sexy – talents like those on our list tend to get overlooked when it comes to raising and developing our kids. But I hope you can see clearly today that no one becomes great in those areas by accident. It’s not magic or luck. Instead, those talents are cultivated each day by a parent who’s smart enough to recognize the important role they play in success.

So be that parent today, the one who recognizes what really matters. Be the one who recognizes that for your child, what's on the inside trumps what's on the outside. Developing your kid’s most important talent helps him or her on the playing field, yes, but more importantly, it prepares them for even more success beyond the game. These are talents they'll be using to separate themselves for life . Of course, doing this important work doesn’t guarantee that your child will make the title-winning catch on national TV or land on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But it is work I can guarantee you’ll be proud of.

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