If you read my last Lifestyle Blog, What I'd Tell Myself As A Young Athlete, you would've read about things that I obviously did wrong and how I would've improved them from what I now know and understand. But in this Lifestyle Blog, I wanted to follow up the last post with the positives that I learned from training while playing College Football. As I look back in this phase of my life it was really a big learning experience not just for life lessons in general, but it also really helped open my eyes to learning new insights about training from what I used to do and thought I knew. And I wanted to share with you some of the things that I learned then, that I've even carried with me even up to today!
1.) Eating "healthy" doesn't mean it's correct.
I remember during my first collegiate football season, I was a Redshirt Freshman. This meant that I got an extra season of football, since during a Redshirt Season you only practice and do not play in games. Because I wasn't playing in games, and only had to worry about practice, I didn't take my nutrition too seriously. I didn't gain the Freshman 15, but I knew I wasn't at my best and wasn't eating as good as I should be.
After that first season, I knew I didn't want to play on the Scout Team again, I decided to start stepping my game up and focus on getting better to make sure I could play on Saturdays instead on standing on the sidelines. So during the Winter Break, I really focused on eating clean and followed a healthy diet. I thought I was on point with it and I came back on campus about 10 pounds lighter, but feeling really good!
Then, sometime before Spring Football, when I still played on Offense, we had to do these self evaluations, then have a follow up meeting with our coach about them. One of the things was Nutrition, so I circled Championship performance because I was proud of myself for how "healthy" I was eating. Well my running back coach, Coach Eddie said to me, you've lost weight since you've been here, I don't think you're at a Championship Level. At first I was crushed thinking, "damn I thought they would be happy I'm eating so good" and I tried conveying that to him. So he told me to talk to our Strength Coach at the time who was Todd Burkey, who I always had a ton of respect for and still do to this day. So I met with him and he gave me some great ideas of how to eat more towards performance and not just eating to follow a general healthy diet. This way I could still perform well but not lose weight as well.
That was a moment that changed my outlook on how I looked at Nutrition and that eating healthy means various things.
2.) I learned how to squat correctly.
In my last post, I wrote about how I would've like to squat more at a younger age. But I didn't really get proper coaching on the squat until college. This actually made squatting more enjoyable and didn't feel like my body was going to snap in half. I went from squatting bands in high school as my primary leg work to being able to Squat over 400lbs in college.
3.) Technique will take your training to the next level.
I only got to work with Coach Burkey for about a year before he stepped down as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach and went on to work as Men's Basketball Athletic Trainer. But I'll never forget this one quote on one of the first days working with our new Strength Coach, Coach John Patrick who I gained a huge amount of respect for as my coach and later on as a mentor. He told us, "if we can't perform something with no weight, then how will we expect to do something with a lot of weight." That really stuck with me. I'm not sure why, but it was just one of those things and I used to think about a lot as I was training in college and even afterwards. I think it started my thought process to really think and breakdown each movements to fully understand them!
4.) Old habits can sneak up to bite you later on.
Before my Junior Season in college, I was running during a team workout before the official Summer Conditioning started. We were in this long gym in Stambaugh Stadium. I was running down the court, and out of nowhere, it felt like someone shoved a knife right into my spine. I didn't know what the hell just had happened, but by the time I left the stadium that morning, I couldn't stand up straight. It never fully recovered and I could never rehab it back to the level it needed to be to play college football again. I would have never guess that morning, that would've been my last team workout I participated in.
I went through a period of depression that I never wanted to admit to or really tell people about. But I don't ever remember blaming anyone for it. I think I only blamed myself because by this point, I knew my high school workouts weren't the smartest workouts. And if I had anyone to blame, it was myself for not trying to be more intelligent about my training when I was younger. Hard training will only last for so long if it's not calculated. I simply think the abuse from the game and not so great training in my younger years, it was just a breaking point for me and my time was up.
5.) Set your goals higher than what you think you want.
Growing up, I used to just dream and work towards playing college football. I always thought NFL would be awesome, but the dream was college. I just enjoyed following it more, always have. But when you set a goal, and you reach it, sometimes you find yourself looking around, saying "what's next?"
This happened to me a lot during college and I remember saying to myself, "ok I've made it hear Joel, now what are we going to do?" What I learned was that the guys who ended up going pro, always wanted to go pro more than playing college. This is what I've concluded when I hear NFL Athletes speak. That was always their dream and college was just a stepping stone to the NFL.
I'm not saying that I would've ever been even good enough to play in the league (I think my college career would've been better playing linebacker, my position I always played, but that's another topic for another day) but I think that shift in focus goes along ways when you look at why you're doing something in that moment. Instead of just saying, I want to play for YSU, in my mind I could've said, I have to play collegiality so I can get to the pros.
This isn't a regret, this is just a lesson learned that I've taken with me after college was over. I know now, when I set a goal, I think how can I make this goal even bigger???
I wanted to follow up the last Blog post with this one, because this was the next evolution towards a Coaching Career. These 5 things I shared weren't the only things that I learned in college. And I could've probably wrote what I did wrong in college article too, but I wanted to balance out the good with the bad. All in all, you shouldn't have any regrets, because it's all just lessons learned from mistakes and victories!
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.