A few months ago, some friends and I went down to watch another friend of ours play in the WNBA at Key Arena in Seattle. We went early to watch the warm ups and see people go through workouts, etc. We were there 90 minutes before the game started. When we got there, the first player on the court from one team was Tina Charles. She is an annual all-star and a Top 5 player in the entire league. For the next 40 minutes, we proceeded to see her go through a full workout with an assistant coach, going hard, getting better. Her head coach came and watched her workout for 30 of those minutes. Not saying anything–just watching. During that time period, a player or two would come out for 5 or 10 minutes to get some shots up, then retreated back to the locker room.
The thing that struck me was that of all the players on the court who needed to work on their game, Tina was the last one who should do so. Although she is definitely naturally gifted, the thing that separates her from the others is that she puts in the extra work–even when people don’t expect it. Later that night, she had a monstrous game and dominated on both ends of the court. Aside from that, she was also a great leader for her team. She finished off the year as an MVP candidate. First class all around.
At the end of the day, the observation is that even you can make it to the top of your profession. There are 11 other people that make the team. Sure, you can be good. Sometimes you can be great, but if you want to be the best you gotta work overtime. You have to love the process of getting better; the grind. Charles' team literally had to fly cross country to play the game and she must have been exhausted. But for that 40 minutes, instead of sitting in the locker room listening to music, she got better.
On top of that, at the end of big games, her coach has seen that she puts in the work. He knows that he can trust her because she never skips any steps. She has put in the time to be great and has earned the opportunities down the stretch. He will now give her the opportunity to lead the team to wins. She puts in the work and the results follow.
This past summer we had the privilege of taking one of our summer basketball teams to the 76ers practice facility. It was the July 4th long weekend, which was bound to be busy given it's a huge American holiday. Anyway, our friend got us into practice. When we arrived at the practice facility, he told us, "Sorry, you guys only have one court, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going through a workout. They’ve been here for a few hours though, so they should be done soon." They proceeded to take another hour and a half. Embiid even joined in to our team's practice and when he lost a game of Bump, he demanded a rematch!
This year, both of those guys have been dominating. Obviously they are extremely talented and that always has something to do with someone's success. But in the end, I’ll bet those two will be great and will continue to get better every day because even on holidays when guys are resting or not working on their games, they were there. In the middle of the offseason, when no one else was there, they were.
The best don’t just go to practice. The best don’t just come to the games. They go above and beyond; they find extra time to separate themselves from the rest of us. They put in the work to go from good to great. And when they become great, they put in the extra work to become legends.
If you want to be great, you gotta work overtime.