Skip to main content

Start strong, finish hard

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

As a teacher, I always tell my students at the beginning of each year and each semester that they need to start strong.

Hit the books hard, do your best on every assignment, and take advantage of every opportunity to boost your grade in your classes. That way, if you slip up on something at any time throughout the semester, you have built a solid enough base with your grade that it won’t hurt as much.

It’s been a mantra of mine throughout my life that in anything I do, I come out of the gate giving 100%. Not only does that usually set me up for success, but it also gives me a bit of a cushion should I falter along the way.

What works in school and in life, also works in sports. From the opening kick-off, tip-off, serve, gun, jump ball, or whatever indicates the start to the sport you play, a team has to be firing on all cylinders if they want to put them- selves in the best position to win.

Make that first basket, find the end zone on that first drive, put the ball in the back of the net within the first couple of minutes of the soccer game.

Not only does that give you the obvious advantage, but it also sends a message to your opponent that you are a force to be reckoned with.

However, if it takes you a minute to get up to speed, the opposing team is going to press their advantage and get off to a strong start, leaving you scrambling to catch up.

In sports like football and soccer, each time a team scores, it heightens the pressure on the other team since goals happen few and far between, for the most part. With heightened pressure, the losing team is more likely to make mistakes.

In basketball and volleyball, if a team is able to take advantage of momentum to build up a big enough lead, the effort it takes to climb out of the hole is such that even if a team makes a run at closing the gap, it’s hard to maintain the attack as legs start to run out of gas.

In either scenario, the earlier one team is able to get on the board and take the lead, the better it is for that team.

In order to secure the advantage, there is no warm-up time once the game is under way. You have to be ready to give 110% right from the start.

That mentality starts long before the team is suited up for a game. It has to be present in practice. It has to be present in the off season. It has to be present in the mind-set of every athlete who commits to any sport.

Overall talent on any given team is, of course, a major factor in whether or not you’re going to have a successful season. And, you must factor in the talent of the teams you play against in your conference. However, the old adage that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard holds true time and again.

Even if you are the underdog in a contest, that doesn’t mean the door isn’t open for a win, regardless of who you are facing.

If you start strong, give everything you’ve got while you are playing, and finish hard, good things can and will happen. At the very least, there will be nothing for you to regret if you left nothing in the tank at the end of the game.


--- Online Subscribers: Please click here to log in to read this story and access all content.

Not an Online Subscriber? Click here to subscribe.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates