By Paul Ruggiero
CTS Triathlon Coach
You’re not lukewarm on him. There’s no in between here. You love him or you hate him. He’s possibly the most polarizing person in sports and for the third year in a row, and fourth year out of five, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady, at the tender age of 41, not only has his team on the verge of another Super Bowl Championship, he beat an opponent just about half his age to win the AFC Championship. Tom has University of Michigan sweatshirts older than Patrick Mahomes.
People are YELLING at TV screens and ranting to sports radio talk show hosts. Look – I’m a guy from Buffalo, NY and hating Tom Brady and the Patriots was imprinted on my DNA. But as a coach and an athlete, I have respect and admire him. Love him or hate him, Tom Brady practices things all athletes can learn from. And as aging athletes, how can we learn from what he’s done to stay on top?
Don’t get out worked. Ever. Tom Brady was drafted after 198 other players in the 2000 draft. Being selected behind all those guys made him work harder to prove he belonged in the game, and he never gave up that work ethis. He likes being the underdog and thrives on being told he can’t do something. He’s never going to be outworked. Tom demands to take every snap at practice. He’s obsessive, and carries around notes in his pocket about how to throw a football so he can always be reminded of the basics and to never overlook the small steps. He’s first in the gym, last to leave. If a player arrives at 6:30 am, Tom has already been there for a few hours and greets them with a “Good afternoon.”
FOR YOU: Don’t get outworked. Be obsessive about effort. Construct your days for optimal training.
Brady micromanages everything. Every calorie, every ingredient, and right down to the time he eats his meals. He’s heavy on vegetables and lean protein and stays away from alcohol, caffeine, diary and sugar. Avocado ice cream is his guilty pleasure.
FOR YOU – Think about what you’re eating, and when. Sweat the details. If you’re making changes, make one small change today and another small change next week. They start to add up, but they have to be sustainable. Remember, garbage calories in, garbage training out.
Tom’s in bed at 8:30 pm. He knows quality sleep can improve reaction time, increase overall health, increase focus and accuracy, and prevent mental errors. He naps. He solves a series of brain puzzles before bed. And he almost has zero screen time (aside from studying) in his life.
FOR YOU – Sleep more! Besides the above-mentioned sleep benefits, late at night people make poorer choices with food and alcohol. Shutting it down on the early side can reduce those temptations. Throughout the day, take time to rest when you can. Think about your craft or sport – in a positive way – before going to bed.
Tom doesn’t doubt himself OR his team. Rather than listen to haters, he uses them as fuel. When drafted as a backup and trying to make the team, he approached the team owner, looked him in the eye and told him drafting him was the best choice he ever made. Then he worked hard every day to back up those words. He’s humble in giving thanks to others. He’s the first to thank teammates for his success.
FOR YOU – Don’t doubt yourself. Find the fuel or reason why you’re trying training and put it in the forefront. Focus on the process, because your confidence comes from knowing you have put in the work and are prepared.Tom uses his draft pick, and being told he wouldn’t make it, as motivation. What’s yours? Find your why, and then be relentless in pursuing it.
Every season is predicted to be Tom’s last. Every summer the columnists and commentators declare he’s too old to perform at the top of the sport: He should retire, what else does he have to prove? He should exit on top, with his legacy intact.
Tom is the only person who knows when it will be time to stop. As an aging athlete, and a coach to aging athletes, there are societal pressures to stop pushing ourselves. Physically, our peers are slowing down, easing into their recliners, and succumbing to lethargy. And they want us to join them! Professionally, our peers are retiring or cutting back, and the younger generation views us as dinosaurs!
FOR YOU – Forget everyone else’s narrative for your life and your activities. If you have the passion for your work or your sport, there is no reason to stop. It is also important to remember that once your stop it will be difficult to start back up or reach the level you have already achieved.