What Is Discipline? The Process Today

Should I pick this cup up? What does it matter…. Someone else will get it… Right? The truth is that it does not matter if we are not bought into a set of standards, goals, or vision. The word “Discipline” is used often in sports. The trait a team or individual needs to be successful. “We have to be a disciplined team!” “That player has no discipline…” My coaches always said that “discipline was doing the right thing when no one was watching.” Is it that simple? Or is it a little deeper? Every choice we make in life has a sacrifice. We give up something for what we choose. It could be time, money, convenience, satisfaction, energy, etc. If it was a weight loss program, it could be delaying your favorite sweet until the weekend. We could be helping our kids with homework and sacrificing our favorite tv show. Today, we live in an instant society and one of a cancel culture. If it is not my way, then I am moving on to something else that brings me instant value. The definition of discipline according to Google is: training that makes people more willing to obey or more able to control themselves; often in the form of rules and punishments. Discipline provides people with rules to live their lives efficiently and effectively. I believe that becoming more disciplined is a process; one that is deeper than just personal choices, a definition, or a quote. Because I said so…. from the coach or authority figure just doesn’t cut it anymore these days. Being disciplined sounds more like a form of punishment that takes away instant gratification. We must realize that disciplined choices do not receive immediate rewards. Remember every choice we make, we give up something to gain another. Instant gratification will cause us to either compromise our values or create a win at all cost attitude. So what is the real gratification we get from making a disciplined choice….

Discipline is actually a system or process of self-gratification and seeing the reality of a positive vision for your future. So why do we contemplate picking up the bottle on the ground? Why do some people walk their shopping cart 30 yards to the storage area? Because people find self-gratification in the pride of meeting a personal standard. People that do not make these choices, have a deficiency in this area. Our personal discipline becomes the sum of all of our life choices. To develop a high level of discipline requires standards and great consistency meeting those standards.

This is another reason why “Whole Player Development” is so important, that meeting standards in all areas of life creates consistency in habits of excellence. It does not take long for someone’s life or a locker room to get out of order. Small compromises compounded over time lead to destruction. Small correct habits compounded over time lead to success. However, without personal standards, neither will seem significant in the moment. How can we expect a team to sustain a high level of play for 120 plays in a game if we cannot make simple disciplined choices throughout our daily lives. Someone that does not obey their parents will struggle to consistently obey their coach. Someone that doesn’t turn in their homework, will struggle to consistently complete their assignments on the field.

So what is our discipline and how do we achieve discipline today? Most believe it’s more about a system of consequences for not meeting standards. Understand that consequences are about holding people accountable to a standard and choices are about creating your standard. You can achieve discipline externally by following rules or internally by self-standards. While no discipline at all will quickly lead to destructive behavior. However, it all starts with what motivates the individual. Motivation either comes externally or internally, both giving a different process for gratification. For example, we have a talk with a player about his potential to succeed on the field and his plan to be the best player possible. You as a coach, have now cast an external vision of his successful future and process. The player has to decide to either make that his own internal mission or simply comply with your standard for him. A greater vision has to be cast before expectation of discipline are set, otherwise your expectations will seem more like a way to control people instead of guiding principles. We cannot expect people to follow a standard of discipline without an external vision first. Likewise, we cannot expect someone to have self-discipline without an internal vision of a successful future. The worst thing is for young talented players to experience success because of talent over disciplined choices. It is hard for a player to buy into and adopt the process of being successful if they are experiencing success without any process. This begins a process of compliance and rebellion when they cannot grasp a vision of success with structure. This becomes the guy that you always have to check on, make sure they are on time, and are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Having to remind them constantly of what they are capable of doing and of their great potential. Sound familiar?? Again this mindset is determined by the motivating factor? External or Internal?


One example of externally guiding behavior is how we teach appropriate body language. This mainly occurs when conditioning and training in the off-season. Making yourself not give into fatigue and letting your opponent know you are fatigued. We give our players specific guidelines and instructions on how to stand, place their hands, look ahead, and find a teammate. We tell them they get “Teammate Time”, not “Rest Time.” To make it a habit to turn to their teammates in adversity and not get lost in their own thoughts. You do not become more disciplined until you have to sacrifice a want in the moment of the decision. Every time you make that choice, then you become more self-disciplined. Every time you listen to that voice of fatigue and compromise, you become mentally weaker. The more you extinguish the thought process to give in…. The greater your pride grows to make disciplined decisions. The more that it is extinguished, the greater personal standard you set for yourself. You cannot become a great competitor unless you master the adversity of your own mental discipline. We are trying to prepare them for moments in competition, so their future success is realized. Our staff knows it is a process and we have to hold them to a standard until they see the same things in themselves. Greatness is born in smallness and we want to be very intentional in whole player development. An individual’s personal standard is always fluid and can change with any consistency with good or bad choices.

However, the greatest guiding factor for others is an external vision that one can “buy into” and align their choices. Players that consistently make poor choices typically do not have a vision, positive self-standard, or goals. Our choices will typically always line up with our beliefs. This is why coaches get so frustrated with players who have a future in football, but do not make the right choices. We experience this a lot with young players; that are talented but making poor choices. It seems that no matter how much you encourage them, hold them accountable, or project their future; their behavior still is inconsistent. This scenario occurs because the coach can see more in the player than he can see in himself. The change doesn’t truly happen until the player sees through the eyes of the coach. That moment when they finally “Get It.” Many times a player has to experience a successful process before they can buy in. This mindset is scary because we cannot totally allow experiences to set our standards. The most successful individuals or groups can hear the external vision and automatically adopt it as an internal vision. This is what we call “Buy In.” These people become self-motivated, self-starters, and self-disciplined toward a common goal. In a program, you are trying to align every stakeholder to bring value to the vision of the organization. If individuals are not “Bought In”, then they will go through a process of compliance of your standards until that vision becomes an internal mindset. For some, defiance occurs, and they will leave or work against the vision of the organization. We all want to feel self-gratification, but we need a vision and set of standards to align our choices.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he. -Proverbs 29:18

Process of External To Internal Vision

When we are born, the only 2 things we know are the fears of loud noises and falling. Everything else we learn is cast upon us externally. Our standards, expectations, and accountability all come from an external vision. As people grow up, these behaviors and habits are their identity until they discover their own direction or purpose. This is why as parents, coaches, or educators we want to expose young people to as many opportunities as possible. Once a young person finds their lane, then positive and disciplined choices start to self-align. They go from viewing disciplined choices as a life constriction, to a life constraint to experience future success. This is another reason why a program wants to value all areas of a player’s life. If you can celebrate success in any area (academics, community involvement, etc.)then it gives that person a sense of purpose. Players without a sense of purpose will consistently seek instant gratification and compromise standards. This is why casting a vision for your people and setting goals are very important. Being intentional in player development about evaluation, developing standards, personal goals, and habits are key:

In close, discipline Is simple but yet complex, because choices are guided by a process of vision. I once had a conversation with a young man that had the ability to play at the next level, but was making very poor life choices. I said to him, “My concern is not if you play college football. My concern is that you learn how to be responsible and be consistent in making good choices. Because if you do and create a new standard for yourself…. You will be successful no matter what happens with football. Without it, you will fail no matter what your future holds.” Disciplined choices have to be held accountable by an external vision and standards or guided by internal vision and standards. No vision or standards leads to a life of chaos and seeking the next available gratification. Remember, it does not take long for things to get out of order. Small compromises compounded over time lead to destruction. Small correct habits compounded over time lead to success. Have a vision for yourself or organization, and align your choices to realize that future success. So why do we pick up the Cup? Because we are called to be people of excellence, we are called to expect more of ourselves. We Are Born To Be Special…. Demand Excellence!

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline– 2 Timothy 1:7

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