A True Underdog Story

Rocky is my favorite movie of all time.

But I’m not sure it’s my favorite sports movie. Which I realize is completely flawed logic and a paradox I can not explain.

There are too many great sports movies to really try to nail down my faves, but one I absolutely love is “Hoosiers”.

It’s not that Hoosiers isn’t without its problems (the completely shoehorned “I hate you but I really love you” sub plot between Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey feels about as authentic as a strip mall honkey tonk) but it is fairly outstanding. The ultimate underdog story with a Hollywood ending.

There is a small but important scene in the movie prior to the big final game that I love. Hackman’s Coach Norman Dale gives his emotional, heartfelt talk before turning over to the team preacher for the pregame prayer. And after the typical “blessed father” stuff he adds this:

“And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen.”

Cue the goosebumps.

Pretty apt verse given that Dale’s Hickory Huskers are the smallest school to ever make it to the Indiana state finals and they are playing against a powerhouse team from South Bend.

You gotta love when an underdog story references the greatest underdog story of all time.

But it turns out that the actual tale of David and Goliath may also be one of the most misinterpreted as well.

If you dig deeper you will find out that many biblical historians believe that Goliath – who truly was a giant in his day – was actually overmatched by the tiny shepherd, David.

Turns out that Goliath may have had cataracts which made it very hard for him to see. He also struggled with walking and needed help from guides.

David, on the other hand, was an expert slinger. Which, in modern times, would be the equivalent of a sniper or sharpshooter.

And while Goliath certainly would have dominated in hand to hand combat, the distance between he and David as well as the uneven terrain in the Valley of Ellah where they faced off actually put the marksman David at a huge advantage.

So, even though he was bigger and stronger, it was a no-brainer that Goliath would be defeated.

Ok, I’ll dismiss you from Sunday School now and bring this back around to training.

Fitness is also quite the paradox.

On the one hand, it is remarkably predictable. How much you’ll be able to lift, how much body weight you’ll lose, how fast you’ll run all, ultimately, fall into mathematics. Reliable numbers that are affected by past behaviors.

But those of us who have really engaged in it know that it isn’t that simple and never really works out that way.

There are too many “x” factors. Times that you slipped off the plan. Or didn’t get a good night’s sleep. When torrential rains slowed your race pace down. Or your body just didn’t react as planned.

And we’re just talking about people who actually make an effort and have a plan. How many people are just circling in the wind – hoping that their training and meal plans will lead to an outcome even when their program and effort are sub-optimal.

When you really look at the big, big picture, real honest-to-goodness success when it comes to fitness is a true underdog’s battle.

But this is where we can learn a lesson from David. Because even when the odds are statistically stacked against you, you still have a very important stone to pull out of your bag.

Just like David, the only path to success is to be as tactical as possible.

You need a very well organized and progressive training program designed to help you reach your goals. Same goes for your nutrition and meal planning. Sleep, stress management, hydration, being in a supportive environment, having positive relationships – these all must be of the highest priority. And you must consistently address and adjust these factors and be in it for the long haul.

They are the things that will give you the best shot against the seemingly unbeatable giant. It’s honestly the absolute best training advice there is.

The end of Hoosiers has Hickory’s local hero, Jimmy Chipwood, hitting the game winning shot and leading his school – his entire town, really – to victory.

It’s a shot you see him practice hundreds of times throughout the movie that you just knew he was going to make it.

The underdog who knew exactly where to aim his stone.