Updated: Dec 31, 2019
When it comes to the daily grind of athletics, I was given an impactful visual during my years of college track and field that transformed my approach to my sport…maximize my fraction. Many of you may be saying, “Hold up! I am terrible at math. Why do I need to bring fractions into the sport I love?” Do not worry…I am not referring to actual mathematics, but the athletic pursuit can be defined within the concept of a fraction.
When you look at a fraction, there are two parts: denominator and numerator. When referring to maximizing a fraction, the goal is to achieve the same number in the numerator position (top number) as the denominator position (bottom number), equaling 100%. In my athletic description, the denominator will be the number we cannot change versus the numerator being the number in which we have control. The denominator is our given abilities, the talent we were born with, how “good” we are at our sport. This is out of our control. Although we may desire to play professionally at some point in our athletic career, this is not always possible. Although we expect a starting position, we sometimes contribute better off the bench. The numerator is our physical effort, our mental composure, how hard we run during conditioning, the amount of weight we choose to squat, if we approach game day with fear or confidence. This is the number we have full control.
In order to maximize your fraction, or reach 100%, there are many factors. Obviously, reaching your physical capacity is one factor, lifting the amount of weight your muscles can handle, running as fast as your legs will move. But surprisingly enough, if you perform with hesitation, if you know you have natural ability and don’t need to put in all the work, if you are worried about what may be going on with your family and are not focused on the skill at hand, if you feel tired and don’t think you can accomplish that last set during conditioning, these factors remove points from your numerator. You may feel as if you are performing to the max but in fact, you are not.
Let’s look at a couple examples:
A basketball player is a superstar, has huge potential to be the top recruit at a Divison I university, and will likely play professional ball in the future. He has a denominator of 10. He knows he is great, however, and doesn’t believe he needs to push himself during conditioning. He settles for middle of the pack during line sprints. He may be the top scorer at last night’s game, but he doesn’t see the need to watch film with coach and improve his shot. He has a numerator of 5.
A swimmer has always worked for her position on the team. She comes from an athletic family, but she is smaller in stature and has spent endless hours trying to perfect her stroke. She has a denominator of 5. She was recruited by a Division II school, and she is proud to be a contributing member of two sprint relays. She is not the fastest swimmer on the team, but she knows her place on the relays and listens to the coach’s strategy as to not let down her teammates. She put in extra hours in the weight room during the off-season to have her best senior year possible. The night before a big swim meet, she spends time in her room visualizing each stroke. As she steps on the platform to listen for the start, she is confident in her training and prepared to release her athletic performance. She has a numerator of 5.
Both athletes produce a numerator of 5, but only one athlete has reached 100% capacity. Although the basketball player’s 5 may be visibly more “athletic,” he is only performing at 50% and is wasting his potential. The swimmer may not be the best athlete, but she has reached 100% and is doing everything within her control, physically, mentally, emotionally, to maximize her fraction.
Are you reaching 100% potential in your performance? In practice? During the off-season or the night before a big game? Are you maximizing your fraction? Because the alternative is wasting your given ability.
(Fraction visual compliments of Nebraska Fellowship of Christian Athletes)