Ability vs. Reliability in Pursuit of Excellence in Sports

Reliability and ability in sports represent two distinct, yet interconnected traits that are crucial to an athlete’s performance. This topic has come up numerous times for me this year as I continue coaching my high school varsity basketball team. Determining who starts a game and who is on the floor at the end of the game often comes down to reliability and trust, not always just ability.

For many coaches, reliability is the precondition for trust.  This trust is built and developed mainly during practices. Ability encompasses the innate talent and raw athleticism that an athlete may possess. Sometimes it’s the natural aptitude that sets a player apart, enabling extraordinary athletic feats and exceptional plays. On the other hand, reliability embodies consistency, dependability, and usually resilience. As a high school basketball coach, I value these three traits more than anything else. An athlete’s capacity to perform consistently under various circumstances is critical to the success of a team.

After watching the NFC championship win by the San Francisco 49ers, I read this quote about quarterback Brock Purdy and it really resonated with me as I was writing this blog.  Corner Bradley Roby told NBC Sport this about Purdy:  “Nothing jumps out about him physically, but he’s a good, sound, fundamental, composed, consistent player. And that goes way farther than the height and weight and speed. He has things you can’t measure. You can’t measure heart, you can’t measure composure, you can’t measure being a leader”  https://stylecaster.com/?s=brock+purdys+girlfriend+is+planning+to+spend

Many people have heard the quote by basketball coach Tim Notke, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  This mirrors the debate about ability vs reliability.

While ability might lead to spectacular moments and stand out performances, reliability helps to sustain success by allowing athletes to deliver their best on a consistent basis. Ability is a foundation upon which an athlete’s potential is built, but reliability is the one thing that truly transforms that potential into enduring success. It reminds me of the children’s book called, The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare was faster and presumably the better athlete but the tortoise was reliable and steady. I think we all know who won that race….

In the world of sports, the debate between reliability and ability often emerges as a defining factor for an athlete’s success. Ability, often synonymous with raw talent, is undoubtedly a huge part of sports. However, it is reliability that stands out as the unsung hero, driving consistency, and ultimately athletic success.

According to basketball legend, Magic Johnson, “Talent is never enough. With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers.”

Reliability is not just about skill execution; it’s about mental fortitude and consistency in performance. Athletes who exhibit reliability, showcase a commitment to their craft. They prioritize discipline, training, and adaptability, ensuring that they can replicate their success consistently, regardless of who they are competing against.

The road to success in sports isn’t solely paved with just talent and athleticism. It is the commitment to reliability that often separates good athletes from great ones. While ability might open doors, reliability is the key to unlocking long-term and repeated success.

Nothing is better for a coach than an athlete who encompasses both of these important things. Ability is the spark that ignites potential, but reliability is the steady flame that fuels an athlete’s journey to greatness. Aspiring athletes must recognize the importance of reliability in the pursuit of long-term athletic success.

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

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