I recently visited the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants training camp in Albany, NY with my campers from Sportstar Academy to watch the team practice. What a mesmerizing experience. It was the perfect preparation for the Jewish month of Elul, which leads up to Rosh Hashana.
Here are some of the pointers I gained.
I couldn't believe how many times the team repeated the most basic plays and drills. Quarterbacks, including Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, would stand under center, call some signals, receive the ball from the center, take a few steps back and throw to a target -- over and over and over again. When the offense and defense came together for scrimmaging, they did not run any complicated plays. They ran the most basic run and pass plays -- over and over and over again.
These were the Super Bowl champions! Why waste the time doing this?
The more times you review and practice, the more successful you'll be when it truly matters – whether it's in a regular season game or in the defining moments of the Super Bowl.
How many of us show up to synagogue for Rosh Hashana and crack open their High Holiday prayer book for the first time? How many of us have no idea what Rosh Hashana is really about and just show up at shul rather clueless? The month of Elul is our training camp; now is the time to start preparing the most basic aspects of the holiday. (For starters, visit Aish.com's High Holiday site a few minutes each day.)
I'll never forget seeing two Super Bowl heroes -- wide receivers David Tyree and Plaxico Buresss -- on exercise bikes and working with trainers, and not on the practice field. Both of them have injuries and spend hours a day in rehab trying to strengthen their knees and get into playing shape.
At the end of the practice they looked no less tired or sweaty than the players who were running all of the full drills. They are committed to playing football and putting in months of effort to heal. If they would just get on the field on opening day without this effort they'd fail and re-injure themselves very quickly.
Spiritual rehab takes time, work, and sweat. And we all need it.
We are spiritually injured. We have all messed up throughout the year and have glaring flaws which we tend to overlook and ignore. God has given us this month of Elul for rehab. And rehab takes time, work, and sweat.
If we try to approach God on the High Holidays with the plan to be better without having gone through any rehabilitation, we'll fall flat on our faces, re-injure ourselves and mess up again very quickly. The only chance we have to make a lasting change in our lives is if we first rehab ourselves during this month by trying to make slow and gradual changes for the better, and then get on the field and play intensely once the High Holidays arrive.
Now's the time to start addressing our flaws and make those adjustments.
TRYING TO MAKE THE TEAM
There was an entire group of players at the training camp who were different than the rest. They were undergoing more grueling drills than the others. They didn't have assistants, no fans calling out their names, and they were carrying the more veteran players' equipment.
These were the rookies who are trying to make the team.
When you are trying to make the team there's nothing you won't do. The month of sweat and effort at training camp is well worth it if you can impress the coach and be named to a professional football team.
During the High Holidays, decisions are being made regarding our future during the upcoming year. We all dream of making the team, but how many of us put forth the necessary effort to deserve it? Now's the time to "impress the coach" and demonstrate to God – and to our ourselves – just how committed we are to being the best we can be, and to do whatever it takes to merit a year of life and success.
The New York Giants are working tremendously hard to play their best this season and win another Super Bowl.
It's time we get to work too.