"Have you watered your bamboo today?" - Greg Bell
I wouldn't be a proper Gonzaga alum if I didn't have a wealth of knowledge on the Zag basketball team. From the athletes on the roster, to games won, right on down to the team mantra, I know about all that can be known about the program. Yes. The Gonzaga basketball program has a mantra, and yes I'm passionate enough about the team to know and care what it is and means. I've actually become quite fascinated with the mantra over the past few months, what it stands for, and how it applies to not just Gonzaga basketball, but my own life, running, and an extension to the athletes that I coach.
The mantra is 'water the bamboo.' It's a slogan rooted in patience, values, faith, vision, and work, and is a subtle reminder of the sometimes all too daunting, meticulous, and mundane task of improving as a runner. As we near the conclusion of our spring season most of you will likely spend time reflecting on the season that has passed, while also focusing on the goals of the fall season ahead. With that reflection there may be a great deal of satisfaction, but there may also be some frustrations with a lack of improvement, staleness, or general challenges. Regardless of what your season has looked like, laying out the goals and vision for the year ahead are vitally important, and the meticulous task of watering the bamboo must remain constant.
What does water the bamboo mean? How can watering a bamboo plant apply to anything related to running, sports, or leadership? According to Greg Bell, the source of the mantra, "If you water giant timber bamboo in the first year, nothing happens. If you water the second year, nothing happens. If you water the third year, nothing happens. But when you water the bamboo the fourth year, it will rocket up an astonishing 90 feet in only 60 days." For those of you who like numbers, but don't believe in doing math, that's one and a half feet per day! That is, at least, after four years of cultivating a root system and patiently waiting while seemingly achieving little to no tangible results. With vision, patience, and a plan, the bamboo can grow to tremendous size. Patience and tediously attending to the plant without seeing results offers no visible short term gratification, but it all pays off in the long term.
Running is tedious, and you all put in so much work to get just seconds faster, but it's important to remember that if you keep tending to it, like the bamboo, breakthroughs can and do happen. These breakthroughs, however, aren't possible if you don't first develop a strong network of roots to support the size of your vision. This network of roots can be your running foundation, but also your values system, your work ethic, and the relationships of support you surround yourself with (he's talking about the Impala team!).
One of the most daunting obstacles we face during this patient process is occasional frustration with the results, which sometimes plateau or falter for weeks or months. The work can be quite hard, and it comes with sacrifice, but when we don't get the immediate gratification of that work, we can lose interest, motivation, and joy. The blunt reality of running is there are no shortcuts (at least not legal ones), growth isn't linear, and there's no one magic workout that miraculously takes our race fitness to new heights. If you want to get better, you have to cultivate growth everyday, and you may not see the results you want for years. Focus on the task at hand, and have faith in the process. Trust that it will grow.
"Bamboo farmers don't start in haste; they plan before they plant....vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." (G. Bell)
Like the farmer, we must plan. If we don't know what we're working toward, the work seems aimless and lacks any gratification. It's important to map out not just your season, but also think forward to the next few years, and figure out some of the things you want to accomplish, and what it will take to accomplish those goals. Everything from the training, the racing plan, and rest all play some role in how to achieve your goals. The Impala is a team of action, but it's imperative that we have both a team and individual vision to succeed.
In conclusion, be patient. Minimize frustrations. Trust the process. The bamboo will grow if you tend to it.
-- Pete Cushman