Wisconsin Football Standout Kyle Penniston Talks Transitioning to the Next Level

Madison, Wisconsin—Wisconsin Football tight-end Kyle Penniston discusses his transition from high school football to Division 1 College Football madness.

This redshirt freshman graduated from Mater Del in Orange, California ranked as a four-star recruit from ESPN.com, ranked No. 6 tight-end in the country by Rivals and selected to play in the notorious 2015 Under Armour All-American Game.

His impressive high school accolades speak for themselves. Penniston was one of Paul Chryst’s top recruits for the 2015 class. After redshirting his 2015 season, Penniston made a killer debut his 2016 season by isolating a spot behind starter Troy Fumagalli.

With two touchdowns last season and a drive for consistent improvement, this 6’4” powerhouse is just getting started.

The transition from high school football to a faster, stronger and higher level is unexpected for any athlete. The playing field is different, the competition is better and you are no longer No. 1. No matter who you were in high school and what you accomplished in the past, you are thrown back to the bottom of the food chain.

Biggest Change Making the Jump to Elite Competition

“I think I put the same amount of time into training. But in high school you don’t have to focus in all the time. In college you have to be focused in all the time,” Penniston said.

Focus is vital in order to survive each rep in training—because each rep matters. The guy in front of you isn’t your friend, he is your competition. Without a hard-headed mindset, you will crumble right to the bottom.

Physical preparation is also a key element to perform at the highest level. In high school, Penniston explains that he only remembers doing the cold tubs after practice.

Now with Wisconsin’s top-notch facilities, he can do a variety of recovery modalities to get his body right—including NormaTec PULSE Leg Recovery System, hot to cold contrast baths, and wearing his compression tights.

The name is the game is ‘when’ and how much time you have to prepare your mind and body for that moment.

“It is important to take seven days to get ready for your next game,” Penniston said.

There’s no secret that when you feel good, ‘you play good.’ Every small meticulous detail of your preparation is taken into account the minute the whistle blows.

“If and when my time comes to train for the NFL, I want to train smarter,” Penniston said. “It is all about knowing your body well enough—how it is feeling and what to do with it to recover properly.”

Kyle Penniston might be a rising player in Wisconsin Football with an extensive amount of resources around him to get better, but at the end of the day, it is simply knowing when to train harder and when to rest.

“I remember I would workout 5-6 days in a row. You think you’re going to get bigger, faster and stronger but you need time off. You need to be smarter,” Penniston said.


How can you learn from Kyle Penniston?

( Additional commentary from First Finisher’s Andrew McDermot) 

Athletically, Penniston’s words are straight forward.

You simply can’t have your foot on the gas pedal at 100mph 365 days a year.

You’ll burn out your body and mind, resulting in the opposite outcome of what you were working so hard for.

But this same principle applies to your professional life as well.

We live in a socially connected world that gives us only slight glimpses into the world’s elite performers and successes.

You only see what everyone wants you to see.

As you’re constantly bombarded with Instagram pictures, tweets, and Facebook posts about “hustling” and “grinding”…

It can make you feel like what you’re doing is never enough.

A sense of guilt is always in the back of your mind unless your in the trenches all day everyday busting your ass practicing or learning new strategies to further your craft.

In today’s digital world it can feel like you’re being judged if you’re not posting constantly about how hard you’re working and proving how much time you’re clocking.

Now, the relentless pursuit of greatness, hustling, grinding are all essential qualities.

But today’s obsession with constant engagement makes us forget about how important  reflection, silence, and rest is.

Because just as Kyle Penniston needs time off from the gym and field to recover – to analyze his training progress – you need to take a step back to reflect upon your own progress.

In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues that work and rest are not enemies, instead work synergistically to provide you with optimal results.

“When we define ourselves by our work, by our dedication and effectiveness and willingness to go the extra mile,” he writes, “then it’s easy to see rest as the negation of all those things.”

“Work and rest are not polar opposites,” Pang writes.

When you want something so badly in life, it’s difficult to rest.

But when you do,  you’ll make some of your most important self discoveries.

Rest isn’t meant for meaningless procrastination time though. “If you want rest, you have to take it” Pang writes.

“You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take is seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.”

Use rest to make sure you’re not just running in circles, but actually making progress in your endeavors.

Then, when you dive back into “the grind” take what you’ve learned and put your  entire heart and soul into it.

Not only is this a much more sustainable way of living, it’s a a faster way to becoming the person you most want to be.

Whether you want to take your athletic pursuits to the next level, move up the corporate latter, or throw yourself into a new adventure outside your comfort zone, remember to take moments to rest your body and mind.

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