“In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There’s the hub of the wheel, and there’s the revolving rim of the wheel. And if you’re attached to the rim of the wheel, let’s say fortune, you will be either above, going down, at the bottom, or coming up. But if you are at the hub, you’re in the same place all the time … And that’s following your bliss.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
Hard work might pay off, and it might not. It doesn’t particularly matter either way.
Doing the work matters. If the work feels hard, and it feels like work, go find different work. Then it doesn’t matter if hard work pays off.
After finally getting playing time, starting, or winning a championship, a great many athletes realize those things never mattered in the first place.
Just do the work.