The first step for a champion athlete

As I sift through my inbox of questions, a common theme appears. What does it take to go the full distance to win? The process to become a champion athlete starts with a decision.

Coaching athletes into champions is possible when everyone’s on the same page. As an athlete, you’ve tapped into your burning desire to excel. You’re prepared to do whatever is necessary for an edge.

Now you require a coach who knows how to train you to win. No one said it was going to be an easy process. Just like athletes, coaches have strengths and weaknesses. You want a coach who’s capable of building you up instead of beating you down.

Do you have it?

The next step is to determine if you’re truly coachable. There will be gains and setbacks. Do you possess the qualities, the willingness and the drive to stick with the program no matter what? A strong burning desire to win helps you get out of your own way. The one trait every champion athlete must possess is humility.

I’m not talking about the passive form of humility. Coachable athletes are open to learning so they’re willing to set their ego aside. Becoming a champion athlete is rarely done alone. Athletes hungry to win are prepared to do whatever is required.  Here’s the clincher, it’s not all about YOU. You need help and support to move up in rankings.

By the way, getting to the top, and then maintaining your lead for the long run, is an ongoing work in progress. What I’ve discovered for myself, and with the athletes who I work closely with, is as soon as one milestone is reached, the next challenge appears. This is an ongoing process. You’re constantly correcting the next weakness or flaw as a strategy to maintain your lead.

Champion athletes set their egos aside (when necessary):

  1. Transparency. Remove the mask so your coach can help you strengthen your weak spots. Covering up your flaws places a wedge between you and your dream. Who is ready to help you turn your weaknesses into strengths?
  2. Team player. Everything does not revolve around you. When you’ve done something awesome then share credit with your teammates, your coach and whoever else has supported you along the way.
  3. Teacher. With an open mind, it’s possible to learn from everyone. Eventually you’ll hit an obstacle. When that happens, seek out the best individual to help you move beyond your stuck point. Look outside of the obvious “go-to” people. Sometimes the ideal teacher is easily overlooked.
  4. Team up. Don’t work out with the athletes who settle for good enough and then relax when coach isn’t looking. Champion athletes realize the importance of training with better athletes. You’ll be more engaged, and experience more gains, by training with athletes who will stretch you.
  5. Take responsibility. Passing blame or making excuses is a defense mechanism which blocks progress. Own your stuff. When you contribute to a mistake, admit it (without justification).
  6. Truth. Yes, sometimes the truth hurts. Constructive feedback will lead to insights. That’s because other people can frequently see something about yourself which you’re unable to see. This awareness, when received with an open mind, can set the stage for your next breakthrough.
  7. Target. Sometimes you hit the sweet spot. Other times you will veer off course. When you step on someone’s toes, and you’re off target, don’t avoid the issue. Apologize, accept responsibility and then adjust your training so you hit the target next time around.
  8. Tough talk. This isn’t trash talk. Here’s where you’re willing to be brutally honest (without getting anyone defensive) when it matters. Heart to heart conversations are respectful, yet they’re tough. Never cut someone else down so you can shine. Instead take the high road. Aim to discover common ground by sharing perspectives and then exploring mutually beneficial solutions.
  9. Take risks. Choose to consistently exert maximum effort, even if it don’t always win, rather than hold back by playing it safe. Conviction to your vision as a champion athlete gives you the courage to risk something today because you know it’ll lead to a future win.
  10. Train. You’re receiving support. There’s something special; however, about athletes who give back to others. Your actions speak louder than words. Decide to train by example. Show your teammates what’s possible. When it’s appropriate, willingly lend a hand to someone else. Training someone else on how to improve actually strengthens your knowledge and skills. Plus, the exchange of ideas may lead to new insights that could catapult you to the top.

Where do you stand?

Do you possess the #1 trait of a champion athlete? photo credit: Mr. T. Sprint Triathlon 2011 via photopin (license)

Do you possess the #1 trait of a champion athlete?
photo credit: Mr. T. Sprint Triathlon 2011 via photopin (license)

Okay, that’s the list. As you read through it, how’d you do? Remember, this is a work in progress. Similar to improving your technique, once you’ve mastered one aspect, then the next area for mental game development surfaces.

Training physically is easier than mental game training. Physical training achieves obvious results which can be measured. Your stats reflect your effort.

Is your mental game up to speed?

Mental game training is more abstract. It’s easy to falsely attribute performance breakthroughs to your physical training when they really due to a mindset shift. Your perspective either lifts you up or stops progress dead in its tracks.

Since I don’t like tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, making believe the obvious secrets don’t exist, let’s quickly touch on arrogant athletes and champions with poor emotional control. The tough exterior is meant to create a barrier. Those individuals frequently are hiding inadequacy and low self-esteem.

You’ll sometimes veer off course along the way. Course correct once you realize you’ve strayed. Momentum is important. Instead of starts and stops, I encourage you to own your stuff, and then quickly get back into your groove. We’re seeking steady gains, where one skill builds upon another, instead of all or nothing actions.

Challenge: The person you are today is not the champion athlete who’s going to step up and claim the lead. Physical combined with mental game training will prepare you to go all-out to win. Resistance or struggles are clues of a mental game challenge. Quickly run through the above qualities to determine where to self correct. Then get into an action mindset to get back on top of your game. Your questions and comments are welcome. As always, I’ll respond to everyone.

Champion athletes are seeking mastery. My book, The Winning Point – How to Master the Mindset of Champions, gives you the exact tools you need to achieve the results you dream of.

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