In the recent months, I had the incredible honor of coaching my daughter on her U14 Girls soccer team. This team, expertly trained by Giraldo Elite Futbol, recently won the Texas State Title in their age division. Eight of the 13 players also qualified for the State Olympic Development Pool, a select training program intended to identify and prepare players for a shot at the US National soccer teams.
I began thinking…
What can I pass to the them and others that may help them succeed at the highest level of soccer?
Answer = The essence of competition.
In what seems like a former life I was a NCAA Division 1 sprinter for Baylor University.
I had the unique opportunity both to compete and train with numerous storied world class track & field athletes. Personally, I enjoyed success at the highest levels of my sport and have seen how the best in the world train and behave.
So how does a player / runner look and behave at the elite level?
Traits of an Elite Athlete
- Elite athletes nearly always have a strong sense of self. A prime example is my former teammate, Olympian and assistant coach Michael Johnson. MJ was known by my teammates as “THE MAN.” From an early age MJ had a strong sense of purpose and direction. He was not easily swayed by others, instead supremely confident in his ability and belief in himself. At the highest levels of sport, the best never doubt their talent once the gun is fired or the whistle blows.
- Elite athletes commit to developing their ability. Probably to ease tension, many of my teammates would laugh and joke before practice. Once our coaches called for stretching and warm-up–games were over. Instantly focus shifted to the work at hand. Each athlete understood, the focus necessary to push our bodies to the limit Coach Hart expected. Corners were never cut. Each repetition was completed with precision and the greatest effort. Many not familiar with this level of training do not comprehend the “absoluteness” of the environment and attitude towards training.
- Elite athletes are willing to give everything. As my daughter heads off to her first Olympic Development Training session, I am filled with pride, excitement, and a bit of nerves. The nerves stem from knowing what pressures she will face playing against the best players in Texas. Will she willingly play her best, courageously in the face of stiff competition? How will she respond when the game requires her to “Give Everything” physically and emotionally? 20 years ago her father answered the same questions.
- Elite athletes revel in competition. Quite simply, if you avoid the best, you’ll never be the best. Competition is the measuring stick by which greatness is measured.
- Elite athletes nurture the body and mind. Drugs, junk food, poor hydration or sleep rob performance. Stressful personal relationships, emotional imbalances, and excessive distractions off the track or pitch will destroy the delicate mindset necessary to become or stay at the highest level. Many high quality athletes ignore this point. Failure to nurture the mind and body can kill a career, or limit the full potential.
The essence of competition = Focused, consistent, intense application of mind, body, and spiritual gifts to competition in the arena of sport/life. Competition without the limiting fear of failure or pain…because we can… and we must. Win, lose, or draw there is never shame in giving the best you have.
Funny how sport provides a metaphor for life. The same traits often define a successful person.
Life involves competition. Sport and other forms of healthy competition shape habits, mold the mind, and prepare participants for the rigors of life.