Important Traits of an Athlete
What separates an Olympian from an average athlete? In other words, what is the difference between one of the best sports performers in the world and a regular athlete?
Only some of what separates the great from the merely good has to do with natural talent and genetics. I mean, a lot has been said about Michael Phelps and how his frame was built for swimming. But genetics can only take you so far.
According to an article by Fast Company, genes only determine athletic performance by a small amount. Instead, athletic performance is largely due to environmental factors such as parents who love sports, hours spent training, nutrition, and the overall opportunity for sports at a young age.
In essence, anyone who starts off early enough and has a little luck, can become an olympic medalist or world-class athlete--the only caveat being that environmental factors play a big role in determining success.
If boiled down to only two determining factors for making a great athlete, it would come down to having a strong support system or team and the amount of self-discipline the athlete has.
A strong support system is crucial for the development and consistency of any athlete.
Think about some of the best father/son duos in the MLB (Ken Griffey Jr./Sr.) or the NHL (Bobby/Brett Hull). Also, another relevant duo would be the Curry brothers: Steph and Seth Curry, who just played each other in the NBA playoffs.
To grow up with a parent or brother who has skin in the game means having an inexhaustible support system to draw from. And without the necessary reinforcement, it can be very hard to fuel the rise of a world-class athlete.
If olympic gymnast Simone Biles hadn’t been adopted by her Grandparents and had their support, she probably would have never reached the heights that she did.
Support can also come from being a part of a team.
Many great athletes are excellent team players. And even if you are involved in a sport that doesn’t revolve around a team, like track and field or gymnastics, having the support of like-minded athletes is key for staying on track.
It’s no surprise that the greatest individual athletes have teams they are a part of. Teams encourage competition, they are great motivators for athletic performance, and they keep individuals focused on training daily on their craft.
If the most successful athletes have a considerable amount of self-discipline surging through their system, a team is that fail-safe for the days where motivation and energy are lacking.
This means that 90% of the time, a world class athlete won’t need help to keep themselves on track. But never underestimate that remaining 10% in making a huge difference.
When motivation falters and your support system fails to motivate you, the best sports performers know how to push themselves to train anyways. There is a crucial difference between self-discipline and motivation. And self-discipline is arguably more important.
Charles Schwab had some important words to say on the subject of self-discipline. And these words speak to the so-called ‘natural talent’ side of athletic performance. In this respect, his words favor hard work over innate talent or genetic superiority:
Replace “super-geniuses” with “superstar athletes” and you have a very relevant way of looking at the importance of self-discipline.
A lot of success and self-discipline comes from mental strength.
Self-discipline hinges on being able to keep yourself level-headed despite stress and exhaustion. To perform at an elite level, you have to work harder than the average person. And to have an edge over your competition, your training has to be dynamic.
Anyone could drift through a mindless training regimen. That doesn’t require all that much mental flexibility or discipline at all.
The best training methods integrate the mind and body equally. An understanding of sports psychology and the role of visualization in performance is crucial. But elite training ends up taxing the mind just as much as the body. This requires a mental toughness that transcends mere physical exertion.
So, to become a great athlete means including mental training within their routine. Being self-disciplined in not only the mental but also the physical realm is very important.
If this blog post resonated with you, our Next Level Athlete program is perfect for helping you grow self-discipline. In addition, while you work with our team of trained professionals, you will firsthand the power of being a team player.
A couple of days ago we talked about the elements that comprise the most successful sports teams. Be sure to check that out as well as our other blog posts dedicated to keeping you informed on your fitness journey.