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.
Characteristics of a Successful Sports Team
The most successful sports teams have great leadership and chemistry. All three of these characteristics are integral for a cohesive and competitive sports team.
Coaches can recruit natural talent and strength all they want, but the most important components of any successful team stems from the whole being more than the sum of its parts.
But what does that really mean?
This means that if we look at sports performance through a system-based approach, an outcome is created that would have never occurred from relying on individual elements.
After all, a diamond cannot be naturally formed unless individual carbon atoms bond together in specific crystalized patterns. So too a successful sports team forms by bonding common elements together in specific ways.
To achieve the emergence of an elite group of individuals all set on creating a lasting impact in their athletic lane requires two things: chemistry and great leadership.
(#1) The Importance of Chemistry
A superstar on a sports team can be a game-changer/difference maker/shake-n-baker; but only to a certain degree and not with 100% consistency. Not a lot of teams can rely on natural talent alone to drive them to victory.
And doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose and fun of a team anyway?
To speak to this, Nature published findings on team chemistry that the so-called ‘superstar effect’ of loading teams with the most talent actually pales in comparison to teams with the most chemistry and history of prior success together.
Examples of Chemistry in Basketball
Yes, “super teams” in the NBA are strong examples of championship teams through the cultivation of raw talent. But not coincidentally, the Golden State Warriors started to falter earlier in the 2018-2019 season because of an internal conflict between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
This means that when looked at over the long term, the most sustainable teams have the most chemistry over mere talent. The Warriors, although they had a lot of drama during the regular season, banded back together and sorted out their differences. They all have too good of a relationship as teammates to let petty differences derail their season.
So, those who stick together, have the most history with one another, and can build the deepest bond together, tend to fare better than professional teams with larger payrolls and more stars.
Examples of Chemistry in Hockey
In addition, consider the Saint Louis Blues: a NHL hockey team that made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 49 years, and who has recently won the whole thing During this historical season, they were dead last in the entire NHL on January 3rd, but have stormed back and played some of the League’s best hockey since then.
And guess what, when they were playing their worst hockey, teammates were fighting each other and team morale was not exactly in a positive place. But they rallied around a new coach, bought into his vision, and they started to play for one another. With that, the proper chemistry and cohesion was built.
So yes, a team comprised of level-headed, cohesive, committed individuals with great chemistry can elevate a middle-of-the-road team into a vastly successful vehicle for athleticism and success.
Now, you can’t force chemistry; you cannot guarantee that your team will mesh well. But you can you increase likelihood by emphasizing a common vision and goals.
If we apply this concept to the business world, a lot of departments and teams will spin their wheels without a vision to unite them. Even if you don’t have the most compatible team members at first, a common goal or vision can help you cultivate team chemistry.
Consider that the best teams are good friends; they hang out off the field and away from team practices. And the best teams in the business world are in touch after-hours, on lunch break, events, etc.
But a lot of this chemistry and communication boils down to the type of leadership at the helm of the group. The right leader will encourage the necessary interdependency that creates positive chemistry.
Let’s explore the impact that leadership can have on successful sports teams.
(#2) Great Leadership
A successful sports team will often have a strong coach. A groundbreaking business will have a strong leader. And just about any organization worth its salt will have someone of charisma at the helm.
A great coach will rally the troops around a powerful narrative--they will absorb adversity and reframe it as fuel for a resurgence.
The most successful leaders are not afraid to fail. Really, any successful sports coach will tell you that composure is key in the midst of the emotional highs and lows of a season.
To achieve this, a coach will create a narrative or philosophy that is flexible and powerful enough to last a long time. It is a story that is absorbed by teammates and which can fuel the forward progress of the group despite any challenges that arise.
This tool, combined with good drills and practices, can strengthen a team unlike any other facet of leadership.
Creating Resilience Through a Strong Vision
Say that your team has all the chemistry and skill in the world. They are disciplined, show up to practice every day, train, workout, and band together the majority of the time.
What happens when they face adversity as a group? Or key players get injured? Or God forbid a chain of bad luck threatens to derail the efforts of a hard-fought season?
Without a strong vision and narrative to rally around, a team might not have the resilience to fight back and turn their season around.
Resilience in this context is simply the ability for a team to adapt, rebound, and consistently stick to a game plan no matter how negative the circumstances of a season.
Some of the most prominent ways for coaches to increase resilience in their teams are through the following methods:
A Surefire Resource For Cultivating These Qualities
Fitness Artist isn’t just committed to bring you helpful information and motivation, we are of course a service-driven business with an impressive assortment of programs and classes.
With that being said, if you have read this far, you might be interested to know that our Next Level Athlete program can build the chemistry of your team. In addition, our sports performance philosophy hits all of the crucial points necessary for taking your sports team to the next level.
Contact us for details!