We get a lot of inquiries about how an athlete becomes an athlete. How does one person find that much drive to keep going and going, to continuously strive for perfection even when fatigue levels are at an incredible level?
Becoming an athlete comes from within. There is this fuel that is waiting to be sparked and this will become a fire that burns continuously. The power from our souls fuel this and the want to achieve more is constantly powered by this never ending energy source. More importantly, athletes or those who are dedicated to their sport see their commitment as lasting a lifetime and not just for popularity or for a temporary feel good factor. They see it as an art.
When we look at athletes all over, especially those that come to us, we often ask them what fuels their passion. Strangely enough, if an athlete is fueled purely by just the concept of winning, its not good enough. While important, an athlete needs to be fueled by the never ending quest to challenge themselves because winning will only take place in best cases, 33% of the time.
You need to find that fire in your soul. When you’ve run around the court, hit a thousand balls and your lungs are exploding, you need to find it within yourself to hit one more ball and to chase down everything and anything thrown at you. That’s the fire in your soul that will take you even further in your careers. When you’re finally done with your career, look back and have no regrets. Leave everything out there on the court, the blood, sweat and tears. That’s your legacy. Leave the game knowing you have nothing more to contribute. This is the process that will make you great, not just as an athlete but as a person as well
The answer is grit.
Great athletes, entrepreneurs, musicians, inventors and artists all have one thing in common. Talent probably accounts for 5% max of their outcomes but this percentage can easily be overshadowed by hard work and GRIT. There is not one athlete out there who can rely purely on their talent alone. Perhaps their talent has directed their path towards the sport of their choice but that simply means that their path is clearer than others. To walk that path and to keep winning or trying to win, requires an enormous amount of grit. And this grit is what fuels the soul that lies within us.
The good news is this. Unlike talent, which to us is extremely over-rated, grit can be developed, nurtured and pushed to perfection. What pushes an athlete to repeatedly hit a serve or continuously improve their lap timings is not just a result of hard work but rather a result of hard work with purpose. And in order to achieve that result, we apply grit to the hard work. Why? Because in order to have a purpose driven training session with clearly defined outcomes, it will more often than not require us to step out of our comfort zones. Grit, is the only metric in this case that allows us to do that.
We all work hard but without purpose, that hard work is thrown into a pool of general improvement. Let me give you an analogy. If a marathon runner were to run at a basic aerobic pace every day, he or she would no doubt eventually complete a marathon but will soon realise that the timings would stagnate and there wouldn’t be much improvement. Can we however say that this particular athlete is not working hard? We definitely can’t. In order for this athlete to get faster however, we need to apply pressure to the training. We throw in specific sessions to improve cadence, gym sessions to improve muscular endurance and speed sessions targeted at improving V02 and lactate threshold. Trust us, these sessions are rough and they take a huge toll on anyone who does them with an almost mandatory 24 – 48 hour rest period between them.
When an athlete goes through such sessions for the first time, 90% of them will either give up or not meet the required timings. Some people believe that these sessions are meant to break the athlete but we beg to differ. These sessions are actually meant to stretch the potential of the athlete. If you told an athlete who could run a 5:30/km pace to push for 4:45/km, it requires more than just muscles or any neural connectivity. It requires GRIT. The athlete will discover that he or she will need to dig deep and fight through the pain in order to hit those timings, not just once but for as many times as it will take to improve race times.
Hence, what does it take to be an athlete? It all starts from within.
Fuel.Train.Peform is a website dedicated to providing elite level knowledge for athletes who wish to turn professional or are in the continuous pursuit of excellence.
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