How to Stay at the Top of your Sport
For a majority of athletes getting to the top of their sport is the goal. Whether that is college, the Olympics, or professional level. This can be due both to wanting to compete against the best but also wanting to see how good you can become, and knowing that within you, you have the ability to get to the top of your sport, if you keep working at it. Getting there is sometimes not the hardest thing, often once you have gotten there staying there can be more difficult. In this post I want to look at a couple things about getting there and then staying there in terms of a mindset and perspective to take.
Many athletes I work with can struggle at one point or another on comparing themselves with others who are advancing at a different rate as them. This can pull their focus and impact their confidence, alway focusing on what they don't have compared to others, or for not getting the same opportunities others have gotten. I have a young baseball player I am working with right now, and he is at an age where everyone is physically growing at different rates, some of his teammates have had growth spirts, he has not. He is on the smaller side. These individuals who have had growth spirts, may outweigh him by 50lbs, and so when they hit a ball it goes further. Not because of mechanics or techniques but simply because of power. When he starts focusing on them, and what they are doing he feels he has to keep up, that he is not enough if he doesn't "crush" the ball like they do.
The problem is that when he does this he loses sight of himself and what he needs to do to make good contact with the ball and put himself in a position to hit the ball far. Every time he tries to crush the ball, the results are not good. When he focuses on himself and his process he hits the ball, and is consistent. This is something we work on consistently to help him keep his path to the top on track, if he gets too focused on others it will negatively impact his goal.
One of the best analogies I have for this is popping popcorn. When you heat the kernels on a stove, al the kernels are getting the heat at the same time, but they all pop at different times, this is true to every athlete. It is not productive to compare if another one of your teammates has "popped" when your time might be right around the corner, and if you get so focused on them, you miss the opportunity for you to "pop" or delay it. It is not about who gets there first but who can get there and stay there.
Now once you have gotten to the top, and even in your process towards it, one of the most important things to help stay there, is focusing on the process. Keeping things simple and embracing the full spectrum of the process and experience. To enjoy the day in and day out of it. When you look at the best athletes who have managed to stay at the top of their sport for decades, they embrace the process, and the mundane aspects of it. They never see that a detail is too small, they never lose sight of the basics they need to continue to work on and practice. They don't rest on their success. They constantly see how they can improve and refine the smallest thing that will have a major impact.
So to help you get to the top focus on your process and yourself, and as you get there, continue to focus on your process and yourself. Never let anything be too small a thing to work on. If you focus on getting 1% better in everything you do, it adds up.
To your success,
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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Mindfulness Certification
TAIS Assessment Certified