Athletes wanting to reach their full potential might be surprised to learn that the blueprint for maximizing athletic abilities isn’t very hard to find. Behavioral psychologists suggest that one of the fastest ways to learn and master skills is to simply model people who currently do things better than you. Applying this to sports, this means to model your training and game after great athletes whenever possible.
Don’t just watch – DO!
Remember, the easy part of modeling is passively observing — the challenge is taking what you learned and applying it in to action. For example, it’s relatively easy to watch a star player arrive to practice early, work hard through every repetition, and quickly bounce back from stress and adversity while competing. In fact, watching great athletes do these kinds of things can, at times, make it look very easy. The challenge, however, is developing the motivation and discipline needed to actually do what you see other great athletes do.
Don’t re-invent the wheel
The things you need to do in order to be successful are likely already out there if you look hard enough. In fact, I would argue that most of the things successful athletes did 100 years ago still work today if you take a closer look. For example, never missing practices, working harder than anyone on the field, and using feedback received from coaches has always been vital when talking about sport success, and those same qualities are still important today.
Ironically, there really are no “secrets” when it comes to why some athletes maximize their talents and abilities, while others never seem to come anywhere close to what they are capable of achieving. From my experience it often comes down to better athletes simply wanting it more, and because of this mindset they temper their ego, listen closely to the advice they receive from coaches, and make it a goal to work harder than the competition at every turn. Because of their dedication and mental toughness, they in turn get every ounce of ability out of themselves and ultimately play to their full potential.
Things you can do to quickly improve
There are a number of things great athletes do that separate them from the competition. Perhaps surprisingly, none of the things I’m about to list are particularly difficult to do, nor do they exclude any hard-working athlete from doing.
- Ask questions. If you have a star player accessible to you, ask him or her as many questions as you can! What advice can they share? What tips have helped them? Even if you don’t have a great player in your inner circle, comb the internet for interviews and learn as much as you can.
- Listen closely. Just as important as it is to ask questions is to actively listen to the advice you are receiving. Active listening means to ask questions, clarify things you don’t understand, and periodically solicit feedback to make sure you got things right.
- Set goals. Perhaps the best way to utilize the information you receive from an expert is to turn the tips into future goals. You should set goals that are specific, measurable, and controllable, and make sure to track your progress by setting daily, short-, mid-, and long-term goals.
- Deal with adversity. One big point to remember is that ALL the great athletes you have ever admired have dealt with stress, adversity, frustration, and failure. The great Michael Jordan was once cut from his high school basketball team, and NFL quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t drafted until the 6th round! If you’re not committed to dealing with adversity, then you might not want to go out of your way finding star athletes to have mentor you.
There are no secrets when it comes to playing your best, but it does require effort and follow through if you truly want to pass up the competition. The information is out there, and most experts are happy to pass their knowledge along; the challenge is taking it all in and then actually doing something with what you learn.