Five tips on what a successful athlete does

Dear athlete, the reality is this: you will never be able to reach your potential or become a champion if you cannot master this thing.

Here’s something I’d like to share with you. It’s something I wish I had been told while I was growing up and playing sports.

The fact is, whether you like it or not, you’re not going to play your best or the way you want to every time you play a match.

Most of the time you just won’t be able to express the best of your tennis… in fact, you will have problems even when doing what you do when you usually play well. As a matter of fact, it happens very often!

Former Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio said: “Most of the time you don’t play the way you want, things don’t go the way you want, so you have to manage the situation and get out well.” The keyword here is: “to manage”.

I once read a great quote that says, “In the heat of battle (competition), you will not rise to your level of expectation, but rather you will sink into the habits you have created in your workouts.”

I love this quote because it is so true. Today I keep reminding the athletes I work with that when they are under pressure, their worst habits will emerge and can make them sink!

Hence, it is better that they are good, diligent and positive when training.

Many years ago, I worked with Graeme Smith, the former South African cricket captain. Graeme understood what it took him to play at the highest level. During a one-to-one session with him one day, this is what he told me: “I know I can’t play the role I want every time, but I can control how I will react to that particular moment. I know!”

You will have more days in which you will not play to your expectations and how you would like to. Part of the reason athletes get down is because they want to play their best every time, they play a match. The truth is, it’s impossible.

When your “A game” is not possible, how good is your “B game”?

More importantly, how good is the attitude and mindset of your “B game”?

Do you still have the same commitment and intensity?

Because ultimately, this is what separates the good from the great, and the great from the excellent.

It won’t all go as you plan it. You can’t control it. But you can control how you react. Great athletes are great, not because they have brilliance, but because they accept the fact that they will be wrong. They know this and are ready, positively, to find other ways or at least try different solutions. They know how to best deal with the situation.

NBA basketball star LeBron James said: “Because (Michael) Jordan wasn’t perfect, he missed a few games, he lost balls, but he was never afraid of making mistakes. And that’s why he owes his success: Jordan has never been afraid.”

My big obstacle that I still have to overcome is that for me every defeat, every moment when I don’t play well, is a failure! Instead, you must not be afraid of failing… since you are already a winner from the moment you hit the track.

Some players put so much pressure on themselves thinking they can break the basket every game! it’s impossible!

Three-time World Squash Champion, Ramy Ashour, went to the 2014 World Cup knowing he was not 100% fit and ready after being injured for six months. After talking to him after every game during the tournament, he said: “I’m delighted, even though I’m not playing my best, but all that matters is that I am good enough for today to have another chance tomorrow.”

This is what a champion thinks:

To give the best of oneself even if one’s performance is not optimal… and find other ways to be able to do it;
To not have negative thoughts;
To not judging oneself for a second, but looking ahead.

Here are five tips on what a successful athlete does:

1- A successful athlete accepts that he will not perform at his best every time he plays a match. They play their game B with the same effort and intensity.
2- They understand that success lies in constant control of their habits, emotions and mindset.
3- A successful athlete understands that in order to win on their “bad” days, they must continually exert maximum effort and believe they can actually win.
4- A successful athlete understands that sometimes being involved in the process allows them to get rid of negative thoughts and focus on what matters to them.
5- They don’t ruin their chances of winning or playing better (even when they play poorly) by letting a negative or bad attitude get in the way. They keep fighting until the end.

Accept that you can’t play great every time you compete, and remember. “Your attitude and the possibility of coming out as the winner depends on your habits and these are the qualities you have trained for and have built during training.”

Allistair McCaw