As a Sports Performance Coach I’ve had the opportunity to work with over hundreds of athletes where I was fortunate to see athletes who maximize their physical gifts (or lack of) and take it to the highest level while some only peaked in the amateurs.

Almost everyday I receive messages and e-mails from young athletes seeking my guidance and coaching. The typical message I receive is along the lines of “Hi Neal, I’m a basketball player from (such and such) and I’d like to work with you as I really want to take my game to the next level”. Over the years I am a strong believer every young man deserves an opportunity to pursue their ambitions and a chance to succeed so I will always try my best to respond to the requests of these young men and invite them down to our sessions. During these sessions I begin showing these young athletes ‘the ropes’, and the necessary habits that will take their sport to the next level. Through over a decade of experience, ~30% of these athletes will be overwhelmed and not-to-be-seen again, ~40% will last between 2-4 weeks and lose the patience through monotonous fundamentals and quit, and ~20% will persevere between 3-6 months before putting up the white flag.

So what is the issue? In my opinion:

1.       These young men thought they signed up to what would be an ‘elite’ training program using ‘pro’ exercises was only disappointed by the rudimentary tasks that they were asked to perform over and over, and they simply lost patience and became very disappointed.

2.       They lacked true ‘grit’, as coined by behavioural scientist Angela Duckworth. Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. While I don’t doubt for a minute that these young men and women are very passionate about their sport however to succeed in sport passion is only a start, you also need perseverance – an unrelenting drive to pursue. So simply, these athletes could no longer withstand the daily grind, setbacks and discipline to become elite. The commitment was simply too much.

Today my biggest question for every aspiring athletes is “How serious are you really about your craft? Are you prepare to sacrifice?”

As important as the actual physical training is during the path to elite sports, but the most important attribute is actually habit building and developing the right mindset to peak sporting performance. Here are in my opinion 3 key habits to athletic success I’d like to share with all aspiring athletes:

1.       Lifestyle

Serious athletes build their lifestyle around their sport while amateurs build their sport into their lifestyle.

2.       Beyond Coachable

Elite athletes are not only open to receive constructive criticism from their coaching staff but they actively challenges their coaches to look for their deficiencies and ways to get better.

3.       Attention-to-Details

Elite sports are in the details, the person who pay attention to fine details absent to the layman eyes will be the one with the final laugh.

I’d recommend all young, aspiring athletes to give a serious thought about their intentions with their sport; is it for leisure or is it for work? If they decide elite sports is something they’d like to pursue as an occupation, then these 3 habits and mindsets should become the cornerstone to their athletic pursuit.

Neal Wen

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