Being a successful athlete looks different for everyone. For some, it means being the best at their school in multiple sports, for others it means getting an offer to play at the college or professional level, and for still others it simply means contributing positively to their team and enjoying the time the spend playing and competing. However you look at it, being a successful athlete takes more than talent, though. Here are some other steps you can take to become a better athlete.
1. Strengthen Your Mind
This may seem unrelated to the physically based world of sports, but strengthening your mind as an athlete is more important than you might think. Since athletic competitions are physically and emotionally draining, they require a great amount of mental toughness. This means you know how to tell your body to push through the exhaustion, that you don’t let defeat affect you, and that you are able to remain calm and focused no matter what is happening on the field, track, or court. Working to strengthen your mind can be difficult to do, but it can be done. Each time you practice your sport, be intentional about the things you’re telling yourself. Find practical ways to improve instead of beating yourself up over a mistake, push yourself to achieve a goal that seems just outside of your reach, and ask your coach for advice on how to improve in this area. Doing this will help you get into good mental habits that will kick in when you’re in high pressure situations.
2. Put in the Extra Work
You’ve probably heard that being a successful athlete takes hard work, but what does that look like? It means showing up to practice a few minutes early so that you can get your mind focused and your body warmed up, it means taking advantage of every optional workout and practice, and it means staying late so that you can get one more circuit in or hit your shooting goal for the day. You can’t do the same amount of work as everyone else and expect to stand out, after all. Even when you aren’t playing or competing, you need to be working to get enough sleep, take care of your injuries, and maintain a healthy diet. All of these seemingly minor factors add together to make or break an athlete.
3. Be Coachable
No matter how talented you are, your coaches know more than you do, and they can see things that you can’t. Even if you don’t always agree with your coaches or if you already have years of experience, make sure you’re staying teachable. Willingly listen to what they say and then put it into practice. Ask them for help when you’re struggling and for their input on where you can improve if you aren’t having trouble. Consider asking your teammates what you could do better as well. This opens the door for you to be able to keep growing and avoid falling into bad habits that could damage your future in your sport.
4. Don’t Neglect the Other Areas of Your Life
It may sound counterintuitive, but being a successful athlete requires you to put time and energy into other areas of your life as well. This is true on a mental and emotional level, as it will be more difficult to focus on your sport if you’re stressed about your grades or relationships that are failing as a result of you neglecting them. It’s also true on a practical level, as you likely won’t be allowed to play in games or even practice if your grades are poor. You’ll also be less desirable to have on a team and as a teammate if you’re constantly weighed down by toxic relationships and an unhealthy personal life.
Being a successful athlete takes talent, hard work, humility, and discipline. The effort you put into it, though, will be more than worth it.