High School Sports: Two Foundational Traits That Support Athletic Goal Achievement

When asked what aspects are necessary in order to achieve difficult athletic goals, many athletes will answer with things like “discipline,” “commitment,” “working hard,” “dedication,” even “perseverance.” And there is no debate that these pieces are certainly necessary components to have if athletes want to be very good, or successful.

However, there are a couple of attributes, less often mentioned, that must be included with the items listed above. Aspects that without, make it nearly impossible to accomplish really tough objectives. They are characteristics that I consider foundational, as well as critical, to supporting all other thought processes that help lead one to success in sports. They are (1) a profound sense of desire, and (2) an intense level of inner will and determination―the kind that can defy the odds.


In order to accomplish something, anything, you really have to want to accomplish it. So much so that when an athlete falters in their training, giving less effort, focus, and/or time to the process of becoming good, they genuinely feel some sort of internal discomfort. Even the thought of not putting forth proper amounts of effort makes them uncomfortable on the inside.

To put it another way, desire is the intense feeling of need one has about something they see as very important to them―essential to who they are or want to be. It is the internal fire that burns within, creating the impetus for all the doing that must take place in order to achieve individual/team goals and/or dreams. Make no mistake; reaching athletic potential is merely a fantasy for those without high levels of desire.

Take a good look into the eyes of an athlete who has achieved athletic excellence through great adversity and you will see what I mean. That flicker behind those eyes, that intensity when they compete, that’s desire!!!

Inner Will & Determination

This is a no holds barred attitude that results from the type of desire I spoke of above. It can be difficult to thoroughly explain as its makeup centers on a never-give-up type of assertiveness, almost defiance. Strong inner will and determination demands that no matter how many times an athlete is knocked down, loses, or falters, they know, without a doubt, they are getting back up. They will learn from the mistakes they made, they will take that experience back into their training, and they will be better the next time you see them or compete against them.

Difficult circumstances are simply challenges to be overcome for athletes with the kind or inner will and determination I am talking about here. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles are only bumps in the road, so to speak, that they adjust or adapt to so they can continue moving forward in their quest for excellence.

As Muhammad Ali puts it:

“Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than
the skill.”

A great quote from one of the best that’s ever been in the sport they competed. And that last sentence, it certainly puts it all in perspective for me―“…the will must be stronger than the skill.” In fact, I would expand on the meaning behind
that sentence and state it this way:  An athlete’s will determines their skill.

Deep desire, coupled with an unbreakable sense of inner will and determination, is an unbeatable combination. Athletes who understand this fact, adopt these attributes as their own, and apply them as they are intended, find that they are capable of much more than what they themselves may have anticipated; let alone the naysayers looking in from the outside.

Remember this as a formula for success:  DD + IW&D = Athletic Excellence. Guaranteed to stand the test of time.

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