Sports: Helping High School Athletes Think Like Champions

Years ago, when I was still coaching, I coached a team that had a great deal of potential. However, as is common with a good number of high school athletes, their confidence was not up to par with that said potential.

Their talent was most definitely beyond their current level of performance, and their efforts in training were subpar and below expectations. They just didn’t seem to envision themselves going beyond where they were and seemed so easily accepting of where they were at presently.

As I contemplated this predicament, knowing full well one’s attitude and confidence make all the difference, trying to come up with ways to inspire more out of them, I began thinking about how others had accomplished what I sought to do. You know, coaches like John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Jim Valvano, Pat Summit, and the like.

And with those thoughts, something stood out, something unique. All of them, each and every one, lived their lives by a set of certain standards, expectations of themselves above and beyond the norm.

And with these expectations came words, words that had deep meaning and insight. Words etched in history for all time (either on paper, in videos [check out the coaches links above], or both) that not only inspire all those who see or hear them, but give the inspired a vision of possibility they had not yet seen. A revelation of their ultimate potential, a place where they had yet to go, and now…a place where they wanted to go.

And so, for me, the decision was made. I had to reach inside my athletes and pull out of them what I knew they had inside, something they had yet to see. My objective…to use my past experience as a competitive athlete, the emotions and feelings I had inside at that time, and put those passions into words so as to try and inspire the same in others.

Below is one of several writings I created using that thought process. Hopefully it will inspire others, as it helped the team (and teams) I coached years ago see beyond normal expectations and seek out their true potential.

A Champion

— Champions—and championship teams—are made, not born. They use their God-given talents to reach their full potential and allow nothing to come between where they are now and where they want to be.

— Champions understand and believe that their limitations are governed only by their imagination. They perform and practice with a controlled intensity and never allow failure on any given day to take away from their eventual success.

— Champions look at any loss or setback as a tool by which they can learn and motivate themselves to even greater levels of performance. Pity those who belittle or underestimate a champion’s ability to bounce back from short-term failures. Those who do will barely have time to notice the breeze made when a champion passes them by. You see, true champions believe that they control their destiny, and luck has little to do with what they will accomplish. Discipline, commitment,
sacrifice, character, and heart are second nature to them, and they understand that just trying sometimes isn’t enough.

— Champions want to compete against opponents who are performing at their best and derive much less satisfaction from wins that occur with anything less. They create opportunities for success that would not have occurred without them. True champions are not arrogant, but exhibit a quiet confidence that demonstrates the belief they have in themselves. They know that it is the little things that separate the good from the great and the great from the best.

— Champions believe in themselves, not because their coach is good, not because their equipment is good, and not because their teammates are good, but because they are good.

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