What exactly makes a champion? Certainly an interesting question to try and answer. Ask 10 different coaches and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. That must have been the frustration of the US Olympic Committee when they commissioned a study to better understand the psychological characteristics of Olympic champions and how they could be developed.
If you have a talented young athlete in your family I think this is worth a read. Characteristics of Champions.
Champions Athletes we’re found to share the following traits:
• The Ability to Focus
• Mental Toughness
• Hope/Goal Setting Ability
• Sport Intelligence
• Ability to Cope
• High Drive
• Intrinsic Motivation
• High Optimism
• Adaptive Perfectionism
• Automaticity: The Ability to Click into Automatic Performance
• Emotional Control: Ability to Relax and Activate
Role of Parents
• were very committed to their child
• modeled an active lifestyle
• exposed their child to different sports
• transported their child
• attended games and practices
• provided considerable encouragement and support
Role of Coaches:
• emphasizing certain things such as hard work and discipline or having fun
• having characteristics that facilitated athlete trust
• providing encouragement and support
• directly teaching or fostering mental skills and
• understanding these athletes
Additionally what caught my eye was the following description of required sports programs.
What is needed then are programs to expose large numbers of children to Olympic sports. These programs should emphasize fun and fundamentals, and once young athletes exhibit talent, parents should be educated as to the most productive ways to foster that talent. Parents and coaches should also understand the best ways to facilitate psychological development at each stage of the athlete’s career.
Fun… who’d of thought? It’s something I often write about here. So many kids either “burn out” or “wear out” due to over zealous parents or coaches, whose competitive desire to win is put infront of developing a child’s skills and sense of enjoyment for their sport. Don’t confuse this to mean kids shouldn’t have to work hard and be held accountable for their actions and skill development. Rather it means this is a journey, not necessarily a destination. And too much pressure leads to frustration, frustration leads to a lack of motivation and a lack of motivation leads to losing a talanted athlete. Sadly, some coaches and parents never notice the warning signs of “burn out” until it’s too late. If you’re a coach, do yourself a favor and pay attention to your athletes and take responsibility for their mental state –part of your job is to stay out of their heads. They should play the game, not play with a fear of the coach. Parents –that goes for you too!