At last night’s ‘My Life as a High Performance Athlete’ workshop, our sports scholars and athletes on the Newham High Performance Programme worked together to come up with solutions for problems that they regularly face in their sporting lives. Together they came up with pieces of advice for other athletes, which we tweeted last night. There were a few general themes that reoccurred, and here we will discuss these themes in a bit more detail.
Over the years that I have worked with high performance athletes, a few have really stood out, and have subsequently gone on to be very successful in their sport. I have never been able to put my finger on what exactly it was that distinguished these athletes from the rest, other than from the first meeting that I had with them, I knew they were going to be great athletes. Last night I realised what that may be: maturity! Athletes need to be mature, and I don’t mean act older than they are, or grow up before their time. I just mean take responsibility. We all face injuries and setbacks; nobody has an easy ride; and we all have constraints on our time, but the mature athletes face their problems. They know what they want to achieve, and what they need to do to achieve their goals. They plan. They speak up when they can’t cope, when things become too much, or when they disagree with what their coaches are saying. They understand what they are doing and why. They think of the long-term, and are not afraid to miss a competition, camp or event. They think of the long-term
Next time you’re injured or struggling to cope with all the stresses in your life, speak up. Don’t say that everything’s ok, when it’s not. It’s a sign of strength, rather than weakness, to admit that things may not be 100%. Learn the difference between speaking up when things are not quite working, and becoming a constant moaner. Nobody likes a moaner but at the end of the day it’s your life, take control of it!
Manage your time
Most of the athletes last night spoke about the difficulties of managing their time, and fitting everything into their lives. I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one, other than to direct you to the blog that I wrote a few months ago on some time management tools that may be useful and to remind you that time management is made up of two components:
(i) Goal setting – decide what is important to you and what you want to achieve. That will help you prioritise things
(ii) Organisation – Plan and organise your time, workspace and life based around your goals.
Face up to injuries
Don’t ignore injuries. Missing training or a game now may prevent missing 6 months worth of training and competition a few weeks down the line. Seek expert advice where possible, and when you do become injured, make sure that you use your time wisely. Use it to work on your general strength or to catch up on school work. Don’t sit around moaning. Be mature and seek help.
Use and extend your support network
Don’t think about the path to the top purely as a process of training. Your coach isn’t the only person in your support network. Find out what other services you have access to (e.g. strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, nutrition advice, psychology support, mentoring from older athletes, sponsorship and funding, parental support, massage therapy) or where you can access these services if you require them. If you don’t know, as other athletes in your area what they use. Look outside your sport and learn from other sports.
Think outside the box
When it comes to sponsorship, athletes often say ‘I’m not good enough to receive a sponsorship contract from a big company’ and therefore think that they shouldn’t bother. Sponsorship doesn’t have to be just for the elite of the elite, and there are many small companies who may not want to give you money, but would be more than happy to support you in return for something.
Think about what things other than money that you need (gym membership, food, training kit, access to transport, physiotherapy)
Think about what you have to offer a potential sponsor. Nobody gives away things for nothing. What can you do in return (promotion, inspirational talks etc.)
Strike up a personal relationship with the person you’re looking for sponsorship from.
We’ll go into a bit more detail about each of these areas over the coming months, but for now I hope that this article has provided some food for thought.
Have a great Christmas.