“Letter to a Young Athlete”

This is a great article. A must read by Allistair McCaw

Letter to a young athlete

“Reality is, you are never going to realize your potential, if you can’t master this one thing”. Letter to a young athlete Dear Athlete, Here’s something I’d like to share with you that I’d wish someone would have told me when I was growing up and playing sport. Fact is, like it or not, you’re not going to play well or the way you’d like to, every time you step out to compete. In fact, You won’t even win playing your best either sometimes. Here’s the reality: You will have more days that you ARE NOT going to be playing to how you’d like to. Part of the reason why athletes get so down on themselves is due to their expectations and the fact that they want to play ‘their way’ every time they step out to compete. The truth is – it’s impossible. That might sound a little negative, but it’s the reality. You have always got to expect the best from yourself, (be confident), give your very best, but be prepared and ready to handle the way you are going to think when you aren’t playing how you’d like to. It’s not all going to go the way you plan it. You can’t control that. But you can control how you are going to react it. Great athletes are great, not because they have brilliance, but because they are more self- accepting of their mistakes. They just know how to deal with it better. They are consistent in their habits and routines too. That’s the reason they’ve won some of their biggest games or tournaments playing far less from their best. I once read this great quote and it stuck: “In the heat of battle (competition), you don’t rise to your level, you sink to the habits you have created in your practices”. I love this quote because it’s so true. As a sports performance coach, I keep reminding the athletes I work with, that you become your habits under pressure. So, they better be good ones! I just read a piece on former French Open Tennis champion Gaston Gaudio. This is what he said: “Most of the time you don’t play the way you want, things don’t go the way that you would like to, so you have to manage that”. Key word: “Manage” (Mindset management) Many years back, whilst living in South Africa I worked with Graeme Smith, The former South African cricket captain. This is what he said to me: “I know I’m not going to play the want to every time, but I can control how I’m going to think about it”. NBA star, Lebron James said that it’s impossible to play 80 odd games a season and expect to be firing on all cylinders every game. What matters is that I’m trying my hardest every game, putting in the work. Some players put so much pressure on themselves thinking they can rock the floor every night! it’s impossible! Good friend and Maria Sharapova’s coach Sven Groneveld once said: “To win a Grand Slam (7 matches) it’s impossible that you will play great every match. You have to expect a few less than great matches along the way.” Another client of mine, 3 time World Squash Champion Ramy Ashour, went to the 2014 World Championships knowing he wasn’t anywhere near 100% fit, after 8 months being out injured. Being in touch with him by phone after each match, he simply said: “I got through, even though not playing my best, but all that matters is that it was good enough for today to play tomorrow again”. This is what a winner and champion understands; Just accept it and get through it! In my experience of working with athletes of all levels, I’ve found that it’s those with perfectionist like personalities who are most likely to hurt their own performances by not accepting that they aren’t playing as well as they’d like to. But before I finish, let me share these 3 things with you: 1. A successful athlete accepts that they aren’t going to play their best every time they step out to compete. 2. They understand that success lies in the consistent control of their habits, emotions and mindset. 3. A Successful athlete understands that in order to win on their ‘bad’ days, they need to continually give their best effort and believe they can actually win. They don’t let a negative or bad attitude get in the way. Young athlete, If there is just one more thing I want to leave you with, it’s this: You are not defined by what you do or by your results. Rather, you are defined by WHO you become and how you handled the journey. Good luck. Yours Sincerely, Allistair McCaw