Everyone loves a GOOD story.
And top-level athletes provide a steady supply of real-life scenarios that inspire anyone who’s watching. Sometimes these same stories “put to rest” commonly held beliefs or myths.
Here are 3 elite competitors with myth-busting lessons from their sports journeys.
Myth #1 The Best Athletes ALWAYS Have Good Days
Perhaps in truth, you don’t REALLY believe this. You probably have seen some of the “greats” in their low moments.
But when it comes to thinking about your own—or your athlete’s—performance are you expecting that every competition is going to go perfectly? Always?
And when it doesn’t, do you panic?
Caeleb Dressel is an Olympic swimmer. At the 2017 World Championships, he won 7 gold medals to tie Michael Phelps for the MOST medals won at a World Championship meet. He’s also been called the fastest swimmer on the planet. And he’s the first man ever to break the 40-second time in the 100-yard freestyle.
You would expect, with these kinds of accolades, that he would be immune to having bad days. However, at the 2018 Summer Nationals in California, he did.
Panic could have set in because the Tokyo Olympics were at stake. Instead, Caeleb responded this way,
“It was surprising looking up and seeing sixth and being 48.5 (in the 100 free). It was just a bad swim. You can’t avoid it in the sport. I’ve had a couple of good meets back-to-back, so it’s kind of refreshing to have just a really bad swim."
If you read between the lines, Caeleb reacted patiently. Not only does he demonstrate that great athletes DO have bad days—and sometimes seasons—but he exhibits a patient rather than a panicked reply.
Myth #2 All You Need is Talent to Succeed
With a total of 25 Olympic and World Championship medals, she is undoubtedly the most decorated American gymnast.
She pushes the limits of physics and is thought to be the most athletic female gymnast in history. Her signature move has been named after her—it’s called, “The Biles.”
And with all this talent, Simone Biles STILL recognizes that talent is a necessary ingredient to success, but it’s not the only one.
Here is a quote from her book, “Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance,”
"You might be blessed with some talent but in order to reach your goals you have to have the courage to go after them."
Courage, like many of the athletic skills you work to develop, needs to be practiced. Fear is often a natural human response. Courage is not. And so you have to work at it.
Talent is a good foundation but having the courage to push forward—even when it’s painful, seems impossible, or requires a lot of work—is what allows talented athletes to become superstars.
Myth #3 Top Athletes Have to Be Single-Minded
Specializing in one sport—at younger and younger ages—is quickly becoming an expected norm.
Overzealous parents and coaches not only provide all the extra sports-specific camps, private personal trainers, and top-level equipment but they often discourage their young athletes from pursuing anything else that will take up valuable training time.
Caroline Wozniacki became the 1st Scandinavian woman to reach the #1 ranking spot in the WTA history. She has quite a tennis resume with many titles to her name.
But she didn’t get there with just tennis. Running and boxing have been a consistent part of her training. In fact, she began to incorporate boxing at the young age of 12 with a trainer from Copenhagen. And more recently she trained for and ran in the New York City Marathon.
Additionally, she has quite a modeling portfolio that extends well beyond just sports modeling. Caroline also takes piano lessons and enjoys practicing any one of the 8 languages she speaks.
These are not the activities of an athlete who only has room for tennis.
Take a cue from Caroline and pursue other interests. Understand that taking a balanced approach to sport can support success AND help to create a multi-dimensional life.
What’s Your Story?
Do you live within the tight parameters of a strict belief or myth?
Look a little deeper into the lives of those you admire. Often another person’s story can reveal truths that you may not recognize in your own life.
Or perhaps you can challenge a myth for someone else by sharing a personal story from your own experience.