There are a few components required to be an Elite athlete that I would like to touch upon…
HAVE YOU PUSHED THE LIMITS IN YOUR CHOSEN SPORT?
This is a must. You can be a team player and still be an Elite, but the demonstrable qualities of an Elite are rarely found in a team sport athlete. The requisite mentality lends itself better to individual sports—Elites can rarely stomach the idea of contributing to a team’s loss through their own failure to succeed, and it is unforgivable when we lose because of another. Team sports impede the progress of an Elite, dissolving greatness to the point of mediocrity and diluting potency until it’s reduced to passivity.
This is not to say that there are no Elite athletes in team sports. The Elite is the one about whom stories of victory are told: “That was the game that (insert Elite athlete name) did this amazing thing and led his team to victory.” But the victory becomes dissipated into the collective of the team, becoming no more than a title and year on some shared trophy. Making a block or a catch is only a function of the athlete’s role on a team. Team athletes tend to identify with their role on the team, rather than as an individual, thereby limiting the drive that is inherent to individual sports. The individual is lost unless he is an Elite.
This all being said, participation in team sports is still possible for athletes who stand out among their peers as high achievers, willing to work in order to rise above the basic standards of the team. Team sports are great for children, especially in terms of General Physical Preparation, and they’re undeniably entertaining for adults. And, at the highest levels, team sports offer the potential for Elites to join the ranks of the financial elite, although they are never truly accepted as equals in this crowd.
ARE YOU A COMPLETE ATHLETE?
I don’t care what your sport of choice is—you should be able to jog, jump, swim, crawl, climb, swing, throw, catch, tumble (somersaults and stuff, yes!!), punch, kick, grapple, dodge projectiles (yes dodgeball!!), have a solid spacial awareness, and, yes, be able to touch your friggin toes.
I don’t care how big or small you are—I know sumo wrestlers who can somersault backwards and forwards with ease. I have seen Mark Henry, who weighs in at over 400 lbs, dunk a basketball. Several high level powerlifters routinely post videos of box jumps as high as 48 inches or more. Some of my favorite examples of true Elite athletes are throwers and Olympic lifters, who are typically very complete and versatile. The sprinting, jumping, and overall explosiveness of these athletes is remarkable. And then, of course, there are the stories of the old time bodybuilders, like Grimek, jumping off stage during contests and landing in a handstand!
Beyond good flexibility and basic high function, little more is needed in the way of all of these skills. You don’t need to be able to throw an 80 mph fastball—just have a high level of control over yourself. Put a decent number on the punch-o-matic and keep your eye on the ball, and you’re good.
DO YOU WALK YOUR WALK?
Lead by example in everything. Represent! Handle your business, and do it with poise and humility. Don’t be the guy who has to borrow a singlet at the meet.
Walk the walk first, then talk the talk if you can back it up. Don’t regurgitate some Muscle & Fitness article that you read, pretending to be an authority on macronutrient partitioning. As an Elite, most of our talking is done without saying a word. Who we are shows in performance and presence. Now, if talking some smack is part of your psychological warfare strategy, then by all means, let your badmouth run. Trash talk has been a major weapon in some Elite’s arsenals. Arnold, Travis Bagent, and Ali are all known for their word game. Talk is not a big part of my game, but I have always respected the method, as long as it’s backed up. You don’t want to end up like Andersen Silva and let it get you knocked out, looking like a major idiot. Instead, always let your reputation and your performance be what shakes the ground ahead of your arrival.
DO YOU TAKE LEARNING SERIOUSLY?
Be a sponge, always absorbing what’s valuable from any environment around you. No matter what level is achieved in any endeavor, there is never an excuse to stop learning. The most prominent characteristic of the truly wise is that they get better and better at learning—a professor is just the student at the front of the class. The rewards of being Elite are as much internal as they are external.
Being an Elite does not mean that you are somehow more important than anyone else. The minute you start having a mentality of being better or more valuable than anyone else is the minute you are closed off from your full potential. You will not listen with an open heart and mind, you will be less engaged in the moment, and you will miss valuable clues the universe is leaving for you. My dad taught me one of the most important lessons I have ever learned: “Do everything you can do to be the best you that you can, but never forget there is always someone bigger, badder, or smarter than you.” Keep yourself right-sized and allow your openness to become a catalyst for growth and advancement.
Always be hungry for the next lesson. There is never a moment in today’s world that withholds an opportunity to learn. You have access to so much information, from books to seminars on YouTube. Tim Ferriss also taught me a valuable lesson—with a little bit of effort, there are very few individuals that are unreachable. If there is an expert from whom you would like to learn, pick one or two critical questions and reach out. You will be surprised at how easy it can be. There’s nothing to be afraid of—they’re just people. We are all human, and we are all here with struggles and a mission.
These are a few of the traits that define what it means to be an Elite. Some are physical, some are mental, some border on the spiritual or metaphysical. The most critical component is an aggressive and honest self-evaluation and constant attack of your weaknesses. If you have a weakness or an imbalance, attack it. An Elite never stops improving while constantly evaluating and attacking any weaknesses that present themselves.
Leave any response or comment here or hit me at email@example.com if you want to continue this discussion.
“When you reach that elite level, 90 percent is mental and 10 percent is physical. You are competing against yourself, not against the other athlete.”—Dick Fosbury