Two athletes begin training on the same day. Both are skilled players but need to improve their physical tools, and are encouraged by their coaches and parents to begin a training program.
A year later, one of these athletes has shown incredible progress, visibly playing at a much higher level. Yet the other is much the same as before they started training.
How does this happen?
We see hundreds of athletes each year in our program, and this is typical of our population (and many others based on conversations with other sports performance coaches). Some kids get incredible results from their workouts, while others make far less dramatic progress.
The answer to how this happens is quite simple – some kids train the right way, while others do not.
What does it mean to train the ‘right way’? Generally speaking, it comes down to these traits:
Athletes who demonstrate each of the 4 traits always stand out above the rest over time.
They consistently have more productive sessions.
Their physical development is more noticeable.
They develop more self-confidence and tend to take a success-oriented mindset into other areas of their lives, as well.
We continue to see that the kids who are strong in all 4 areas in the graph above are the ones who go through this incredible transformation, and this has been a consistent trend over 20 years and thousands of athletes.
To understand what these traits mean and what it looks like, here’s a brief summary of each:
This is simple – you show up when you’re supposed to show up.
All the time.
At first, this may not be too difficult. There is an excitement to starting something new, especially if it is more enjoyable than you had expected. Plus, the results you see at first can be quite dramatic.
Eventually, however, the training will start to wear you down. And the gains don’t come as quickly.
Not to mention, you get busy with other things – sports, school, social engagements, and so on.
And so the challenge of consistent training wins out.
But those who see their physical development as a critical piece of their success value it more, and find ways to get their sessions in when things get difficult.
We all find time for the things we consider most important. We brush off tasks we don’t see as critical.
The best athletes stay dedicated for the long run. There may be a short dip here and there over time, but in the big picture they always find a way to stay dedicated to the hard work needed to stand out.
Athletes who get the most from training consistently work out with an energy level that breeds greater results.
And the best ones (that I’ve seen) train with a positive energy, what I’d refer to as enthusiasm, that is consistent and powerful. They push hard, but they smile in between sets too.
They want to be here, fighting through the pains and struggles of sports training, and everyone knows it.
Being enthusiastic about training helps you to embrace challenges. It makes it easier to show up when you might not feel your best that day.
And, in group settings, it is contagious. It raises the energy level for your teammates or workout partners, who if they are enthusiastic will bounce that energy right back to you.
Simply put, the best athletes are routinely enthusiastic about getting better. This underrated trait is the glue that holds the other ones together.
I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it certainly bears repeating.
Literally all of our most elite athletes over the years were just as determined to do their exercises the right way as they were to add more weight or improve in some other way.
In short, they approached workouts with a mastery mindset.
It is very easy to see how this translates to sports, academics, and other aspects of life.
There are hundreds of little nuanced differences in how to do something right vs. how to do it wrong. The average person is content to go through the motions, simply completing a task and getting it done.
The truly elite care far more about HOW they get things done, because deep down they know those tiny details are what separates good performers from great ones.
The beauty of this trait is that literally anyone can become mastery-focused today, because all it takes is a shift in mindset and a little patience.
Top performers don’t just stop at mastery, of course. Once they have the specifics in place, the next step is to improve.
Then, they want to improve some more.
And more. It never ends, because every workout contains hundreds of little wins you can achieve if you push just a bit farther than you did before.
Training for people with this mindset almost becomes addictive. The thrill of reaching new heights is what drives their dedication, their enthusiasm, and their determination to do things as well as they can be done.
Adopting that ‘Never Enough’ mindset is the final factor that, paired with everything above, helps top performers to create a decided edge from the average athlete in training.
These are the reasons why some athletes see great change from training, while others see far less.
Yet the differences are barely noticeable from one session to the next. It is like watching the first few steps of a marathon to determine who will win. Perhaps, if you know what you’re looking for, you can detect small differences in everyone’s stride to see who they elite are.
But the easiest way to see who is best is to let them take many strides, letting the cream rise to the top.
Training programs are much the same. Over time it is the kids who are the most dedicated, the most enthusiastic during sessions, the most detail-oriented, and the most starved for improvement that make the greatest gains.
They’re the ones who benefit most from athletic development programs.
All four traits are capable of being improved by anyone. You don’t need to be the most talented kid right now.
But you do need to take the right approach, consistently, to reach the top.