Where do Champions Come From?

 

The Olympics, a time to live vicariously through world-class athletes. A time to celebrate all of the hard work and dedication they endured to represent their nation and…or just themselves as in the case of Team Refugee. A time to feel their emotions and pride as they stand on the podium or fall off the pommel horse. An athlete has to maintain too many conditions to be a champion. He or she has to be talented, in good physical condition (according to the specific sport), acquire financial backing, and foster a posse to support the whole process.  But besides that, world-class athletes must have an immense desire, an intense discipline, and enough energy to make it through this extreme process with the hope that one day all of their dreams of success come true.

Usually the sport life starts when a child turns 3, 4, or 5, years old. The competitive realm begins by the age of 8-10 years old. The stress of winning or losing, facing the frustration of your coaches and parents, crying out loud or in silence, just because of the responsibilities. This is when the true development of character comes to the surface. During the teenage years, the athletes realize that their life is completely different from others, they do not have the typical friendships, their daily activities consist of practice and competition, and at this point it is sink or swim. Once past this stumbling block, talent, discipline, and consistency will raise the athlete to the top.

This process is about too many years, too much money, too many people involved in the process, (parents, coaches, clubs, leagues, schools, colleges, and government) for just those few seconds, minutes, or hours to reach the finish line in the ultimate event. The question remains: Is it the way you build the athlete or is it just destiny? Michael Phelps’ longtime trainer, Keenan Robinson, mentioned in an article from Business Insider (2016) that Phelps’ genetic advantages only get him so far. What has really separated Phelps from other swimmers is that as he enters different phases of his career, he has figured out how to best optimize his physical gifts. Everyone in his posse is held accountable. And, even if there is a change that can make a 1% difference, he will do it. If there is no change don’t even waste his time with the idea. Sometimes it can be the small things that really make a big difference.

Thank goodness we have one more week of the Olympics. It has been quite a distraction at home. But, it is one that I welcome. The Olympics brings us in touch with people all over the world, seeing their accomplishments, hearing their stories, and even reminds me to value and believe in my inner champion.

By Javier Vasquez and Sandra Geringer

Javier Vasquez is a passionate sports fan and Sandra Geringer is Acting Director of Sport Studies at the United States Sports Academy. Geringer can be reached at sgeringer@ussa.edu

 

 

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