What does it take to become an elite athlete? This is a question that many people ask on a consistent basis. The answer is quite simple, however, the journey is not. It is a combination of love, sacrifice, time and effort, reward, heartache, mental battles, adversity, triumph, injuries, lifestyle, and pure dedication. I am a Shot Putter in Track and Field, and graduated in May of 2013 from Arizona State University. During my tenure I was a full-time, student-athlete, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness, and won four consecutive Division 1 NCAA shot put titles. The road to where I am now was not easy, to say the least, and will not be easy to my final destination. I can tell you it is well worth it.
In my sport, most people decide to stop competing after college. There are many reasons behind their choices but generally this is because of financial reasons. As a shot putter, an event that is not at all popular in the US, there is very little help in the pursuit in Olympic glory. I ranked number ten in the world during the 2012 indoor season, and number eight in the 2013 indoor season. I am currently working a full-time job at Hi-Health and training professionally. It is not the easiest road to travel, but I have had a dream since I was in High School. After my sacrifices, to stop now would be a slap in the face to me.
To be a successful athlete, you have to be resilient in your pursuit of your goals. You need love for your craft and be willing to sacrifice more than most to get there. Life will always throw you curveballs when you least expect it, weather that be a family crisis, lack of money, injury, personal life, bills, etc. You need to take a swing and keep moving forward. Your eye is always on the prize.
Your lifestyle has to support your success. To elaborate on that, I am specifically talking about a healthy diet, support system, recovery, sleep, rehab, supplementation, and people who you allow into your life to influence you in one way or the other. Without the correct lifestyle that supports your aspirations, you will not be as successful or at the very least, you will have a more difficult journey.
You have to be willing to fail from time to time. Michael Jordan has a famous quote “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” What I get from that is simply that everybody who is at that level didn’t start there. There was a long and difficult road to go down to be at that level. Even though I am young in my sport at 23 years of age and with the success I have had, I have failed several times and more than I have succeeded. It is all perspective. How do you look at things? You can have a bad game or bad meet and dwell on it. That is easy to do, but that is simply a choice. Find the positive, reflect on what needs to get fixed, and learn. Work hard and keep moving forward.
To push your body to a maximal limit, one must expect injuries. Injuries are part of the game. With each injury, is a new lesson learned. What caused it? Could it have been prevented? What do I do to recover and get back on my game? How do I avoid it in the future? Being an elite athlete requires change on top of change on top of change. What may have worked in the past, may not work in the future. What may have not worked in the past, may work in the future. It is a constant lesson, a new growth, and adaption. Getting better is about evolution. If you aren’t able to adapt to a new situation or circumstance, you will not grow and get better. Period.
In the end, the combination is simply having an outstanding work ethic, resiliency, love, acceptance of failure and how to adapt, lifestyle, and BELIEF in yourself. If you can possess these qualities, you will only be successful. It is not easy to think in this light, but practice makes better. The beautiful thing is that if you carry this perspective over to your life outside of a sport, and put in the same work in a job or hobby, you will be guaranteed to have a fruitful, happy, and successful life.