Posted by & filed under Blog.

By Michael Balderstone, BSI Founder & Performance Director

Success in any field is tough and high performance sport is no exception. Here are some of the traits that any serious athlete in any sport should adopt if they wish to be successful.

Embrace learning
In another blog I spoke about Learnability, which I feel is one of the most important factors in determining success. Champions (and great coaches) understand that the more they know, the more they need to learn. The Japanese call it Kaizen, a philosophy of continuous improvement. If your competitors are adopting this philosophy and you are not, you may be maintaining your own standards but relatively you are going backwards. One example is Ryan Giggs, who adapted his style of play and fitness regime in order to prolong his career when he lost speed later in his career.

Work hard & deep
Sorry guys there is no way of getting around it, you need to work incredibly hard if you want to be truly successful and reach your full potential. The one theory goes that have it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in any discipline. Do the maths and you will find this is a lot of practice. I prefer the concept of Deep Practice (The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle), where the quality, focus and intensity of the practice is at a high level, which should be done for around 3 hours a day maximum. This accelerates the learning and development process. At BSI we use this philosophy for both our sports performance training and education programmes with great results.

Persistence in adversity
Whether it is during a match, tournament or more long term than that, there will be adversity. Look at all the great players in any sport. At some stage or other they have suffered setbacks in their careers, whether through injury, with a devastating loss or just by losing their form. Ben Hogan is the prime example, but every champion will have a story to tell in this regard. In Tennis Andre Agassi and Serena Williams both went through slumps in their careers then came back to world no.1. In a team sport a particular coach may not favour a player and he has to sit on the bench. Keep a good attitude, focus on the process and what is in your control and it will turn around.

Build a great team around you
This is linked to embracing learning. You cannot achieve greatness on your own. Everybody needs specialist help along the way. Tiger Woods has always had a team around him. All of the top tennis players have tactical and fitness coaches to push and advise them and bounce ideas off. In team sports this comes with the package already. In individual sports the player must find the right people as guides

Have a stable balance lifestyle
Jack Nicklaus’ greatest asset was his wife Barbara. She created the environment at home that allowed him to achieve greatness on the course. The key to remember is that what happens off the course will affect what happens on the course. You may not be ready to get married, but you can create balance and stability. Destructive relationships and lifestyles take their toll. Look at Tiger Woods as a prime example of how his performance has dropped as his private life has unravelled. Creating balance means that you need outside interests away from golf. Just make sure you don’t get injured at crucial times (Rory McIlroy). You must also adopt a healthy lifestyle in terms of fitness and nutritional input; otherwise those that are golf athletes will beat you down the stretch.