In the Elite Action Series, we explore elite athlete strategies you can apply to your life. I’ve used them all as I’ve accumulated 15 world championship titles in my sport. Last time, we explored the strategy of being systematic. This time, it’s about who is around us.

Strategy 2: Assemble Your Team

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Photo by Arthur Coddington

Pro teams have legions of staff to handle all the details, freeing the players to focus on their training. The best individual athletes have the same thing. The fortunate ones with sponsorships and prize money build an entourage of coaches, physical therapists, practice partners and assistants to keep them focused, healthy and sharp. The rest of us without budgets need to be more scrappy to apply the same strategy. We invest in the best professional support possible and improvise when needed.

My sport thrives without big budgets and lucrative endorsement contracts. We play for the love of the game. Our friends are our support network.

I never had a formal freestyle coach, but I’ve received masterful coaching from my teammates. They had a vision for where I could take my game. They gave me feedback on what was working and what wasn’t, and they gave me ideas for new things to try.

When I trained with my competition team, we didn’t have choreographers. We invented our routines then relied on our critical eye – and the critical eyes of our friends and family to achieve excellence. When we felt the limitations of our bodies, we invested in yoga or dance classes. When we practiced, we didn’t have a team of assistants marking the field, keeping time and collecting video. Our friends were sometimes kind enough to run the video camera, and when they weren’t around we put the camera on the tripod and tried to stay in frame. After workouts, we didn’t have fancy cryotherapy chambers to help our recovery. We had bags of supermarket ice.

We weren’t stopped by the absence of structure. We assembled the team we could. We made it happen. Whatever it takes.

It’s the same beyond sports. The support that comes with our jobs may not be enough to support the elite level performance we want. Who’s on your support team? What’s missing between you and achieving greatness? What will keep you focused on the essential? Where are you willing to invest money for support? Who are you willing to ask for help?


6 Comments

Jessica Sweet · 18 September, 2013 at 10:32 am

Wow. I’m awestruck at your take on life as viewed by an elite athlete, because when it comes to sports we all get it: it’s supposed to hurt, sometimes we lose, there’s blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice involved. It takes work. . . and yet when it comes to other areas of our lives, we expect it to be easy. We wonder why we sometimes fail, and we use it as an excuse to give up. I love the idea that we have to train for our life goals in much the same way that we’d train for a sport, and that a support team is a critical element. Thanks so much for this new perspective!

    Arthur Coddington · 19 September, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Glad this has made such an impact on you, Jessica. You’ve hit on an important message. It takes work. I have a huge reaction against folks who lead with awestruck sighs and promises of “manifestations” (god I hate the twisting of that word toward lazy magic). Life can absolutely get nonlinear, and in the vast majority of cases an effortless payoff is the result of hard work.

april · 21 September, 2013 at 10:23 pm

love your analogy, arthur. as jessica mentioned, we sometimes expect hard work and sacrifice from an athlete. but what we are all doing outside the athletic arena is often called a game as well – the game of life.

    Arthur Coddington · 22 September, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    You’re right, April. The game of life often demands more of us than any sport. Let’s hope we’re well-trained for those moments!

MairĂ©ad · 24 September, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Great post Arthur. The really nice thing is these tactics can be transferred to all walks of life. I notice that you mentioned practicing, which means coming back and doing it again and again and again to get better and better. All to often I hear Mumpreneurs say they ‘gave up’ after the first time or second time they tried something and it didn’t work. As I say to them, they don’t expect babies to be automatic experts at anything, yet as adults they often don’t allow themselves to be learners and then find it difficult due to unrealistic expectations. Keep going, keep practicing and it will get easier.

    Arthur Coddington · 24 September, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    So true. I think we’re all guilty of gaps in perseverance.

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