All aspiring athletes have goals they want to achieve. And to achieve those goals, the athlete must be very motivated. How an athlete gains that motivation is a personal experience. So what motivated me to achieve my goals and become a National and Olympic champion? There were many things, as with all successful athletes, and it can come from anywhere.
For me personally, there were many things that motivated me throughout my life. Here, I will share some of those moments and factors that steered me toward success in sports. This is the first post of a series I would like to share.
The Beginning: For as long as I can remember from my childhood, I always had a desire to be the best. I was very competitive in everything I did and I wanted to win – always!! I think I was just made to be that way. As a child (and still as an adult:), I was very small. I was the smallest kid in school, even through High School. I was often made fun of and it gave me a complex. Maybe this was one reason I had the desire to be great one day.
I was certainly a very hyper-active child and sports was a great release. I loved most all sports and began playing competitively at an early age. Baseball was my first experience. I don’t remember much about it and think I only played one season. I was also on a swimming team. Although I learned to swim well, I actually did not love this experience. I remember it being an outdoor pool, and growing up in Ohio, the water was freezing. I used to hide during practice so I didn’t have to get in. This certainly wasn’t the sport for me!!
My favorite sport? It was football!! I loved the game and still do. It was active, exciting, and aggressive – all the things I loved. I played on a pee-wee league team when I was in the 4th grade – and I was good too!! It was full tackle football and my position was safety. I was fast and wasn’t afraid to tackle, or get hit. One problem – I was tiny!! My father had to glue 2″ thick pads in my helmet so it would fit my tiny head ( no one can say I had a big head:).
This idea of wanting to win was my motivation. At an early age, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to become, I just knew I wanted to be successful. Then, on one day, I discovered Gymnastics!!
It became obvious from the start that I had a natural ability for this sport. This is such an important factor when one is trying to decide what they want to become. First, one must have a strong desire for something. Secondly, having some type of natural ability is certainly favorable for success. I had both and it was the beginning of a great adventure.
The next post in this series will focus on the things that motivated me on my early start to gymnastics success. Stay tuned…
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It is always great to see parents involved with their children’s activities. Not only do the children (younger children) love it when their parents watch and support their activities, many depend on it. However, there may come a time in an athlete’s development when the parent should take a step back and allow their child to develop more freely.
One challenge the parent may have in the development of their child’s sports activity, is not understanding the true emotional desires or feelings of the child. There are many cases where the child may not have the desire to participate in the activity. It is important that parents attempt to introduce several different activities, throughout the early years, to allow the child to determine what they like best.
As an athlete becomes more serious and involved with their sport, training will become more consistent and serious. They will learn many things that are important and pertinent to that sport which will allow them to grow both physically and emotionally. They will learn the specifics of every aspect of the sport – things that the parent may not be aware of or have knowledge of since they are not actively involved with the day to day training atmosphere.
There are many aspects of development in an athlete’s pursuit to succeed. The physical aspect is only one part of development. The emotional aspect is another part of development and can be considered the most important and sensitive. As an athlete grows in their sport and begins to participate in competitions, the emotional aspect intensifies. For many athletes, the competitive arena can be a scary one and it may take time for the athlete to understand how to deal with and control the stress in those environments.
I have many conversations with parents regarding their child’s development. One of the most common question and concern is the issue of ” to push or not to push”. This issue is different for every athlete but most common for athletes in early development. The parent should be able to recognize if their child is serious about the sport or activity and this will help guide whether to push the athlete for greater achievement.
I truly believe that a person will only be successful at something they love and desire. This comes from the heart, which is internal motivation The Motivation Factor. Athletes that have this type of attitude will usually have the motivation to push themselves without much outside influence. Throughout an athlete’s career, there will be ups and downs – there will be success and failure. There will be injuries and burn-out. All of which are factors that can influence an athletes drive to succeed. Patience is important to allow the athlete to work through all challenges. Achievement is a process that takes time, experience, and consistency.
When an athlete is pushed hard to train for success, it may result in the athlete having a negative attitude. Especially if there has been a series of failures. This could result in continued failure and eventually and end to a career. As an athlete grows in their sport and reaches higher levels of competition, pushing the athlete can be beneficial. All great athletes need a good push periodically. It is the younger, more inexperienced athlete that may be more sensitive to being “pushed” to succeed.
However, not pushing your athlete may result in a lack of motivation or cause a lack of interest. Younger students do not understand the process of commitment and sacrifice, so they must be guided through the process. It can be a sensitive issue and one that must be properly determined by the parent.
I believe that athletes should be pushed and encouraged in their pursuit of success. But how hard to push and when to push is the issue. Every child is different and what may be beneficial to one may not work for another. The parents and coaches need to recognize this in their children and students in order to positively affect the pursuit of their goals. We want the best for all children. Some will become Champions, and many will not, but every one of them are Stars!!
I am in the process of developing manuals and videos on tumbling skill development that will be useful in training. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When a young student begins an activity, it is usually because they have a desire to do so. They may have friends that are doing the activity or seen it on television that sparks their interest. Whatever the reason, participation starts out at the beginning stages and the athlete will quickly decide if it is something they enjoy and want to pursue to higher levels.
Many sports are automatically competitive and is a major focus even for beginning students. Sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and soccer all have competitive games that are part of the participation. When a child participates in one of these types of sports, they become a competitor.
Some athletes thrive in this environment and love the competition. However, there are others who like the activity but not the competition. So, the question to consider is: “to compete or not compete?” This question is usually answered by the parent. Parents who enroll their child in a competitive sport should be aware of how the child reacts to this environment. Of course, competition is scary at first for a young athlete, so encouragement and patience may be necessary. Many parents will wait for a season to end before determining if that sport was the right decision.
There are other sports that have a recreational only side of the sport where the students are not trained to compete. These include sports like gymnastics, dance, and golf to name only a few. Many children who participate in these types of sports do so for fun and enjoyment. The time commitment is typically less than in a competitive sport and there is little stress involved in participation.
It is typically the passion and desires of those athletes who choose to pursue the competitive side of sports. These athletes may have a natural competitive attitude. This drives them to stay motivated, train hard, and want to win. They are excited about spending as much time as they can practicing their sport. As with most competitive athletes, the objective is to train to win. There are many factors at play with competitive sports. These include learning great sportsmanship, learning how to lose gracefully, and more importantly, how to remain humble when success is achieved (Win or Lose: Sports Learning Curve).
The biggest difference between the athlete who enjoys the recreational side vs the competitive side of sport is the effort and dedication factors. Athletes who participate as a recreational activity will usually spend much less time at the activity. Training these athletes is also much different. Although, the students should still learn the skills correctly, effectively, and safely, there is no pressure to perform at any level. In this environment, training may not be focused on skill development detail as training with a competitive athlete.
The programs I operate are strictly recreational and the focus of our curriculum is centered mostly on tumbling elements – which is the foundation of all gymnastics. In addition, tumbling is an important part of cheerleading, dance, and martial arts. Thus, our programs draw in athletes from several different sports disciplines (Programs for the Rec Student).
Since our programs are strictly recreational and incorporates athletes from different disciplines, we have scenario’s where the students grow out of our program to pursue higher levels of sport. This is the dynamic of not offering a competitive program, however, we pride ourselves in developing students to the point where they can be accepted and take the sport to higher levels.
When a student is ready for this transition or the parent is interested in taking their child to the next level, it is important to explain the differences in the style of programs. Especially if the recreational program is not located in a gym that also has competitive program running simultaneously. When an experienced student makes the transition from a recreational program to pursue a competitive program, the training commitment and schedule will usually become much more demanding. In addition, there may also be a difference in skill development.
There are students who leave the recreational program to join a competitive program where they have thrived and become successful competitors. However, there are others who return or quit altogether because it wasn’t what they expected. There are several factors to consider when making this adjustment. Age is a big factor when considering this transition. Many students may be just too young to handle the structure and demand required in a competitive program. Another factor may be the sacrifice in the time commitment.
I always discuss with the parent when they ask about this transition the factors to consider (Coaching the Parents). Most importantly, if a student wants to give competition a try, I think they should experience the atmosphere. Most gyms will allow a trial period before a commitment is made. They will never know unless they try!!
I hope this article is helpful for those seeking information for youth sports development. I will soon be releasing a series of manuals and video’s that will be beneficial for many. These will include skill development, safety and spotting, program development, training atmospheres, and many more subjects to enhance the development of coaches and athletes.
If you have concerns or need assistance with your training program, do not hesitate to contact me. If you would like an on-line training session via Skype, please contact me for scheduling.
Life is forever changing for most people as they grow and mature. There are so many factors at play in our society that it is almost impossible to predict what the future holds. What someone may desire at a young age will most likely change as they grow and experience different things in their life. We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing lasts forever”, and this is certainly true for the athlete. There comes a point in time when the athlete can no longer participate in their sport. There may be many reasons why an athlete retires from the sport: injury, age, levels of sport, financial, just to name a few. In any case, when an athlete retires, there is a transitional period and new lifestyle changes that will occur. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on Life After Sports, my own experiences, and how an athlete should prepare for this transition.
There comes a point in time when an athlete isn’t able to continue with their competitive career. For some, it may occur early in their career and for others may occur after many years of competing. It is certainly more difficult to transition if the retirement occurs fairly quickly in one’s career. In this case, an athlete may not have predicted it was going to happen so soon. Thus, there may have been no preparation for the transition and it becomes very challenging in many aspects as to what to do next in life. The emotional challenges may be the most difficult, especially if the athlete was prepared for a much longer and prosperous career. In these cases, the person may feel lost as what to do next.
This retirement transition may be much easier to deal with for those athletes that have had a long competitive career. In these cases, the athlete may have had the opportunity to prepare for the transition many years in advance. All long-term accomplished athletes understand how to set and accomplish goals and preparing for retirement is certainly a goal. Athletes in professional sports have a great opportunity to prepare for this transition. Due to the financial benefits of professional sports, many athletes have the opportunity to invest and prepare for a positive transition. However, it is an entirely different scenario for athletes in non-professional sports. Since these athlete’s do not get paid to compete (at least any substantial amount), the financial transition may be more of a challenge. For these athletes, there must be a plan in place for financial support after their retirement.
For many, the sport they participated in was all they knew. Their whole life was centered around training and preparing for competition. It is “who” they are and for many it is difficult to walk away from. It is common that many athletes will stay involved with their sport and participate as a coach or consultant. This would be a natural transition as they would have the knowledge in skill development and get to share their experiences with their students (The Coach: Creating the Successful Athlete). Many of the most successful coaches in sports were former athletes themselves. If a passion for the sport remains upon retirement, then coaching would be the avenue to pursue.
So how does a person prepare for an end to their sports career? First, I encourage all athletes to pursue an education in some degree or another if they have an opportunity. If not college, there are a variety of technical schools that can provide an education and professional certification that can lead into a positive career. When a person is seeking job opportunities in our society, there is a lot of competition. Companies that are hiring may have hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants applying for the position. These companies screen the applicants and those with a college degree usually are in consideration. Many companies require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered. However, with this said, if an athlete has a successful and popular reputation in the community, this will certainly open more doors than someone who is relatively unknown.
Following my retirement from gymnastics, I did not have a desire to work full-time as a gymnastics coach. I needed to explore other opportunities and step away from that environment – I think I must have been in Burn-Out mode. Since McDonald’s had hired me in a management position while I was still in training, this was a natural transition for me to pursue full time after my retirement. After several years in this career, I realized it wasn’t what I was expecting and the need to pursue another career opportunity was apparent. I had stayed involved with the sport of gymnastics and actually worked full time as a coach for several years, however, I had other desires and needed to find my professional niche.
I have always been great at networking and had developed a nice web of friends and professionals in my community. Just like anyone looking for job opportunities, I went through many job sites and had many interviews. I was certainly grinding the pavement to find the right place for me. Due to my former success as an athlete and my networking efforts, I was picked up by the marketing team at SeaWorld in Orlando and was offered a position with that department. What a great product to represent!!
After several years at this position, which was a positive and fun position to have, I still needed something different. I had always had a desire to run my own business one day and I was at a point in my life where I believed I had the experience and knowledge to make it work. I had also grown out of my burn-out stage from gymnastics and still had a passion for the sport. I was also an expert at skill development and had stayed involved as a gymnastics clinician throughout the years. So, I decided to open my own gymnastics business and pursue the next chapter of my life (Starting a Small Gym Program). I have finally found my niche and doing what I love to do, which is helping children pursue their own hopes and dreams while building confidence and healthy lifestyles.
As you can see, like so many others, I had to go through the struggles of finding my niche following my sports career. Former athletes have a great advantage in this transition because they understand what hard work and strong efforts create. We have seen many athletes retire from their sport then return after a short period of time. Many return because they still have that burning desire to participate and compete, however, there are others who return because they don’t have a path outside of their sports environment. This can be dangerous and sometimes humiliating for the athlete. The once Great athlete just isn’t the same as they grow older and may find a failing career upon their return, which may tarnish one’s reputation.
In recent years, there have been programs developed by Sports Governing Bodies and the United States Olympic Committee to assist athletes with transitioning into the workforce after retirement. These programs have been helpful for a many athletes that participated in Olympic sports, especially for those athletes who are forced to retire from some unexpected event. Even with these programs being available, the athlete should make the efforts needed to prepare for retirement from competitive sports, if it is a scheduled event. Coaches and family members are also a great asset to have in this preparation and can be a useful resource in helping find the new path to success.
There is Life After Sports and it can be a prosperous and fun life to live. Just like everything we attempt to do in our lives, it takes effort and preparation. Through a positive attitude and strong motivation, you can become anything you desire. There may be many chapters in one’s lifetime and it is the “person” who can make each chapter a great one!!
I have made it a priority to educate and help all those interested in sports- specifically in the sports of gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, dance, martial arts, and others. I have participated in the sport of gymnastics most of my life. Through many years of hard work, triumphs and failures, I have the experience and understanding of many issues that will be covered in my posts.
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As a child growing up, I was very competitive in almost every activity. This was an attitude I developed on my own with no influence from my parents, siblings or peers. I was an active child and found my physical release in the way of participating in sports. Not to brag, but sports came natural for me and I was fairly successful in most physical activities. I believe much of this success had been my desire to win. When you talk with Olympic or Professional athletes, they all have one thing in common – the same desire to Win. But winning is not everything – we all lose at one time or another and it is a lesson that people, regardless of the activity or business, must learn to manage.
I have worked with both recreational students and competition athletes, and the dynamics are very different for each of these. In the recreational side of sports, the athletes participate mostly for the entertainment of the activity. In the absence of competition, the desire to win is not always the motivation driver to excel, but more simply, it’s just to learn. If on the other hand, the student strives to be the best compared to the other students in the gym they may have that burning desire to compete. With that said, some students simply want to be better than their classmates, this in itself can be considered competition.
For the competitive side of sports, the issue of winning and losing becomes much more of a serious issue. Competitive athletes do so with the understanding their performance will be compared to other athletes. This makes the desire to perform at their best paramount, and the desire to win all-consuming. Not only is this a major focus for the athlete, it can also be a major focus of the coaches and organization they represent. Athletes that are on collegiate scholarships or professional athletes, for example, also have an obligation to train and perform at an expected level in order to continue their participation. This is an external influence that high level athletes understand and accept as a condition of competition.
However, with this said, I do believe this focus needs to be adjusted depending on the age group and level of sport. I believe many youth programs put too much emphasis on the aspect of winning. This is a lot of pressure on a young student and may create unnecessary stress at such a young age. I have experienced watching coaches of students at the ages of 6-8 treating them as if they were training for the Olympic Games. I do not believe this is the correct approach as students of such a young age do not fully understand the ideals of commitment, motivation, and sacrifice. For those athletes in the higher levels of sport, the issue of participating to win is much stronger and efforts become greater to achieve this success.
When high level competitive athletes train to prepare for a major competition, the desire to win or place high in a particular ranking, the training becomes serious, more focused, and motivated. The aspect of ranking gives this scenario a serious dynamic. In many sports, there are events that are used for mobility to move an athlete from one level to the next. For example, there may be State level competitions, Regional level competitions, and National level competitions that an athlete must progress through to reach the highest levels of competition. When an athlete fails to reach the next level, there may be a feeling of disappointment and failure.
It is this failure that is so important for almost every athlete to experience. In many cases, this failure makes the athlete realize and analyze the reason for the failure, and it becomes another learning situation. We have all heard the phrase “you learn from your mistakes”, and this is certainly true for anyone who experiences a failure and takes the steps necessary to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again.
In many cases, a disappointing failure is exactly what is needed for someone to become successful. This particular scenario happened to me as a national team athlete. Following the 1984 Olympic success of our men’s gymnastics team, I made the decision to continue with competitive gymnastics and attempt to make the 1988 Olympic team. However, due to our success in 1984, I had taken a step back from a serious training regiment and the effects were apparent the years to follow. In 1986, during the USA National Gymnastics Championships, which ranks the athletes for national team selection, I performed very poorly and was lucky to make the national team. For the first time in 8 years that was the lowest ranking I have experienced, and thus, was not chosen for the high-level national team competitions. I knew that I was a much better athlete then what I had shown and it was the slap in the face that I needed to get back on track. The following year, in 1987, I won the USA National Gymnastics Championships and for the first time in my career, became the All-Around National Champion. I knew this success would not have been possible if I had not experienced that failure the year before.
When a person experiences failure, they should have the support of their family, coaches and peers to help boost morale and confidence. For the athlete, this is a very important issue if the athlete is to continue in a positive manner. I believe one of the worst things that can happen is if a coach or parent degrades & humiliates the athlete because of a failure. This type of attitude can certainly be devastating for the athlete and may even cause a termination of participation. We all Fall once in a while and we need to get back up quickly, but sometimes it takes assistance, and we may need a crutch for a short period of time to help move forward in a positive direction.
It is always great to win and, for most people, miserable to lose. However, we are not always going to win, but hopefully not always going to lose. Every person needs to understand how to win and lose gracefully. Having great sportsmanship is very important in the participation of activities. I believe athletes should be humbled when they have a victory, and they should understand how to take failure with grace. Many people have different definitions for what failure means. I have seen athletes who may come in 2nd place at a competition and they see it as a failure. What needs to be understood is that winning is not easy – in fact, it can be very difficult. There are so many factors that must fall into place perfectly in order for one to be successful and rise above all the others. Such factors as health (being sick), injury, emotions, preparation, etc. can play a large part in the pursuit of success.
There is nothing better than winning, especially if there has been a strong desire and years of hard work to get to that point. Many successful people can look back at what it took to get there, like passion, motivation, sacrifice, patience, and failure. The road to success is usually always bumpy, full of ups and downs, and many detours. Through extreme focus and determination, the path to success can be followed through to completion. It certainly is a choice, and if it is the right choice, you just might Win!!