According to sports greatest athletes and coaches, the road to overcoming the competition and achieving optimal athletic performance is simple; Confidence + Commitment = Competitive Excellence. I will be sorting through the most telling quotes from the best of the best and categorizing them under either of those two principle parts of the equation. In order to be great, athletes need to understand greatness. I will do my very best to interpret the most telling quotes.
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“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” This according to iconic fighter Muhammad Ali who looked to his boundless supply of confidence to cut through so much outside negativity to become the benchmark in boxing.
Michael Jordan fittingly summed up his Hall of Fame NBA career as the greatest to ever play with these words, “Limits like fears, are often just an illusion.” Many people are defeated before they even step onto the field of play but not M.J. He always had the mental edge from the opening tip because in his mind he was the best player on the floor.
New York Yankee legend, slugger Babe Ruth, spoke volumes when he said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out get in your way.” If you believe that you will lose before you even take the field then you are already down before the first point has been tallied.
The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky provided perspective when he said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
You may not have all the physical gifts of some of these all world athletes, but by adopting their mental attitude you will start seeing a tangible distance between you and your closest competitors.
Take it from the undersized Phoenix Suns point guard and two-time MVP, Steve Nash, “People have always doubted whether I was good enough to play the game at this level. I thought I could. What other people thought was always irrelevant to me.”
When it is all said and done confidence is not something you’re born with its something you learn. Building confidence takes belief, a positive outlook and mental toughness. Confidence takes courage.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” It’s appropriate to quote Aristotle, one of the most respected philosophers in our history to illustrate that competitive excellence is achieved through a commitment to excellence.
Vince Lombardi, legendary coach and the man that the Super Bowl trophy is named after put it simply, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. “
Pat Riley, NBA title winning Coach and current Miami Heat Executive shared, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You're either IN or you’re OUT. There is no in between.”
Mia Hamm, USA soccer great, referred to the sacrifice required of the best, “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”
The greatest Coach that ever lived, UCLA legend John Wooden’s definition of success sums up his belief in commitment, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”
Ultimately commitment is not something that you do halfway. Making a commitment takes sweat, monotonous repetition and perseverance. Commitment takes character.
Rightful home run king Henry Aaron brings everything together with this insightful quote, "My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging."
These athletes didn't earn athletic scholarships, become professionals and rise to the top of their respective sports by taking short cuts. The road to athletic excellence is difficult, but it exists. It's up to the athlete seeking greatness to follow it.