Learning to navigate a “rocky road” – often riddled with setbacks both inside and outside the competitive arena – is the essential element in becoming among the best in the world.
A new study headed by researcher Dave Collins highlights key characteristics that separate the best of the best (“Super Champions”), the good (“Champions”), and those who didn’t quite make it (“Almosts”).
Super Champions have developed the skills to cope with obstacles and disappointments without unraveling. The researchers, from the U.K., carried out extensive interviews with athletes from a variety of sports, including soccer, skiing, rowing and combat disciplines.
Athletes who reach the very highest level are never satisfied with their performance; they are always looking for improvements and setting tougher goals. Super Champions also have total commitment and relentless internal drives that their less successful peers lack.
When faced with injuries or failures, the almost-great athletes often become despondent and lose enthusiasm. Super Champions, though, are determined to return stronger than ever.
According to the study: “Super Champions are characterized by an almost fanatical reaction to challenge, both proactively and in reaction to mishaps which typically occurr due to injury or sport related setbacks such as non-selection/being dropped.”
The most surprising finding was that the almost-great athletes suffered no more setbacks, on average, than the Super Champions or Champions. In other words: the difference wasn’t down to bad luck, but uattitude. “It is more what performers bring to the challenges than what they experienced,” the researchers wrote.
– Are proactive in rising to face setbacks such as injury and non-selection
– Have received from coaches positive facilitation and gentle encouragement
– Often have siblings who play a significant role in supporting and challenging
– Have meticulous, persistent attention to detail