The secret ingredient to athletic development…

Recently I’ve had a bit of a realisation. I’ve noticed in the athletes I’ve coached directly, or witnessed who have progressed on to higher levels in their sport…that they seem to share the same trait.

In 1896, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto first demonstrated that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. This idea has been expanded to suggest that 80% of the effects come from only 20% of the causes, in business the idea that 80% of your sales are due to only 20% of your clients. Again, in sport this has been adapted to suggest that 20% of exercises selected are responsible for 80% of the impact on the athlete.
If we were to nail down the most influential habits of those athletes that progress onto higher levels, I think we would find something similar. Personally, I think there might be something to this on a psychological standpoint. Because I’ve noticed that with the athletes I coach, the ones that other coaches are highlighting and talking about as future prospects share the same trait: Consistency.
What do I mean by consistency? Here’s exactly what I mean:

  1. If they don’t turn up it’s because of a natural disaster, they’ve lost a limb or there’s been a zombie apocalypse.Image result for zombie apocalypse

Ok, so those are tongue in cheek, but my point is these are the guys you know do not shirk a training session,. They consistently have the highest levels of attendance. They are the guys you can count on to be at training – all the time. If they aren’t there, you know it wasn’t just because their alarm didn’t go off or they have a sniffle, they are seriously ill.
2. They apply mental focus consistently 
These guys are consistent in the effort they bring to each session. But I don’t specifically mean extreme physical exertion every session, but rather a consistent level mental application or focus on the task at hand. They bring a high level of work ethic, regardless of the task (eg. Prehab, rehab, skills, strength work, conditioning etc) and are regularly lauded for their work rate in training/matches. For example, I’ve seen an athlete who consistently runs around 1km more than everyone else as measured by his GPS unit. That tells you something about his desire to chase players and be involved in play. He also focusses intently in strength and skills sessions. Every single session, consistently. When these guys have an off session or match, it’s very unusual.

Image result for 60 of the time it works every time
Every get frustrated with those “talented” guys who only bring it 60% of the time?

If you think about it. This makes perfect sense. If you turn up and give 100% every session, it’s inevitable that you will improve. If you improve, you get noticed and eventually if you sustain that improvement, you’ll succeed. Potentially, you will also overtake the “talented” player who turns up irregularly and gives inconsistent effort. It’s a classic tale of the turtle and the hare, or the cliché that 90% of success is showing up. Ultimately, it’s true of all industries and sporting development is no exception.
The Challenge
So, the challenge for us as coaches, is how do we teach consistency in our athletes? How do we impart the idea that turning up regardless of the weather, or even if your monkey’s uncle had a tooth pulled out, is a crucial factor to success? How do we reinforce that regardless of the playing situation 100% effort is critical to your long terms success? That simply showing up 1 session out of 3, or giving inconsistent levels of work ethic simply won’t cut it?
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