The 12 Traits of a Champion Written By John Michael Kelly
Whenever I coach or watch nearly any sporting event I am reminded of just how slim the difference between winning and losing really is in athletics.
In most every game played between two fairly evenly matched teams or players success or failure will come down to just a hand full of plays, right? The team or athlete that makes the plays, executes the best wins don't they? If you follow any larger tournament bracket you will find that the deeper the bracket goes the closer and lower scoring the games all get. Why is that?
Teams and athletes that win consistently do certain things that teams and athletes who don't win consistently do not. This is true in every sport for it is always the little things that capture or cost victory.
Let's look closer at what defines a champion with specific traits that can be learned then duplicated by your athlete and their team.
Here are the 12 traits of a championship level team (they are also the traits of a champion athlete as well)
1. Attitude – Championship caliber teams have a swagger about them, an expectancy that they will play well. These type teams literally exude an energy of success. They have a “can do” attitude from the moment they get up in the morning! They can’t wait to step on the field as a reward for all their hard work during the week. They love the game and it shows. The ideas of defeat or failure never enter their mind. To them “doubt” is a four letter word!
2. Confidence – Along with the champion's swagger comes extreme confidence; almost cocky but never arrogant. Regardless of the score these teams never stop competing as they are supremely confident they will prevail when the game is over. They trust themselves to make plays, and never hesitate for fear of making a mistake. This confidence is cultivated via excessive physical and mental preparation and the relentless pursuit of excellence!
3. Relaxed – Along with confidence comes the ability to play the game relaxed. The more relaxed the less chance for mistakes or poor execution on the court or in the field. A relaxed mental state is the result of “an expectancy” for success. To these athletes the game slows down, allowing them to play their best when it matters most.
4. Focused – Championship caliber teams are extremely focused on their goal or purpose (the immediate task at hand). They are able to block out external and internal (mind) distractions during the game that sabotage an ordinary team's success. They anticipate and always have a game plan for game situation. They are always supremely focused in the “present moment” instead of damaging “past focus” (regret) or “future focus” (worry).
5. Team – Top teams play as a team. To them there is truly no “I” in team. They are gladly willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes for their team to succeed and reach their goals. They know their role on the team and excel in it. They support one another unconditionally. There is rarely whining or drama on these teams. They play with great pride and passion. Leaders emerge and always pick up their teammates.
6. Fun – Championship caliber teams have fun! Because they play with such confidence and experience so much success they play loose and it shows. They laugh and smile on the field or court regardless of the score or any mistakes made. They are the epitome of what sports is about…playing great with passion and joy regardless of the opponent or score!
7. Relentless – The best teams keep coming at you. They love playing the game and are on “attack” mode from the very first moment of the game/match. They are always looking for the big play, putting pressure on the defense; they play aggressively on offense and defense. Champions sense momentum and when the victory is in sight they go even harder to finish off their opponents.
8. Work Ethic – Champions simply work harder on both the physical and mental parts of their game. When they are tired they remember their goals and dig deeper. The bar for effort is extraordinarily high on these teams and their performances show it. Each player is constantly striving to improve their weaknesses and turn them into strengths. They play with great desire, and play just as hard in practice as they do during the game.
9. Students of the Game – Champion teams are comprised of players and coaches always driven to be their best. As such they are constantly observing the game, the opposition, games on TV, their own team (or personal game videos) in an effort to learn more about the game and themselves. Champions are always looking for any “edge” that will get them to the winner's circle.
10. Poise – Top teams play with extreme poise under pressure. In fact they look forward to pressure games and pressure moments. Because they are relaxed, confident and focused they play poised and under control. Regardless of the game situation they play at a consistent, peak level that assures their success. Champions always look at game adversity as a challenge and opportunity to get better, and NEVER allow themselves to be a victim of their emotions or circumstances.
11. Extremely Prepared – Champion athletes and teams all share one common trait…extreme preparation! With both individual and team skill development champions never let any opponent out prepare them. They also recognize the critical importance of devoting substantial time towards the development of their mental game as well as their physical game. In short champions exhibit extreme will power to prepare themselves to dominate on game/match day.
12. Big Picture Thinking – Champion athletes, teams, coaches and parents all employ “big picture” thinking. They recognize that mastery of their sport takes time. They see mistakes and game/match failure as a great opportunity and challenge to get better. They enjoy the journey of becoming a champion by focusing on the process and the effort rather than solely on the results.
Even though you and I may witness errors and mistakes at the most inopportune time as the reason for the close losses, in reality these are just the effects and not the causes for defeat and failure. Each of the 12 traits covered hear play an integral role, is a vital ingredient, in the ultimate success of any team or athlete.
John Michael Kelly: John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
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