Habits of Elite Athletes-Tom Morris
Throughout the years, I have worked with and observed thousands of athletes. All of these athletes were at different levels within their sports, goals, talent, and genetics. There are a number of characteristics and habits that top-level athletes showcase. To name a few, I would start with perseverance, adaptability, and attention to detail. Of course, these are just a few of the many that they hold. For now, I want to focus on two characteristics or habits that are a must at an elite level. They are “consistency” and “deliberate/intentional practice (intent).” I’ve worked as a Division I Strength and Conditioning Coach for over 20 years. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with first-round draft picks in football and basketball and Mac Hermann Trophy winners. These athletes come in all shapes and sizes. They all have different personalities and work ethic, but the common theme they all showcase is consistency and intent of practice.
Some say showing up is half the battle. I’m one that agrees with this statement. I think it is way easier said than done to show up EVERY single day, no matter how you feel. Show up after the excitement of something new. Show up when the end is too far out of sight. This is the time that many refer to as “the middle.” The middle is where a person’s true character will shine. John Wooden said it best: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” The middle is the time that no one is watching, but it’s also the time that greatness is being built. For most athletes, this is the time where it is easy to say, “I’m going to take off today” or “I’m going to eat McDonalds.” Elite athletes consistently show up and make the right choices, no matter what thoughts they have in their heads or how bad they are feeling.
Showing up will make you average, but to be truly elite, you must have a deliberate and intentional practice. With elite athletes, every decision they make is based on how it will better them. Their diet, sleep, recovery, and study are all part of their daily routine and thoughts. There is an intention for everything because everything will help or hurt them. These habits of being intentional make great players rise to the elite status. They become obsessive about refining their craft, and changing their weaknesses into strengths.
For example, I worked with Indiana University’s women’s basketball team years ago. We practiced at 6am every day. I would arrive at 5:30am to get ready for practice. Every morning I would come in, one of our men’s basketball players, Victor Oladipo, would be in the gym shooting. I would go to the women’s practice for 2+ hours and when we were finished, I would walk past the men’s courts and Vic would still be shooting. I remember returning home from away games several times, and I’d pass the court to go to my office and Vic would be in there at 1:00am, still getting up shots. This is the consistent every day and every night behaviors that elite athletes showcase. His behavior and mindset were at the elite level. We got into a conversation one day about him always being in the gym. He talked about the overall time that you have to put in to being the best. What I found even more incredible was it wasn’t just the time and shots he was practicing. The shots had intent. What I mean is, Vic knew his shot percentage from each point on the court. He knew his strengths and his weaknesses. Every shot that he took had an intention. He shot not just to get up shots, but to perfect areas that weren’t as strong. He moved and shot as if there was an opponent in front of him. He visualized each movement and executed with precision. That’s deliberate/intentional practice.
Elite athletes have intent behind everything they do. If not, they’re just doing activity. “Don’t mistake activity for achievement”- John Wooden.
"An incredibly caring, compassionate, enthusiastic person. He inspires confidence. He inspires Affection." -Ken Gros Louis
REAL WORLD MOTIVATOR WHO WORKS AS THE DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY, HE SPECIALIZES IN STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR OLYMPIC AND COLLEGIATE ATHLETES. HE IS NOT A “MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER”. HE IS A MOTIVATOR THAT TAKES TIME AWAY FROM HIS FULL TIME JOB TO SHARE HIS STORY TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 2005-PRESENT
ASSISTANT ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
LASALLE UNIVERSITY, 2004-2005
DIRECTOR OFATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2000-2003
ASSISTANT STRENGTH COACH
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