What Does It Take To Become An Elite-Level Athlete?

Courtesy: Rudo Loock

What is an elite level athlete? Is it someone who consistently wins competitions and can perform at the highest level day in and day out, or is it someone with extraordinary abilities to do things others can’t? I am sure we all have several names that come to mind when answering these questions. Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Floyd Mayweather, and Kobe Bryant are a few names that immediately came to mind for me. However, when thinking about becoming elite level athletes, we should not ask why they are at the top but rather how they made it to the top. What does it take to become an elite level athlete?

Sometimes we think they are where they are because of their exceptional talents, and there is nothing wrong with us thinking this. As humans, we tend to believe what we see and what we see is their performances in the ring, on the track, in the pool, or on the court. As a former elite-level swimmer, I can confidently say that these out-of-the-world performances are only the tip of the iceberg. So what goes on behind the scenes? Below are five things elite athletes do on their way to the top:

1. They Do Not Expect To Become A Superstar Overnight

Arguably one of the most important secrets to success. Nothing ever happens overnight. If you expect it to, you will most likely end up disappointed. Success takes time, effort and perseverance. You have to trust the process and recognize that it takes time. Never do something just to do it. Do everything you do with a purpose, and you will continue to grow and reach many milestones. Also check out Never Let It Rest.

2. They Are Willing To Do Things Others Are Not

To be the best, you have to beat the best. This means that you have to be willing to do what most people will not even think about. What do you do when no one is watching? What are you doing to put yourself in the best possible position to become your best self? The decisions you make for yourself are the decisions that will turn you from novice to elite.

3. They Recognize That Hard Work Beats Talent

Every elite athlete out there will tell you the same thing. They are where they are because of their work ethic. Yes, talent can go a long way, but what do you do when talent is not enough anymore? When I was younger, I was struggling to keep up with the rest of my age group. Then, one day, someone close to me told me something that stuck with me to this day. He sat me down and said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Believe in yourself and trust the process.” The only thing I could do was put my head down and get back to work, and it sure paid off.

4. They Embrace Failure

Failure is one of the most frequent and essential obstacles on the road to success. How you deal with failure will determine who you become and where you end up. Every elite athlete out there can talk to you for hours upon hours about how they have failed countless times, but instead of giving up, they kept on pushing.

5. They Love What They Do

At the end of the day, you have to love what you do. Elite athletes put in hours and hours of training every day to keep their bodies and minds in optimal shape. If you do not love what you do every day, all this hard work can only take you so far. Your heart needs to be in it 100% of the way.

The sky is the limit. You have heard the following saying a million times before, but I will say it again: YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. You just have to be willing to work for it and not give up when things get tough. So get out there and keep on pushing.

Dream. Dare. Succeed.

ABOUT RUDO LOOCK

“My name is Rudo Loock and I am from South Africa. I was blessed with an opportunity to go swim for Florida State University. I am a 4-time ACC qualifier and one time NCAA qualifier. After battling many ups and downs throughout my career, I now aim to share my knowledge about the sport’s physical and mental side through personal experience with the rest of the swimming world.”

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Huh
1 month ago

3. They Recognize That Hard Work Beats Talent

I get that you want to install a hard work ethic in young athletes, which is a good thing, but I hate hearing this all the time “hard work beats talent” when data says that this is generally a false statement.

Thirteenthwind
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

Well, you’ve gotta use the whole quote. “Hard work beats talent…when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Yeah there are kids who bust their tails who will never beat someone who has natural gifts… but that work ethic and drive puts someone with natural gifts higher than someone who is naturally gifted but doesn’t want to work (or work as hard).

Huh
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
1 month ago

I am using the “whole quote”. You are assuming the quote implies “someone with natural gifts higher than someone who is naturally gifted but doesn’t want to work (or work as hard).” when it doesn’t imply that at all.

flex tape cant fix that
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

Did u actually read the article? or did you just skim the headlines?

Reader
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
1 month ago

It is plain and simply wrong to say that some kids “who bust their tails never will beat someone with natural gifts”. As someone who was mediocre at best in high school and Un recruited, I somehow figured out how to fake my way to power 5 conference finals. There’s always another level and another gear, but that comes down to heart. It’s not a work ethic or talent debate at the top, it’s heart.

AJThomas
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

In sports talent wins over hard work. The talented hard worker wins over the merely talented, but without talent you haven’t got a chance. What is true is by studying hard you can outperform smarter people who don’t study. Ironically that point is rarely made in an academic setting. So we have it all backwards. Study hard folks and then you will be able to share your wisdom with the world on the swimswam comment section when you are middle aged like me.

Chris
Reply to  AJThomas
1 month ago

100% agree. Hard work can only take you so far. You need to be able to feel the water (talent) differently than others to get to a certain level. That’s just the way it is.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Chris
1 month ago

I think Jim Thorpe was better than most of the people mention. As someone mention few people today knew who he was. He could do any sport and was a major track and field star in his day. Plus, play professional sports.

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  Huh
1 month ago

Show us the data

MIKE IN DALLAS
1 month ago

My conclusions:

  1. When two athletes have equal talent, the one who works harder might go to OTs.
  2. When one athlete works a ton [but only has B+ talent] and competes against an athlete who works a ton [but has A talent], the first swimmer medals at a state meet while the second athlete goes to OTs.
  3. Without talent, your ton of hard work takes you to the state championship, which is great, but it’s not OTs.
Olympian
1 month ago

Sacrifice many things, including your physical and mental health

Yozhik
1 month ago

I like the discussion where nobody defines what they are talking about. What is the definition of talent? If someone is more talented than you that means simply that this person has higher chances to perform better than you a priori. If this person cannot perform to his full abilities (sick for example) than you do have a chance of winning if you are at peak form. Working hard means keeping yourself close to your best form and then you may have a chance to win against person who is more talented but underperforming.

Olympian
Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago

Some people have advantages or perform certain tasks with more ease than others…

Ryan Lochte’s underwaters, Caeleb Dressel’s start… What type of advantage does Matt Greevers has on top of Ryosuke Irie when it comes to hight?

Idk, just my personal take on it, its certainly a much broader discussion

Jim Griffin
Reply to  Olympian
1 month ago

“In order to be an Olympic athlete, you must choose your parents very carefully.”
Per Olaf Ostrand , author of “ Textbook of Work Physiology”

Ice Age Swimmer
Reply to  Jim Griffin
1 month ago

Yes, check out the impressive athleticism of Michael Andrew’s parents. AND Michael works hard (and smart) too.

Prettykitten
Reply to  Olympian
1 month ago

Half of being a talented athlete is finding a coach that is able to recognize your talent though. I personally cant think of a single swimmer that has “talent” in every area of a race with the partial exception of Phelps.

SwimFani
1 month ago

Mayweather an elite athlete?? Try a mugger and gangster

Corn Pop
1 month ago

Money .

Comments are Closed
1 month ago

Never give up. Never surrender.

Keith
1 month ago

Hope all the “ doubters “ will read the amazing, yet spot on book by Geoff Colwin “TALENT IS OVERRATED “