As athletes reflect on their indoor season performances and prepare for the outdoor season, Coach Ellie Spain shares some common barriers to development that can affect athletes at any stage of their development.
I often take time to sit and review emails, articles, and videos that I have seen, or read before. Every time I go back to them, I pick up something new, as my paradigm changes over time. One email I came across contained a list entitled ‘barriers to championship performances’. It is a list of items shared by a great friend and mentor of mine – Coach Dan Pfaff.
The following is an excerpt from Coach Pfaff's list, and highlights the seven traits that I, personally, have most commonly seen whilst coaching. These are barriers not only affecting those at the elite end of our sport, but also in developing athletes across all levels of performance.
I really wanted to share these, as by understanding that these traits are performance inhibitors, it makes it so much easier to avoid them. If there is no awareness that these traits are unhelpful, it’s impossible to fix them.
I hope by sharing these traits, athletes will be able to do a self-evaluation, and honestly assess if it's something they can, or should work on.
These seven barriers to performance progression are:
1 - Perfectionism
2 - Negative self-talk, and defeatist body-language
3 - 'All talk and no action' behaviours
4 - Focusing too much on the past
5 - Lack of communication
6 - Seeing failure as fatal and final, rather than a part of progression
7 - Getting offended by constructive criticism
We'll use Coach Pfaff's words below, to outline these points further:
1. Believing there will be a perfect jump, run or meet is a deadly trap and slowly becomes a virus that wrecks not only your competitions but your practices and ultimately your life. Any analysis of a world record effort will yield numerous flaws and detractors from that athlete’s better performance cluster.
2. Self talk is powerful both in a positive and negative vein. What you think and say to yourself evolves into patterns and these patterns become habits and eventually drivers for your practices, competition and life duties. Closely related to this is body language. If you project defeatist traits, they will drive everything you do.
3. Lip service is plentiful. Folks always claim they are all in. They talk and dream about being at the top, yet few study those at the top and note what it truly takes to be there. Elite performance involves deep study, endless efforts, honesty on all fronts and accountability beyond the norm.
4. Elite performance evolves over time. Tools, tactics, mindsets and behaviour that worked in the past must change as situations increase in demand. Living in the past with these factors is a one way ticket to frustration for you and those around you.
5. Communication is oxygen to relationships. The inability to express your thoughts, moods, concerns, boundaries and desires create a slow death in any relationship you are involved in.
6. Failure is embraced by leaders in all walks of life. It does not paralyse. It does not diminish risk taking. It does not colour behaviour. It is a catalyst for problem solving.
7. Champions embrace and accept constructive criticism. They crave systematic feedback. They keep detailed records of their walk and they review often the criticisms they receive, looking for patterns that lead to elimination of said faults and behaviours.
These are simple areas to work on. Get to work!