Andrea Dalle Ave, a sports recruiter at Aspire Atlantic, is a two-time Paralympian, a Commonwealth Games athlete, and a World Championship medalist. He shares some insight into what it takes to achieve at the very highest level of one’s sport, and how to build a champion’s mindset.
Getting to the top of the game from an outside perspective can seem simple most of the time. We saw Usain Bolt come out for 9.5 seconds a few times a year, obliterate his competition, and grab all the headlines, fame, and fortune. Watching from home, we all wish that life was that easy. But how easy is it really?
I can personally tell you that getting to the top of the game requires way more than the natural talent you possess. Becoming an Olympian requires sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. You need to be ruthless in your approach, and completely disciplined.
Make The Sacrifices
A couple of months out of high school, I was shortlisted for possible inclusion in the London 2012 Paralympic games. As a typical 19-year-old, all your peers are now in the mindset of having the best possible time – and by that, I mean partying and late nights. To become an Olympian, anything that can detract from your best physical and mental self has to be given up. You will lose friends along the way, who will tell you that “You’ve changed”. You will also have people try to come into your life for the wrong reasons, saying that they “Know you”. Building a support base around you is the most crucial step to getting to the Olympics. You will always need support, and you need to be able to give 100 percent of your trust to your support team.
Like I said in the beginning, from the outside, people will only see your highs. But let me tell you: there are many, many lows too. There will be injuries, there will be rehab (and prehab), and there will be the mental scarring that comes with these misfortunes. There will be times where you want to throw in the towel. These behind-the-scenes occurrences are what makes you an Olympian. It is the dirty work you need to put in behind closed doors to shine on a world stage. The 11 training sessions a week, the body in a continuous state of feeling stiff and broken, the cool downs in the ice baths, the meal preparations, and the continuous saying no to distractions… this is an Olympic mindset.
Push Yourself to the Limit
Once you have this mindset and predator-like focus, you can combine it with your natural talent. Natural talent takes you less than half the way; hard work and mental stability takes you all the way. Usain Bolt obviously possessed an unnatural gift, a once in a generation ability. But just like I did, Usain Bolt had to fight his way to the top, and fight even harder to stay there and build his legacy. Being an Olympian is both the greatest and hardest thing you will do in your life; I am happy to say I achieved this dream… twice. So can you – if you never stop dreaming!
Pain. Sweat. Tears. Trust. Focus. Glory.
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