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  • Troy Flanagan

How your role should change when developing champions

In professional sports, the path to success is as much about mental fortitude and self-discipline as it is about physical prowess. Athletes embark on a journey that begins with education and evolves into self-driven determination and personal ownership over their preparation. This evolution is crucial for their professional growth and success in their respective sports. As a professional working with developing athletes, it is important to focus on education and to teach athletes how to prepare themselves and to become more self driven and independent. Your role should transition with the athlete from initially leading to a hybrid role where you provide oversight and guidance, but also focus on what the athlete is telling you he or she needs.



Initially, every athlete starts with a need for guidance. Coaches and support staff play a pivotal role in shaping the early stages of an athlete's career, introducing them to the critical aspects of their preparation. This includes understanding the balance between training and rest, recognizing what activities enhance their performance, and identifying potential pitfalls in their regimen. It's a period of learning and absorption, where athletes are shown the ropes and the foundational elements of becoming a professional in their sport.


However, the transition from being led to taking the lead is where the true essence of an athlete's journey unfolds. Over time, athletes gain insights into their bodies, their performance, and the intricacies of their sports. They learn to listen to their needs, fine-tune their training schedules, and make decisions that are in their best interest. Eventually, nobody knows the athlete's body better than the athletes themselves. This shift towards self-driven preparation marks a significant phase in an athlete's career, transitioning from reliance on others to personal accountability.


Not all athletes navigate this transition smoothly. Some may resist taking ownership of their journey, resulting in errors and misjudgments that could have been avoided by heeding advice from their support team. Others go their own way and don't listen to their support staff. This reluctance to take the coaching, apply themselves fully to their preparation and failure to embrace guided self-direction can stem from a variety of reasons, but the consequences are often the same: unmet potential.


Success in professional sports, therefore, is not just about talent or physical capabilities; it's also about the ability to take charge of one's own preparation and professional approach. Athletes who recognize the importance of driving their own journey, setting their own standards, and maintaining a relentless pursuit of excellence often find themselves ahead of their peers. The small, consistent steps they take towards independence and self-motivation simplify their complex journey towards success.


The process of taking ownership can occur at different stages in an athlete's career. Some realize the importance of self-drive early on, while others may only embrace it when facing critical junctures. However, those who take on as much advice as possible and apply themselves fully are likely to experience greater success. It underscores the importance of young athletes understanding that the key to their future lies in their hands. They must cultivate a professional attitude, seek help and guidance when necessary, build a supportive team, and remain humble and grateful throughout their journey.


As a health professional, your role of helping an athlete to bring out an athlete's self-drive encapsulates the essence of professional growth in sports. As a support staff member, you should focus on creating independence rather than dependency. It's important to understand your role will transition over time from a teacher and coach of their every move to a trusted advisor to a highly motivated and self driven professional. While talent can bring an athlete into the spotlight, it's their ownership, drive, determination, and decisions that will define their success.

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