The Top 12 Things All Successful Athletes Demonstrate
Elite athletes exhibit unique traits and strong, admirable characteristics that help them succeed in their sport. While largely innate, athletes do develop these traits from various experiences and opportunities, such as from their parents or in school to sports or even attending youth athletic training programs.
1. Self-Confidence: The best athletes are innately self-confident, and they truly believe that they will win. They also have the confidence to deal with any unexpected situations that may arise and to speak up for themselves or their teammates when appropriate.
2. Motivation: High-performing athletes are motivated by the desire to be better than their opponent and even better than their personal best. They will be patient and persevere when working on their skills and focusing on their goals.
3. Self-Discipline: Elite athletes know that success doesn’t happen overnight. They have the self-discipline to put in early morning training sessions, to sacrifice social activities in exchange for more practice, and to power through sore muscles and exhaustion. They also practice self-discipline when it comes to their diets, making sure they only fuel their bodies with beneficial nutrients.
4. Optimism: An athlete who lacks an optimistic attitude isn’t likely to fully excel because they don’t expect to win. A successful athlete must believe that they will win and remain positive even when facing adversity.
5. Acceptance of Criticism: How can one improve if they aren’t willing to accept constructive criticism? Successful athletes understand that it’s important to remain coachable while accepting and learning from their mistakes. They will also be open to advice or tips from teammates and accepting of calls made by officials.
6. Poise under Stress: Athletes deal with countless sources of stress on a routine basis. From the pressure to perform well during competition or training to the stress caused by losing a game, getting injured, or struggling to master a skill, stress is an everyday part of an athlete’s life. A high level athlete can perform and even thrive under stress and pressure to still come out victorious.
7. Focus: A strong athlete must be able to focus on their goals and the big picture, which helps them stay dedicated to their training. They must also be able to focus on the moment while competing and tune out anything that is happening in the stands with spectators or that might be occurring in their personal lives outside of their sport.
8. Resiliency: Losses are just a reality of being an athlete. Setbacks will occur, and an athlete can’t be successful if they aren’t resilient. Even after a loss, successful athletes stay positive and use the experience as an opportunity to learn and move forward.
Client Solutions Executive for Exercise.com and former professional soccer player Jackie Simpson, who suffered an injury three days before being called up to play with the Orlando Pride, said, “In my experience, professional sports are not for the faint of heart. Athletes need to be committed, competitive, and determined to persevere through adversity.”
While she missed her opportunity to be part of the full roster with the Orlando Pride, after dedicating two months to recovery and rehab, she earned the opportunity to play with one of the most well known women's leagues in Europe, LaLiga Iberdrola!
9. Competitive Spirit: Successful athletes enjoy winning, and it is likely that they will be competitive even in areas outside of their sport.
10. Natural Leadership: Even athletes who don’t take on roles as captains or co-captains will usually have some leadership traits. Quick decisions often need to be made in the heat of competition, and an athlete with leadership skills will be better prepared to take the initiative to make them.
Isabella Vidaña, a leadership coach with IMG Academy, adds, "Of course having talent is impressive, but coaches are looking for student-athletes who show pride in their team, are supportive, and put others before themselves. Those athletes who are seen as leaders are the ones that know how to control their emotions, learn from their mistakes, and give it their all even when things are not going their way. These types of athletes understand the importance of their character and how it will go beyond their sport and into everyday life."
11. Humility: Great athletes stay humble. When they make a mistake, they acknowledge and accept it rather than trying to make excuses. Alternately, when a humble athlete’s team is successful, they do not take all of the credit. Exceptional athletes credit their teammates and coaching staff when they are successful.
12. Passion: An athlete who is passionate about their sport is more likely to be successful. They will eat, sleep, and breathe their sport, and, therefore, they will be excited to excel.
“I believe the number-one quality an athlete can have is heart,” says Houston Rockets cheerleader Anissa Ybarra. “You have to want it with every fiber in your body.”
Great athletes display countless traits that, together, make them successful. While many of these traits are innate, they can also be nurtured through lessons learned from their parents, while in school, while competing, and in programs such as youth athletic training programs. IMG Academy’s boarding school and sport camps help athletes focus not only on growing physically, but on nurturing these traits to become successful collegiate and professional athletes.