How to Be a Great Athlete

 Have you really ever stopped to think about what makes a great athlete, well really great?

I mean, why is there only so few really  super great athletes in sport?  What is that special something that allows them to move from mediocre to magnificent? How in the heck to we get our hands on that? What is even available to us? Are we nuts to believe that we could ever be considered a great athlete?

Having spent nearly half my adult life in and around professional sport with my husband’s MLB career, I think I have some interesting insights to help us mere mortals either fully embrace our potential or realize that our greatness may be a bit more finite than we’d hoped. But even with the most enviable ways of getting to greatness, there can be pitfalls and traps in each.

Greatness is inborn. I realized while working with a group 12 year olds that the affinity for being truly athletic is very obvious in young kids. It is something about they way their bodies are built and they way they move. Every single thing you teach them comes quickly and easily. There is so much potential because the place that these lucky people start from is head and shoulders above mere mortals. Finding the sport to apply those skills to is usually the most difficult part because they enjoy and excel in EVERYTHING! The Good Part-they are so naturally good, the athlete often is a star at everything, the Bad Part is that the potential exists for being lazy and resting on their natural gifts and not working at it.

Greatness is developed.This means taking an above average athlete and give them some attention and specific training for their sport. By providing many opportunities to play the sport and apply the lessons, the athlete develops a higher level of capabilities and achievement. The Good Part-  becoming better as an athletes through skills and drills The Bad Part, -potential burnout, especially if they are not allowed to explore and challenge themselves in other athletic ways.

Greatness is expected. These are the athletes who were always told and taught that nothing less than the best is good enough, winning is everything. For many people, this is a life long quest, to always be the best at everything and anything they do. Truly, they do not understand any other way because it is bred into them like manners or southern charm. The Good Part-They are unwaveringly determined… the Bad Part-it only takes one big mess up for the house of cards to come tumbling down on their perfectionist ways.

Greatness is supported. This one is huge! It is a fact that while we may see the incredible athlete run a world record mile, score the winning goal or lift the biggest weight ever, not one single winning athlete did it alone. They all had a coach or coaches, people to maintain their bodies, people to help them to work on their mental game, deal with their equipment, manage travel plans. Behind every great athlete is a group of support staff (or family) that is instrumental in the athletes success. The Good Part-every possible weakness is covered by support , the Bad Part-think of the resources needed!


Greatness is envisioned and believed. I think this is the most powerful one of all and the one that most of us can tap into without limits or costs. It is a deeply rooted almost physical sense of knowing EXACTLY where the athlete is going, what will be accomplished and how they will feel as they complete the task. It is like a movie that they have seen and memorized so well it is impossible to tell where the dream ends and reality begins. A person can lack all the previous sources of greatness, but belief is free to all who been given a dream. That becomes the compass that all the athletes training, eating, studying, and relationships use as their North Star. I bet if you asked the most accomplished athletes in the world how strong their belief and vision was of their success, you would be blown away by the intensity of this source of greatness. The Good Part -anyone at any level can use this for greatness in any field or endeavor. The Bad Partperhaps the first time we try, our vision will not match our reality. But the beautiful thing is that this will always be in the process of refinement and that will always propel us forward.

In the end, that’s all some of us may really get. Start today by allowing the dream and vision that you have for your life to be your North Star. It was put in you for a reason, and that reason is for you to Go the Distance into YOUR Greatness!


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Annie B

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  • Excellent writing Anne. I never realized but it is so true where greatness comes and is nurtured. I especially appreciated that greatness is supported and how that applies to everyone. Good post.

  • Congratulations Anne on a terrific post. I have been watching my sons play soccer for many years and have seen every one of the examples you have described. You are right on the money with your final analysis as well. I wish the parents af all youth athletes could read your post and really absorb your message.

    • That’s very sweet Michele! Hopefully via your TLC more parents will take a look and perhaps it can help them on the path of growing an athlete!

  • As I was reading this, I realized that your points can be applied to anyone that wants to be great – not just athetes! Thanks Anne for the Monday afternoon pick me up!

    • Hey Mandy…what a great observation! Happy to provide a pick me up…seems to be a specialty of mine!

  • Anne, these are great tips for cultivating our character, as well as how to become a great athlete… I love how you make the transition from the greatness in athletics to excelling in any life discipline. Thank you!

  • Anne, YAY, glad I finally sat down and read this. Your words are inspiring and can be applied to anyone! I love this and you write very well! xoxo

  • What a fantastic post on ‘greatness’. I had never thought of it in these context examples which can apply to all aspects of anyone’s life. It doesn’t matter what their profession is. It doesn’t matter if they are a mother of 5 kids–they can still be great. All of us can be great and ARE great and are on the journey of becoming even greater…Thanks for sharing such great content.

  • Amazing how many never have ‘greatness’ encouraged as children (without venturing into the land living vicariously through one’s child, of course). Thanks for pointing out this important distinction.


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