I have seen all sides of the spectrum, amateur, professionals and professional amateurs. Any one who has been successful in their sport can truthfully say that there were many elements responsible for their success. Most of you know me as the guy who trains a lot of high-level athletes, which one of them is the most successful franchise player in the NHL’s history, Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
‘’In 20 seasons, he’s set NHL records for most games played by a goalie (1,220), most wins (669), most shutouts (121), saves made
(30,569) and minutes played (71,786). He has the most 30-win (14) and 40-win (eight) seasons in League history.
Along the way he’s won the Stanley Cup three times; he has also captured four Vezina trophies, five Jennings trophies, two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup of Hockey championship.
Brodeur played more than 70 games in a season for 10 straight from 1997 to 2008 — but in 2008-09 he sustained his first major injury, tearing the biceps tendon in his left elbow, which sidelined him four months .’’
He came back and helped the Devils get into the playoffs. The following season, at age 37, he led the League in games played (77), wins (45), and shutouts (nine), and was third with a 2.24 goals-against average.”
During our many sessions, I learned a lot on the athlete, but also, the person behind the athlete, the reason why he has been so successful and constant, through thick and thin, for more than 20 years. Being a goalie is the most important and critical position to play in, talk about being under fire, every game.
I also had the chance to work with elite MMA fighters, amateur and pro football, baseball and soccer players, which were all successful in their own way, because of pure talent, hard work and often both. They have all thought me many lessons of what and what not to do. Some of the main qualities required from day one and also, some of the mistakes that no matter what, everyone would have to make along the way.
Like the art of war of Sun Tzu, that have been translated many times and converted into business and personal life works, the same can be applied with some, if not most of the following habits.
1. They don’t care about diet
“I never really followed a diet, I always ate like that” Not that they actually followed a specific diet like the Paleo or Atkins or ate really bad, but most of them knew what was good for them, what they required. They caught on really fast that it is a way of life.
Don’t be surprised if most of them also had no support and the most basic guidelines to which they can rely on from their professional organization. You would be really surprised at what professional teams give to their players before morning practices.
Some organizations rely on Polaroid’s and scale weight to know if an athlete is in shape. They know their stats at a certain weight and if they go over by a bit, all alarms go off. So basically, they rely on body mass index and average numbers. Changing their mind set (the organization) is somewhat impossible. Some of them realize that they need to individualize the approach to get better results. They will seek guidance on how to get the best plan for their needs.
2. They don’t care about social media
They don’t waste time (most of them) updating their twitter or Facebook status waiting to see how many likes and comments they get. They actually don’t (shouldn’t) want to have a profile on any social media feeds. Time wasting and consuming, which can play with their heads, knowing how many trolls and numb nuts are out there. Most who have, have admins and oversees some of the stuff that goes on.
Fans are awesome. However, the work most elite athletes have put in before they mastered their game and got all these fans is equal, if not more, to the amount of effort they have to put in to keep their A game on.
3. Create your day
We have all heard about the routine, what some might call as superstitious behaviors. However, this is far from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsession is what lazy people call dedication. These athletes will have a routine. They have created in their head a perfect day. They will try to follow a certain routine, but not limited to, what they know will give them the edge, the best workouts, the perfect game. Not because of superstitious shit but because they know that if they have slept well, eaten properly, followed the plan, they will be as close as they can be physically and mentally from their optimal well being and physical performance.
It is actually what we preach every single day to everyone. The reason people fail is because they are far from having good habits. They fail to recognize the fact that we can be masters of our days. We obviously can’t control everything, but at least, by following what you know can help you feel good and achieve the desired goal,
4. They plan
I personally don’t know of any professional athletes that don’t periodize their trainings over a year. Hockey is easy (my baby), depending on levels, you get 3 months of off season strength and conditioning preparation and more and more, we see guys going at it all year, not without planning more rest during season. Football (another one of my babies) requires 16 games, usually from October to February, not without higher risks of injury and a longer off-season that depending on levels (collegiate or pros) can start in April. Old literature and masterminds like Tudor Bompa believed in principles like phases of rest, intensification and overcompensation.
I also would like to mention one of my biggest concerns. Parents are sometimes crazy in the head. I see them putting their kids at a young level in specialized training (like power skating) all summer, plus weight lifting, plus cardio conditioning, plus soccer, you know for cardio again.
Here is my message to these so-called expert parents…what the puck is wrong with you? It’s not because you missed your chance at being a jock in school or that you didn’t make the cut that you have to put all the pressure on your kids. Let me tell you what you are doing, you are just setting them up for failure, and ahead of time on top of that. Specializing their training and approach ahead of time will not make them “ahead of time”. The only thing that they will have ahead is their peak. For example, if a kid goes into the juniors at 18, and hits his peak at 16, he probably will be slower or just tired at 18. That’s not the “ahead of its time” we are aiming at here.
Patience is the mother of all virtues. Let them make their own decisions. Guide them with common sense and don’t impose your past on them if you want the best of them.
They are surrounded with people who share similar goals. They actually won’t get anywhere near people who can’t get their shit together. They will stay far from downers and losers. Negativity is very contagious, so is debilitating stupidity. They stay far from useless talks and mindless behaviors.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
6. When the going gets rough, they get going
I have witnessed athletes in great moments and some on their downfall. Unfortunately, talent is not enough. Maybe it could for a while, but they soon learn that you can fall flat on your face if you don’t own their talent. I was following some guy for his upcoming fight. After the initial assessment, he had to cut all the junk to bring down his bodyfat to optimal levels. Problem was he took it too lightly. He probably thought that I was stupid and wouldn’t see a thing, which I did and after a few times, I started to lose patience and politely fired him after a few verbal disagreements. Before I did, I saw him change, mental focus wasn’t there anymore. Switched from listening too hardcore rap to freakin joyful music and country. During training I gave him shit a few times because of that. He was lifting, but the fire wasn’t there as much as I often saw it in the past. The upcoming fight was not a small fight, it was main event.
I knew I could not change too much and was being very careful on every little change I did, mainly because I know fighters are different, the routine is the main focus. One bad day and it could all go to hell, but I am convinced something clicked. I was pissed at myself and at him. I knew he was going to do great, but something else happened that to this day, I still don’t know. It’s as if he threw the towel before the fight even started. I believed in him so much, maybe more than he did.
We learn best by the lessons we get burned by. The lesson learned here is that no matter what happens, you are only one training, one day, one meal, one moment away from getting back on track. The best athletes will have this unbelievable thought process of not letting mistakes or mishaps get the best of them.
Michael Jordan was kicked off his high school basketball team.
An expert said that Vince Lombardi possessed minimal football knowledge and he lacked motivation.
George Foreman was a 38 year old man who hadn’t boxed for 10 years. He was 70+ pounds overweight and literally laughed at when he made a comeback to raise money for a youth center just outside of Houston, TX. His first comeback fight in Sacremento drew laughter and boos for how slow and plodding he looked. He just kept on training, losing weight and fighting. He was told it was a waste of time and energy. He was the Heavyweight champion of the world 7 years later.
Babe Ruth was well known for his 714 career homeruns. Along with all those home runs came also a lot of strikeouts (1,330 in all), in fact, for decades, for decades he held the record for strikeouts. He brilliantly told reporters;”Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
7. Trust yourself, your abilities and your instinct.
Most kids start playing hockey, and have a chance to try every position and choose what fits best. At a young age, Brodeur and his dad were left with a big decision, will he play forward or be a goal tender. We all know the rest of the story.
One thing I have learned in those many years of studying foreign school of strength and conditioning thoughts is this, Choose (or be guided in) a sport you are fit for, do not try to make the sport fit you. Of course, in many cases, it is not as simple as this one liner. However, many European elite schools have understood this little simple, yet complicated principle. From a young age, they are evaluated and directed in the sport they would perform well, according to their structure and abilities.
There are many more, but those are the habits that I often come across when dealing with athletes. Hope you enjoyed and let me know your thoughts.