Characteristics of Great Athletes

Another contribution from Coach Phil Beckner from his days at Weber State. He is now an assistant coach in the NBA D-League for the Oklahoma City Blue.

This spring I was able to meet w/one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the entire country Tim McClellan. Tim trains over 660 athletes a year at Rehab Plus in Phoenix, AZ. He has trained athletes such as Donovan Mcnabb (NFL), Channing Frye (NBA), Gary Hall jr(Olympic Gold Medalist), and many others in every sport you could imagine.

I wanted to meet with Tim about…what makes the great ones tick…What separates the good from the great…what characteristics set these athletes apart from the mediocre athletes at their level.

Tim has also written a book that is absolutely amazing! It has tons of stories and examples from the many athletes he has worked with. If you are a coach this is a MUST read! You can find it on Amazon Inner Strength Inner Peace: Life-Changing Lessons From The World’s Greatest

What do you constantly find in the great athletes?

1. Gifted Genetics-talent

2. They keep success simple… “can you make success simple as a coach”

3. They have a warrior mentality in every workout (more on his definition of a warrior in his book…great stuff!)

As a coach what are some ways you find to motivate athletes to be great vs. good?

1. COACH HEART… “They do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care” “Change a heart, change them forever” Tim thoroughly expressed being able to capture your player’s heart by showing and telling them that you believe in them and their goals/vision. ***This is one of the best things I heard from him, because I could feel his passion, and knew that he truly believed in this. At times I have not made this a priority in coaching athletes, and I left inspired to coach their heart first, before their skills.

2. Be Prepared: “All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be.” Gain as much knowledge as possible in your sport. Everything you read, everyone you meet, everything you do will have an effect on this. Look for every opportunity to better yourself, and in turn you can better your players.

3. Find a Way: Help your players buy into the vision of what they can be and where they want to be! Show them that you believe in them and you are willing to do whatever you can to “find a way” to give them every tool they need to get there. Tim once opened up his garage at 10:30pm for a 2 hour workout when he had to be up at 5am the next day because an Olympic gold medalist missed his workout and could not go to sleep knowing he had not put in his work that day! As a coach, if you want to take your players from good to great you have to be willing to do everything possible to get them there, and that may mean you sacrificing sleep, fun, or free time as a coach.

4. Be Willing to Battle: they must be challenged and reminded that they need to do whatever it takes in order for them to become the best they possibly can. They must be willing to pursue the goal/vision they have w/out fear and with confidence! They must battle whatever obstacles and adversity that may present itself. As a coach you must be willing to battle with them and for them! Battle to push them to be their best, battle to motivate and inspire daily, and battle to give them every opportunity possible to succeed.

Referring to Bill Parcells quote “If they don’t bite when they are pups, they won’t bite when they are grown.” If an athlete is missing an edge, or the toughness/competitiveness to be great, to put thierself on the next level can you that be developed it? Can you coach it? Can you bring it out in them, or will they just always be missing something?

1. YES! You can help bring this out in them! Heart CAN BE coached and it’s the first thing you should coach!

2. Hold them accountable to how good they can become and get them to battle for it every day!

3. Face to face ask them what they want…make them look you in the eye. Use open probed and closed probed questions to make them look within themselves and have to answer specifically yes or no.

4. Evaluate their MENTALITY and bring it to their attention. Do let them give in to anything less than what they have answered to you w/your questions. Bring this to their attention, and tell them how much you believe in them and know they are capable of so much more.

5. Great example of a question to ask yourself as a coach in finding ways to motivate your best players…”How do I get someone like Shaq unhappy w/himself until he surpasses all of kareem’s numbers?”

What is your formula for success in bringing out an athlete’s best?

1. Make them buy into the best that their capable of being

2. Measure them vs. their potential

3. Have them doing everything they are capable of doing—then what???

4. Work to optimize vs. enhance their performance

5. Look them in the eye and tell them “I can’t accept 94% from you…94% isn’t good enough. If I do that, I’M FAILING YOU” When you tell a player this there is a sense of responsibility and accountability they will accept for you giving them everything you have.

How much do the elite athletes take ownership for their individual workouts, film sessions, etc?

1. Almost all of them want to do EXTRA! They finish the workout and ask ‘What else do you have for me”

2. They are PROACTIVE in finding ways to get an edge or improve. If they aren’t proactive, then use brutal honesty and tell them what’s not good enough, so they become more proactive.

3. There coaches have told them exactly “here’s how to win, or here’s how to get where you want to be” they accept the answer and pursue it.

What makes great coaches special? What are some of the characteristics of great coaches you have came across?

***Great coaches always have their players HEART! “Change a heart, change them forever”

1. The best coaches have the ability to teach, they are long hard workers, express care to their athletes, won’t accept mediocrity in sport and life, and will never accept anything less than the player’s best effort.

2. They are never satisfied w/their own personal development, knowledge of the game, or network of people they now. They are always striving for more, striving for better!

3. Be an “outlier”, do things different, don’t always sit in the crowd. Know who you are and what you are about as a coach and person…stick with it. Believe in yourself and be confident in every situation.

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