Roger Federer’s path mimics those of most “Super Champions” (athletes who consistently achieve the highest level in their sport), according to the data (check out the research of Dave Collins and Aine McNamara for a deeper dive). So what do Super Champions do differently from those who are good but never achieve great? Here’s the recipe:
- They have a “learn from it” attitude when faced with setbacks. Talent needs trauma to grow. They know this and face it head on.
- Their parents largely stay in the wings rather than center stage in instruction and “motivation.”
- Their coaches focus on what they can learn from each opportunity the journey provides, rather than a focus on winning and becoming the best ASAP. AKA a long term view.
- They found joy and chased the love. For most that meant playing a bunch of sports. For some perhaps they loved one particular sport. The exact path doesn’t matter, what does is that they play and find joy in whatever they’re doing without a pressure to hyper-specialize and relentlessly train.
Here’s the best part. That recipe equips the athlete with skills for life, regardless of if they become a Super Champion or stop playing sports at 10. If this sounds antithetical to the current youth sports culture, that’s because it is. Good news is, if you have a kid in sports, you can go against the grain. Become a parent who prepares your child for the path rather than bulldozing the path for your child. And to become that parent? Start with you. Don’t have kids? No problem, the path is the same for elite performance in anything.
Apply the principles of Super Champions, regardless of domain. Start with your approach to setbacks. Remember that talent NEEDS trauma. So when your next setback appears, approach it with a “what can I learn” mentality, rather than avoiding it or trying to prevent its occurrence. Even better, go seek out some adversity – something that will challenge you and prepare you for a bigger setback. Second, choose your coach/builder/mentor/inner circle wisely. Surround yourself with those who love to learn rather than win at all costs. The latter burns out, the former sustains for a lifetime. And last but not least – find joy and chase the love. Play in your job. Learn new skills. Play in your hobbies. Play in all areas of your life – unapologetically chase what brings you joy.
Are you on the path to becoming a Super Champion? Or on the path to burnout? You can always take baby steps down a new path. You ALWAYS have a choice. Where do you need to take on a challenge? Where do you need to find more joy? Write. Then do. Baby steps, my friends.