The Mental Book of Racing

It Takes a Village

Team Awesome before the 2016 Rio Olympic Road Race

Over the years I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to know and work with many talented and successful athletes. A common theme that I discovered was that all of them had a strong and supportive network of people or what we might even call a “team” to help them achieve their performance goals. As we all know there are many factors that come into play regarding performance (e.g., physical, mental, social). And just like a team has to work together — so do these key factors.

So who makes up a performance team? Well, that can often depend on the individual, their specific sport, team, and performance goals. One example is that many elite level endurance athletes (e.g., cycling, running, swimming) will have a performance team that includes a coach that works on the physiology/skills/tactics components of performance, a team physician, sport psychologist/performance consultant, physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, strength coach, and nutritionist. It’s also important for athletes who aspire to compete at the elite/pro level to have access to mentors that can help guide them through the various challenges of becoming a professional athlete. As you can tell, in order to compete at the highest performance level — it takes a village.

Another key factor is determining what type of performance team best fits your individual objectives and goals. Unfortunately, there is not a blueprint of how to create a successful performance team and for some you may not have the option to choose everyone that is a part of your team. However, it’s important that you take the time to develop a relationship with your team. The familiarity and comfort that is created by establishing these relationships can help to create a sense of trust and transparency that is a crucial part of optimal performance and achieving your objectives/goals.

Like all teams, your performance team also needs a vision, a sense of purpose, and a clear map as to how each individual team member (and mentor) fits into your athletic ambitions. I find it extremely helpful when members within the performance team are able to communicate and provide feedback to one another, creating a source of synergy that can aid in enhancing performance.

Here are some things to consider when creating your performance team:

What are my athletic objectives/goals — do I have them clearly stated and written out?

What are my strengths and weaknesses as an athlete — and what areas (e.g., physical, mental, skills, tactics) can I continue to work on?

Am I prepared to be accountable and to follow set physical and mental training?

What resources do I have at my disposal (e.g., financial, team, programs) in order to create a strong team?

What is my performance team vision and plan?

There will also be times throughout your athletic career when you will need to allow for change within your performance team. The athlete you were five years ago may not need the same style of coaching today and it is critical that you continue to assess how your team is aligning with your vision and plan. Remember, just like your goals — it’s always good to revisit and when needed to revise your team plan.

Your performance team should not only be a group of people that you see as experts, but rather a village of people that make you a better athlete and person.

Surround yourself with individuals who:

Help you understand and own your athletic identity and full potential

Understand your unique athletic experience

Challenge you to take needed risks and to go outside of your comfort zone

Help you overcome, learn, and grow from setbacks, hurdles, and challenges

Offer positive and empowering energy

Inspire you to keep chasing your dreams

My last piece of advice is to create a village where you feel comfortable being yourself and that supports your vision — it doesn’t hurt if they can also make you laugh. Athletes who are happy and feel supported tend to be better aligned for delivering higher levels of performance (in sport and life).