1984 was the first time I was aware of the convergence of the U.S. presidential election, the Olympics, and the fact that we got an extra day in the year--it was a leap year, too. When Mary Lou Retton landed her perfect vault, I immediately turned to my parents and asked for gymnastics lessons. I was 9 years old and just starting to see the bigger world outside the box of our suburban Arizona neighborhood.
Every fourth year since has brought me the same kind of excitement. As these big events line up, each pulls us out of our day-to-day and reminds us of much greater possibilities in human achievement. Now, I still catch the Olympic buzz and marvel at the skill and athleticism of the whole thing.
In every event, I love the personal stories shared about the athletes, their families, and their coaches. This time, I watched through the lens of someone on my own professional journey. I imagined what it'd feel like to come to work every day with an Olympic-caliber coach in my corner.
Often preferring to be behind the scenes, there are thousands of coaches who focus on pushing the athletes in their care from exceptional talent to top performer. For them, it's not a periodic spectacle but a passion-fueled job to bring out the very best in those they work with. Coaches make it possible for the runners, swimmers, cyclists, rowers, wrestlers, and all the other athletes to have a chance at something truly remarkable. It's the opportunity to compete and earn the title of "the best in the world."
Below, I've put together some words of wisdom gathered from Olympic coaches. You may not be an Olympian, but you can be the best in your field - with a little coaching along the way. Here are some of the words of wisdom inferred from the coaches' quotes on the topic of what it takes to make yourself and your team successful.
- "Compete for yourself. Focus on the personal joy competition brings and not the weighty expectations." --Aimee Boorman, Simone Biles's coach
- "Improve your technique or skill level. Be a student of the strategies of your game, whatever they are. And take care of yourself away from the field of play." --Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps's coach, advises three things to improve performance
- "You have to be willing to go the extra mile. You have to be willing to do more than anyone else. That's where champions come from." --Pistol Coach Sergey Luzov, USA Shooting Team
- "You must lose in order to win." --Glen Mills, Usain Bolt's coach
- "The magic happens when [the team members] all get along. The team wants to hear from people they trust." --David Marsh, U.S. Women's Swim Team coach
- "Connect on a personal level to build trust, though not at the expense of honesty or the collective needs of the team." --Jill Ellis, U.S. Women's Soccer team coach
- "Adjust your strategy to your team. Be your best player's best friend. It's the leader's job to get rid of distractions. Don't have rules, have standards." --Leadership advice from Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski)