3 Characteristics of the Best Athletes


People often ask, what are the features of the very best athletes? Having coached, observed, studied, collaborated, spent time  and spoken with athletes for my entire life, here are the three (3) characteristics of the best athletes. Note: I have chosen not to include talent, because talent is a pre-requisite. However, tenacity is more important than talent. 

jeanette cash coldwell banker advantage

characteristics of the best athletes1)  Passion- The best possess an unquenchable thirst to see how good that they can become & they LOVE their sport. 

This passion translates into a willingness and desire for hard work. Dale Earnhardt was once in an accident and could not finish his next race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He started the race, but they had to remove him from the car. Here was the greatest race car driver, basically crying, because they had to take him out of the car. He said, “ Nobody loves anything more than my driving a racecar.”

2)  Competitiveness- The best athletes love to compete and put themselves in situations that test their skills.

The competitiveness is more than just beating others; it is the feeling that they get from testing themselves under pressure. I often witness athletes even outside of their own sport, remain so competitive to win regardless of the event (e.g., checkers, sit-ups, darts, pogo-stick, etc.). They may fear losing, but they don’t succumb to that fear, they have an inner confidence that they continually compete. It’s one of  major characteristics of the best athletes. As Jimmy Connors once stated, “I hate to lose, more than I love to win.”

3)  Another Gear- If you listen to quality sports announcers close enough, they mention how certain players can change speeds.

For example, Emmitt Smith holds the record for career rushing yardage in the NFL, and while few state that he is the best ball carrier of all time, he was nonetheless able to hit the gap successfully and turn downfield—He had another gear. The characteristics of the best athletes are able to muster up the inner fortitude and the “it” factor which allows them to finish strong. They simply have another gear…

These skills may be more innate with the best, but they can be learned and cultivated. Honestly assess your own mental game and answer which of these characteristics do you possess and which one’s need strengthened.

Click here to subscribe to my Friday Mental Toughness newsletter…

top mental toughness coach

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  Check out all of our books on Mental Toughness Here.  Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact drrobbell@drrobbell.com

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .

It is a shame that Robert Griffin III is not even close to the same quarterback he was last season. His Rookie of the Year season produced not only 27 TDs, over 800 rushing yards, and a playoff berth, but he also provided the franchise hope. The Washington Redskins finally had a quarterback that was “better” than advertised.

injures athletes need to be 100% mentally

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

And now it’s all changed…that’s what injuries do.

Less then 10 months after tearing his knee, RG3 is playing hurt, and its obvious that he is not 100%. His ability to scramble and provide the same read-option offense as last season is simply non-existent. Even his throwing mechanics are adjusted due to his knee. Now, those issues will be remedied with time, however unfortunately the worse is probably yet to come.

What happens mentally with athletes when they get injured is that they return too soon.

In the athletes mind, they feel close to the same as before the injury, however after returning too fast, they soon discover that they are off. They may feel fine for 9 out of 10 plays, but that one play where they can’t cut, accelerate, or move like before causes doubt. Physically, it causes them to muscle guard and protect the injured area.

Doubt, which has never been there before is suddenly present. Doubt causes slight hesitations, over-thinking, or even trying to do too much. As a result of the doubt and less than stellar play, they lose confidence! In the RG3 situation, add the microscope of being an NFL quarterback, the highest of expectations for the team, the questionable coaching/doctor relationship, the media scrutiny, and one can magnify the pressure to perform ten-fold.

An athlete’s greatest strength is their confidence; it is why they are so great. If an athlete is allowed to return too fast and is not 100%, the confidence slowly goes and it is often difficult to get it back.

Photo:Reuters

Photo:Reuters

Compare this scenario of RG3 with another phenomenon with a knee injury, Derrick Rose. He sat out the entire 2012- 2013 season with the Chicago Bulls and came under intense scrutiny from everyone. However, he knew he wasn’t 100% and only now two weeks before NBA training camp, and 17 months later does he announce that he finally is healthy.

It’s not courageous to return when you’re injured. Advice to all athletes, injuries are one of the toughest things you’ll experience, but you must return to play ONLY when you are 100%.

Rob Bell revised slide3Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  His 2nd book is titled The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness. Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact drrobbell@drrobbell.com

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .

love you moreHave you ever played the game— I love you more?  Choose from the following three choices, which relationship best describes you.

1) Your partner loves you more than you love him or her.

Or

2)  You love your partner more then he/she loves you.

Or

3)  You love each other equally, but it is really boring. 

Now, if you did not pick an answer that says something about you as well. But, the question, if answered honestly, reveals so much about our sense of control.

If we picked answer #1, we want to be loved more than our loving the other person. It means we value and cherish being in control. We actually fear losing control even to the person we are most intimate with physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

If we picked answer #2, we sacrifice control over the relationship, knowing what ultimate love really feels like. It involves 100% complete trust and surrender, because we believe that our emotional needs will still be met. It means that we are willing to be vulnerable and completely exposed. If your heart has ever been broken and you can honestly pick #2, you’re stronger than you think.

If answer #3 was your choice, you either weren’t honest or you really are boring. There is nothing wrong with this choice either, except that you struggle with choices.

I work with athletes and coaches who are natural control freaks… There is nothing wrong with choosing #1. I don’t celebrate that I picked #1, but it also means that when we lose perceived control,  we can get stressed or  un-productive.

Bottom-line: we confuse and spend too much time on the things we can influence, namely other people, rather then focusing only on the things within our control; our attitude, preparation, and our hustle. If you’re stressed, it usually is a result of focusing on others and expectations of others rather than on the things we can control.

Rob Bell revised slide3Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  His 2nd book is titled The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness. Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact drrobbell@drrobbell.com

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .