The importance of finding your OWN identity as an athlete
"There are many roads which lead to Rome" as the old saying says. Well, there are probably even more roads to victory, as we have many different winners every tournament and every Championships! This is something very inspirational and motivating for many athletes and coaches, since we as humans/ athletes are always interested in "The key to succes", and what that may be.
I think we all can agree on that the pillars of succes are: DEDICATION, HARD WORK and TEAM, without persistance, hard work, lazer focus and a great team around you, it is hard to achieve succes in sports or in life. Some will say that you need a little luck as well sometimes. Probably true, but I would like to quote a World Famous Swedish Skier Ingemar Stenmark.
When he was asked if he felt that he was lucky today, after winning a race with very small margin. He said: "I do not know so much about luck, the only thing I know is, that the more I train, the more luck I have".
I think that it is very important as an athlete to have a good mix of:
External motivation and influence: This could be video´s from techniques, matches, training exercises from other athletes or other sports. When you have anylised what your strength´s and weaknesses are, then you can find help and inspiration from trainers and training partners. The bigger variation of training partners you work with the more ways you will find to improve your game.
Internal drive and focus: When you know what your goals are, and most of all HOW you are going to get there. It is much easier to put in the daily work and tackle setbacks along the way.
Besides this, I think it is very important to know 2 things about yourself as an athlete and person:
1- What are my most effective learning methods?
We have 7 ways to learn things, and we all have our favourite ways within these 7:
Some of them which are much related to Martial Arts are:
Visual:You prefer using pictures, images and demonstrations of the techniques. (Seeing)
Verbal: You prefer using words, both in speech and writing. (Reading/ Hearing)
Physical: You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch. (Feeling/ Doing)
This is very important information for you as an athlete, but of course also for your coach!
2- What are my most important drives in life and sports?
You need to know WHY your career as an athlete is important to you. WHAT you like the most about the trainings and competitions and HOW you need to develope/ be as an athlete to reach your goal!
When I started my career as a Ju Jitsu athlete, I just came from judo. When I got injured my coach told me that maybe ju jitsu was good for me for a while. It was softer for my elbow, and I could still be on the mat. After some tournaments I realy liked it and I got invited to the National Team. When I came on my first International Tournaments
There where a lot of opponents which had a much higher level of karate then me, and even some elite judo players. This was a direct eye opener for me. I knew very soon, that even I would put in double the hours that they did and try to fight as they did, I would never be able to catch up with them. I would always be behind them anyway. So I had to find another way to beat them.
I had to develope my OWN style! I did as followed:
* Find the strengths and weaknesses in my opponents game
* Find the strengths and weaknesses in my game
* Find the key elements concerning strength, conditioning and technique for my training
* Find the tactical key´s for every match
This changed my career as an athlete totally! I was maybe not the strongest, fastest, most talented athlete. But I was probably the best prepared athlete in my weight class. That was MY way to win.
My advice to young, but as well senior athletes. Find inspiration on many levels - but do not copy! Work hard to make things your own! This will give you a bigger chance for success!
One of the most recent and most fitting stories for this blogg´s subject is the journey which one of my athletes of the Swedish National Ju jitsu Team had in 2018.
After a very hard year in 2017, with three mayor Championships (Y-WC, Senior EC and World Games) William Seth-Wenzel told me that he needed a brake from ju jitsu. He wanted to travel for a long time and take distance from the competitions. With only one year to go to the WC in Malmö, my first reaction was if he was sure about his descission, and of course we talked about that it was a big risk to take, because you never know how long it takes to get back in rythm after such a long break.
We made the agreement that William had the chance to regain his place on the National Team again at the Paris Open in May, to Qualify to the Senior EC in June, Where he could qualify for the WC in Malmö in November. A very tight window, which could give a lot of stress for other athletes, but William was very confident in his descision. I told him that even though I did not totally understand his descission, I hoped that he would have a great travel, recharge, and prove me wrong when he got back in April.
I can tell you that he did! William came back, happy and hungry to be on the mat again. At the Paris Open he got the 3th place and qualified for the EC. One month later he wins the EC, and was 100% back on track for the WC where he probably makes his very best tournament he ever did to become the World Champion on home ground in Sweden!
One of the biggest prove for me as a coach that you have to trust your athletes and that the best results often come when the athlete can be him/herself and there is harmony between the technical, physical and mental part!