I had the privilege to attend a presentation by Amanda Beard last night. For those who aren’t sure who she is: Amanda is one of the US all-time great swimmers. She went to her first Olympics in 1996 at the age of 14. Attended the University of Arizona from ’99-’03 and went on to swim in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics with a crate full of medals to her credit along the way. But, she has met her challenges which are detailed in her forthcoming book that covers her struggle with alcohol, drugs and eating disorders and now plans to compete in an unprecedented 5th Summer Olympics in 2012.
Message to Athletes
Did you know she walked away from swimming after the ’96 Olympics? But here is the important message. She expressed to her coach and parents that she was not happy. She did not enjoy it any more and she wanted to just be a “normal” teenager. She did not act out or blame others. She did not make excuses or feign injuries, illnesses or whatever in order to get her message across that she was done! So, athletes, be honest. Do sports for YOU and not others.
Message to Parents and Coaches
When she sat down with her coach and parents to tell them she wanted to quit they did not try to coerce her into continuing. They expressed how they loved her regardless of her decision. They let her quit. Period! The important aspect of this supportive environment is that their love for her was not dependent on her athletic performance. It was unconditional. Her well being and not their egos were at the heart of the decision.
Message to All
She did not stay “quit” for long before she realized how much not just swimming itself meant to her but all her friends were there too! She was really clear about how much she enjoyed swimming. It was not peer pressure, parental pressure or coaching pressure that got her back to swimming. It was her deep passion for the sport. Youth should not be forced to remain in sports. It is one thing to get youth involved with sports in order to keep them healthy and active and learn active lifestyles that will serve them for life. It is quite another to coerce or hold hostage love and affection in order to keep someone in sports. The message was to do what you love.
Message to Athletes
I asked her about day-to-day motivation and focus. It is easy to get “up” for Olympics and competitions in general but what about getting out and doing those hours and hours of working out? She admits that seeing the alarm go off at 5 AM is not always pleasant (especially thinking of dipping into a cold pool!). And yes she wants to hit the snooze button. But, she makes one agreement with herself. “I tell myself that I will just go to the pool. I don’t have to even workout. But I will commit to showing up because my friends are there.” She went on to say that once she is there – she always ends up doing her workout.
There are a couple important messages on motivation is here.
One: The atmosphere (friends, location, etc.) is important to be a place you want to be because it may in fact be the only thing that gets you out some days.
Two: It takes only ONE decision at a time. Deciding just to show up is all you need to do. Then take it from there. More times than not, you’ll get it done. I’ve seen this happen thousands of times at the track.
Three: Even at the elite level there are times that it is difficult to stay motivated. It is not easy! So, stop thinking you’re the only one who struggles sometimes with your motivation. We all do. But, the difference is in how we deal with those moments.
Message on Working Out to Athletes
It was fascinating to hear how her training has changed over the years. She used to workout daily almost 6 hours per day in 3 different sessions. She now works out once a day for 6 days and takes Sundays off. She is as fast as ever. Her message: you have to do quality over quantity. Stop wasting time with less productive workouts.
So from a swimmer to the runner – great lessons to learn.