A while ago I posted this picture on my private account with the comment “How much longer before this vein pops?” My athletes responded as expected, with laughter, and more than one of them said “you were probably yelling at us to “Be an athlete!”’.
They’re right. That’s a common phrase heard around EBA and it is so for a reason. Most of the time it’s interpreted as oversimplifying a complicated movement which is why they’ll laugh or smile. But, there is actually a deeper meaning to this simple phrase and we and we want to break down the 3 main scenarios in which our athletes may hear this phrase:
Overthinking is possibly one of the most common factors I see holding athletes back when learning a new skill. It’s not uncommon for high level athletes to be bit of perfectionists and to want to master everything they do, instantly. This idea that they can master a new task on the first attempt or in the early stages can consume their focus and keep them from doing things they naturally know how to do. If I see an athlete overthinking a new task, I may say to them “Be an athlete!” in an attempt to remind them that they already have the skills necessary and if they allow themselves to do rather than think they can accomplish the task at hand. This concept is incredibly relatable to sports; our high paced games don’t allow time to overthink and athletes that learn to react and respond naturally will be much more efficient athletes in game like scenarios.
One of the staples of an athletes mindset in their competitive nature. Whether they compete against themselves or those around them, high level athletes will always have a “never settle” attitude. Athletes aren’t complacent with losing or quick to give up when behind. If I am doing a drill with multiple athletes, or even testing one athlete by themself and see them not competing the way I know they can, I may say to them “Be an athlete!” in an attempt to fire them up and remind them that they should be pushing themselves harder and demanding more of themselves with a “never settle” attitude.
The last of the common triggers for the phrase “Be an athlete!” is when us coaches see someone simply not performing to the level they are capable of. It doesn’t take long for us to know what athletes are made of and understand the limits of their capabilities. If an athlete is having a bad day or just not “there” you may hear us shout this out as a friendly reminder to wake up and push because obtaining our dreams requires work every day. This trigger could look like laziness or this could look more like an athlete losing their confidence in abilities they have once proven before. For situations involving the latter, it’s important to remind these athletes to shake it off and do what they know how to do so they regain that belief in their abilities.
We use this phrase in a training setting but this is also very applicable to games and competitions as well. No athlete has 100% good days all the time. And frankly, I like that this phrase often generates a laugh or smile because lightening the mood is the first step in getting these athletes to loosen up and do what they know they are capable of. This subtle reminder has been a staple for us here at EBA and when our athletes understand the meaning behind it they can quickly realize which scenario applies to the situation and respond accordingly. We all want the best out of our athletes and sometimes a simple reminder is all it takes to get just that, “Be and athlete!”