What makes some players the greatest of all time? Researchers are focusing on these essential factors.
LEBRON JAMES AND Steph Curry. Usain Bolt and Galen Rupp. Cristiano Ronaldo and, well, Cristiano Ronaldo.
All of these athletes are at the top of their sports—and it’s not just because they’re physical specimens with extraordinary bodies. They also happen to share a slew of personality traits, according to research from the University of Portsmouth.
In the study, researchers queried athletes, coaches, and sports psychologists at the elite level to reveal what makes someone thrive in their sport. Overall, they illuminated 15 “internal and external” factors that help an athlete go from so-so to sensational. Here’s what it takes:
Keeping an optimistic mindset
Being in control
Knowing what needs improvement
Having a strong sense of motivation
Developing holistically as a person, not just as an athlete
Seeing an upward progression
Feeling like you belong
Having a strong network of support from family and friends
Believing in yourself
Appreciating the journey
Trusting and committing to the process of growth
Stoking an inner desire to succeed
Setting challenging goals
“The results could also help explain why some individuals gifted at sport don’t thrive at elite level,” study author and sports scientist Daniel Brown said in a press release. “Increasingly in high-level sport we are hearing stories of those who achieve high-level performance, but at the expense of their well-being.”
What’s more, researchers aren’t clear on the hierarchy of personality traits—whether some weigh more heavily in an athlete’s success. Brown will soon conduct research to see if changing some of the above conditions (or “enablers”) can elicit a change in athlete performance. For example: Would Ronaldo be as successful if he weren’t so confident in his abilities? Concentration and focus can be just as powerful as an excellent training regimen.
“To concentrate on being a champion, your mind has to be developed to such an extent that you can really stay very tuned in to what you’re doing,” said one practitioner who was interviewed.
Some food for thought if you’ve got some anxiety before a race or competition.