The core of the human spirit is about more than just strength and knowledge. Likewise, building a championship spirit goes deeper than simply training our mind and our body. Our spirit is routinely the piece of the puzzle many of us fail to nurture. Everyone is equipped with the ability to build a strong spirit; the problem is, we often fight battles which weaken our spirit whether we win or lose.
The first step to building a strong spirit is understanding exactly what it is: A strong spirit does not project strength, it projects humility. It does not defend itself, it defends others. It does not give in order to receive, it gives in order to keep giving. It does not play to win; your spirit plays for God, others, and of course for the love of the sport.
Here are my key ingredients to building your spirit, which I learned on the way to achieving my ultimate goal.
1. Build a Strong Team
Constant support from a strong, experienced teammate and coach challenged me to pursue excellence and reach for my goal. Talk to your family, your friends and your coaches about your aspirations. Let them know how much you appreciate their support when they offer it.
A coach or a mentor is the most important ingredient. Wisdom and experience from someone who knows the path that lies ahead of you will be your biggest asset. Their motivation and challenge will continue to point you in the right direction with encouragement and support. Add in regular challenge and competition from a likeminded competitor, and you have built yourself a strong support team.
Each person on my team wanted me to succeed. They helped me see my blind spots, they challenged me, and they helped me stay focused. Even in an individual sport, building a strong team is crucial to success. My team helped give me strength and an extra push to continue when things did not goes as planned.
2. Developing a Championship Spirit
Developing a competitive spirit deep within yourself can be challenging. The drive to succeed marks each step, lap or jump, and even the smallest wrong move or thought can throw off your rhythm. It is of the utmost importance to building confidence in your spirit.
After fifteen long years of chasing my dream of becoming a national champion; my wife, Tammie, wrote two quotes on my tow rope one day before competition. I was accustomed to writing down the instructions I needed to remember to execute, but the quotes made a profound impact on me. Tammie knew everything I needed to know was already in my head, and what I really needed was this extra motivation in my spirit to overcome my fear.
Finding the inspiration that will speak straight to the core of your spirit and lift you up is crucial to rising above your doubts. Encouraging words were one more step on my road to overcoming my immense fear of losing and building a sense of confidence in myself that my goal was obtainable.
It is healthy for our minds and spirit to spend time outside of our sport. A hobby, a group of friends, or simply a periodic rest day helps us recharge, refresh and renew. Taking time to enjoy another aspect of life reminds us of the dream and the passion that drives us to pursue our sport.
Maintaining a healthy balance every day, every week and every year drives our spirit and helps us maintain our enthusiasm.
4. Overcome the Comparison Game
When I began comparing myself and gauging my chances against larger, stronger and more skilled skiers, it wrecked my spirit. Comparing yourself to other athletes will distract you every time from the heart of your passion, and all of your practice and attention to the core fundamentals of your sport will go right out the window. Stay focused and within yourself; know your abilities and what you are capable of, then use the strength of your spirit to guide the way.
5. Start Simple, and Start Today
Your beginning does not have to be fancy to be meaningful. Focus on your willingness to learn and practice the skills you need to get better, and worry about outfitting yourself with the best equipment later on. Start running with a comfortable pair of shoes, or skiing with a safe but basic set of skis, and allow yourself to expand to more sophisticated and precise equipment as you progress.
Take care of your mind, body and spirit, and you will be able to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way. Together they can help you become stronger than you ever thought possible as you build your championship caliber spirit. Build a strong spirit, and your habits and fundamentals of your mind and body will fall into place and develop you into a well-rounded, world class athlete.