Staying true to yourself when trying to achieve a huge goal such as, the Olympics can be so difficult. The Olympics is the end goal for many athletes, it’s “the dream”. There have been thousands of Olympians and therefore thousands of different approaches to success. There is no formula for how to make an Olympian or world champion. If you get to the Olympics but haven’t stayed true to yourself have you really won?
The inspiration for my thoughts today came to me while I was listening to Finding Mastery an amazing podcast about sports psychology. I fled my house here at training camp where I live with five other paddlers and went to the beach to zone out. In listening to this podcast I started to reflect on my upbringing in sport. I wasn’t raised by Olympians or star athletes. What I did have was in my opinion, more valuable. My parents were (and are) wildly supportive. They would have been cheering me on at pottery lessons if it meant I was happy and fulfilled. They put me and my brother in paddling not to make future Olympians but to keep us out of trouble in the summer. I was only four when I began my journey but at that point the journey was to catch frogs not medals.
My parents never miss a race, they follow me around the world to cheer me on. On my home course I can only ever hear my Dad’s voice over the buzz of the crowd. They never forced me to train but they did hold me accountable. They knew if I wanted to succeed I needed to get up at 5:00am but they also knew that as a teenager I wouldn’t want to get up at 5:00am. They got me out of bed but wouldn’t fight it. However, at the dinner table I wasn’t a paddler, I was a person who paddled. It wasn’t my whole identity so we kept the paddling talk to a minimum after 5:00pm. There was never an obsession. As I get older this is more and more valuable. My ability to turn off my brain after practice and relax i owe completely to my parents. I know constantly reflecting on video and watching other athletes on their off time is a strategy of many champions. It’s not something I do and I don’t pretend to find it interesting. Does this make me less of an athlete? I seem to still be going fast without doing this and I’m way happier.
I have always been a great racer, I will have an infinite amount to write about that topic another time. For now, I’ll stay on the theme of staying true to me. I’m not the person on the start line with the laser focus. I am generally making jokes with fellow competitors or giggling to myself. I’m able to stay calm. In the tent during my warm up I’m hopping around chatting with people or even dancing. This works for me and I’ll be doing this at the Olympics if the time comes. If I’m acting like a robot on race day I wont be myself.
It’s so easy to get caught up in training camp drama but as I get older and more confident in who I am I’m finding it easier to stay authentic to myself. Sometimes that means leaving the house to do pointless stuff on the beach…
I didn’t even realize how calm I was while I was doing this silly task until I was done. Find a way to bring everything back to your core values. Remember to stay true to yourself on the journey to YOUR Olympics, whatever that may be.