Musing on Athletic Excellence


Athletic excellence and coaching excellence have been fascinations of mine since I was a young athlete. During the course of my career I have been fortunate to train with, observe and coach some great athletes in both individual and team sports. I have also been able to work with and closely observe some great coaches. In this post I will share my thoughts on athletic excellence and in another post my thoughts on coaching excellence. There is some obvious overlap between athletic excellence and coaching excellence.

Talent and Ability – You can argue what talent and ability are but regardless of how you define them they are a must. The truly excellent athletes make the most of their ability. Sometimes they may not have the most ability but they find ways to exploit what they have to the maximum.

Mindset – Mindset is the current buzzword, 45 years ago I had no idea what it was called, but every great athlete that I have seen has had a growth mindset and the commensurate grit. They are always focused on possibilities. Never fixed in their thinking.

Focus – Athletic excellence demands a laser like focus on the task at hand. No distractions.

Dedication – This is a given and goes along with focus. They know what they have to do and are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve that.

Routine – This is the difference maker. Routine! Routine! Routine! The great ones have training and practice routines that border on ritual. I think this serves as a psychological anchor, a point of reference that gives them a sense a security

Resilience – They have the ability to bounce back from failure or setbacks, learn from it and internalize the lesson to get better.

Lifestyle – An athlete for 24 hours not just the hours of training or competition. It is not possible to be a chump off the field and a champ on the field.

Consistency – The great athlete is consistent, the lows are not too low and the highs are not too high. They operate on an even keel. In other words you know what you are going to get they show up everyday. The spectacular comes from the consistency in training and competition.

Eye on the Prize – Focus on the goal at all times. The goals guide them like a beacon in a storm. The goals keep them on course.

Know Their Strengths – They are acutely aware of their strengths and train and compete to their strength. Over time they have the ability to bring their weaknesses up to the level of their strengths.

Risk – Willing to take calculated risks and occasionally push the envelope. You be willing to risk(not wreckless) to be the best. This demands that they are comfortable with being uncomfortable all the time.

Athletic Intelligence – The great athlete possess an high athletic IQ. They know their bodies; they know when to push and when to back off. They understand their sport. They may not be able to articulate it but they show it in everything they do in training and competition.

There is no doubt more, but these are the qualities that stand out for me.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

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