What Makes a Champion Part 2 – Desire

I started tis topic about what makes a champion last week. If you have not already read it, you should go back and check out part one of What Makes a Champion where I talk about making sacrifices. You don’t have to read these in order but it might help to follow my train of though on the subject.

Scott Moore throwing Pier Morten of Canada in his first match in the 2000 Paralympic Games

Scott Moore throwing Pier Morten of Canada in his first match in the 2000 Paralympic Games

This week I am going to talk about desire. You might thing that everyone has the desire to win or to be successful, but I do not believe that to be the case. I do believe that most people when participating in a sport or any activity do try to do their best and hope to win, but hoping you do well is totally different from that deep seated desire to win or the complete unwillingness to lose. This does not mean that champions never lose, the difference is how they view winning and losing. Last night I was talking about this topic with my wife, Heidi Moore, and she told me the great quote she had written on the mirror in her college dorm room that I think is perfect for this discussion:

Winning isn’t everything, wanting to is – Heidi Moore

A champion’s every thought and action in training is about getting better than the day before. A champion is always trying to improve, even on a victory. Only someone driven by the true desire to be the best will come off of the field of play after what others see as a great victory and brood about mistakes and how they can improve on their performance. I remember several years ago at a tournament in Dallas, a teammate of mine had a tough match but won with a big throw. She came off the mat and asked me how upset our coach was about all the mistakes she had made during the match. I told her he was pretty annoyed and she said we must have the only coach in the building who would be just as upset with a bad win as he would be with a loss. I find myself now as a coach feeling the same way when one of my athletes wins a match but plays poorly. I will praise them for the win but will then immediately talk to them about the mistakes they made and how we are going to avoid making those same mistakes in the next match.

One of the problems I always had as an athlete is that I expected everyone to want to win as badly as I did and to work as hard as I did. I have the problem as a coach. As any coach does, I want my students/athletes to be successful. I sometimes find myself wanting them to win more than they seem to. That is the difference between average and elite athletes. Over the years I have had many athletes tell me they are going to be a national, world, or Paralympic champion. My first thought has always been, “Great, now let’s get to work.” It is, of course, much easier to say you are going to be a champion than it is to do it. Over the years my attitude has changed and my first thought now is often, “Great, now prove it.”

If an athlete is willing to work hard and give 100% of themselves I have always been willing to give the same back to them. What I sometimes notice is that I am giving more than the athlete.

When I coach someone, I want them to win as much if not more than I wanted to win myself. It may sound hokey, but I want them to feel the same thrill I felt when I was sanding on top of the podium listening to my National Anthem at the World and Paralympic games. I want to help the athletes I coach to do what I have done and more, but if I want it more for them than they do for themselves it will not happen. There is nothing wrong with someone not wanting to work that hard but you have to be realistic. You have to understand, no one just says they are going to be a national champion and then it just happens. When you see the top athletes, they do sometimes make it look easy, but what you do not see at the competition is all the years of blood, sweat, and tears, and hours and hours of training that go into becoming a champion.

As a coach, it is my job to help the athletes reach their full potential, but I can only guide them, I cannot do it for them. I have to be able to motivate them to push beyond what they thought possible, and to get up no matter how many times they fall. Extrinsic motivation (coming from outside yourself) is very important but not nearly as important as intrinsic motivation (coming from within). I can teach you, and push you, but no matter how hard I push or how much I try to motivate you, if you cannot motivate yourself, you will not reach your full potential.

In this article I have talked a lot about wining, but while winning is very important to me, wining is not the only thing that makes us winners. I’m not going to get all sappy

Scott Moore talking to Coach Willy Cahill at practice

Scott Moore talking to Coach Willy Cahill at practice

and say we are all winners because we tried, I don’t believe that either. I do believe that those with the true desire to win, who give their all day in and day out, but fall short of their dreams, are winners. I’ll use the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an example. Every two years a few thousand of the world’s best athletes have the honor of representing their countries in the two largest sporting events on the planet. Representing your country in international completion is the greatest honor for an athlete. Of the thousands of athletes who participate in the games, a very small percentage will ever win a medal. Even though the vast majority who participate only have an outside shot at a medal, at best, every athlete in those events goes in believing they can win. No one, or at least I hope no one goes to the Olympic or Paralympic games just hoping to participate. That may end up being their reality but no one goes to the games hoping for 2nd or 5th. Everyone goes to win. It is an honor just to go and to participate and to be a part of something so amazing, and win or lose they should all be very proud of their accomplishment but a champion is never satisfied with anything less that perfection!

Thanks for reading,

Talk to you soon…

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