Building your “Athletic Capital”

I’m currently reading a great book recommended to me by a friend called “So good they can’t ignore you”. One of the takeaways from it so far is the author’s “Career Capital” idea. I love it. Since it’s similar to what I tell my athletes all the time, I decided to touch on it. I think it’s an important concept for anyone who’d like to reach high levels in anything.

So what is Career Capital anyway?

Imagine a man named Fred. Fred is a ambitious, competent individual who wants to break into the sales industry. He gets an entry level job making cold calls and learning the ropes. Fred quickly realizes how much he hates the tedious, boring tasks he has to do and over time he no longer tries to go above and beyond his current positions requirements. He’s comfortable just being competent. Fred’s job level and pay reflects his lack of desire to improve himself.

Now let’s look at a man named Matt. Matt is also ambitious and competent. He gets a similar job with the same boring tasks. Instead of hating the tedious amount of work he has to accomplish, he throws himself into it. Through a tremendous, frustrating amount of trial and error, he develops a script for cold calls that closes many more sales than the current script used. Because of this he gets noticed and promoted. Not one to be content, Matt continues doing his best to learn and master every task that comes his way-big or small. His skills continue to develop because he is not comfortable being just good enough. You see, Matt desires to grow his skill level in everything he is confronted with as it pertains to his position. He enjoys mastering the things he does…not just being “ok” at them. Even though Matt does this for himself, something happens…

Matt’s career trajectory raises as his skill level does.

It’s a simple reality. Become better at what you do, and your career will become better for it. Grow stagnant however, and expect to remain in the same position for a long time. Each time you master a new skill, your “capital” grows, and it will pay off.

So what’s Athletic Capital then?

Think of it like this: Let’s use a hockey player as an example. There are so many attributes that make up a great hockey player: Speed, Movement Efficiency, Skill Level (Shot, Defense, Puck Handling, Skating, etc), Tactical Ability, Strength, Agility, Mindset, Size (Weight we can do something about, height we can’t), Nutrition, etc.

Let’s say you start your career at 6 years old. You play other sports, but hockey is the #1. You take private lessons, go to power skates, camps, etc. Because of all this skill level training, you play high level AAA hockey for years until you’re 13. By the time you hit 13, you’re a badass and everyone is talking about you. Unfortunately though, because of all the attention you had on you over the years you’ve ignored your strength and conditioning work, speed work, movement efficiency, and mindset.

Something strange starts happening…the kids you used to skate circles around are starting to catch up to you now. You can’t accelerate away from them. They start becoming more physical and your lack of strength shows when you’re in close quarters with them. Your shot seems less powerful than everyone else.

What happened?

[Tweet “”Your athletic trajectory raises as your athletic capital does”. “]

Read it again. Tweet it. Bookmark that shit. It’s important. Don’t think it is? Think that if you JUST become an athlete, or you JUST work on your skill levels you’ll make it to the big time?

If so, let me list just a few reasons I’ve heard from athletes who come to me in this predicament.

1) We want to draft you next year but only if you gain 15-20 lbs (Nutrition, Strength Work neglect)

2) We’ll give you a scholarship but only if you get your 60yd dash under 7.0 (Speed/Strength neglect)

3) You’re a great athlete and defender but you’re an offensive liability (Skill Level neglect)

4) I can’t breakaway from other players anymore (Speed/Strength/Acceleration neglect)

Look, every single one of those people is a real example. They’re all great athletes. They’ve just neglected certain aspects of their sport’s makeup. And, as we know…

“Your athletic trajectory raises as your athletic capital does”

Now let’s imagine each one of those attributes as a cup to fill up.

Filling up one cup all the way will get you somewhere. Filling up two cups all the way will get you further. BUT, if you want to play high level D1 or Professional Sports, each cup needs to be damn near full! Don’t neglect anything, and your athletic trajectory will skyrocket.

Here’s the cool thing:

As you continue to “fill each cup”, new opportunities will present themselves for you to fill up your cups even more. As you improve, more invitations and opportunities will come. You’ll be invited to try out for all-star teams, go to showcases, train with or be coached by people better than you, etc. EVENTUALLY, you will become “So good they can’t ignore you”. Simply put, if you make sure you’re continuously raising your level, good things WILL happen.

Now, before we proceed let me make one thing clear: It will not happen overnight. Read that again. It just won’t. It will require tons of deliberate practice, but if you remain consistent, then I can promise you it will happen eventually.

Everyone starts with different genetic attributes-Size, speed, strength, movement efficiency, etc. I’ve been a Strength and Conditioning Coach for 11 years now and I’ve only worked with a handful of genetic freaks who were so gifted they could probably sleep all day and still play in a professional league. You’re probably not one of them, but that’s ok.  The important thing to realize is whatever your athletic ceiling may be, you won’t reach it if you don’t fill up all your cups.

So what do I improve?

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure I left some things out, but it’s a great start. Here are the things you should work on. And no, they are NOT in order of importance, because they’re ALL important. (C’mon, I thought we’ve been over this)

Defensive Skill

Doesn’t matter the sport. If you don’t have any defense bad things will happen. Football, wrestling, hockey, baseball, basketball, etc. Guarding, hitting, tackling, sprawling are all important things to work on.

If they can’t score on you, they can’t win.

Offensive Skill

Same thing here. You have to score to win. Your offensive skill level must be diverse as well at the high levels. At the high school/club levels just 2 or 3 very well executed offensive skills may get you to the next level, but you must add to your skill collection every year to make it to the highest levels. Remember though, they must be well executed! It’s important to MASTER the skills you learn, not just know enough to sloppily show them. As my dude Bruce Lee says…

If you feel like shit, carry too much body fat (unless you’re a heavyweight or lineman), don’t cut weight properly, or need to gain some muscle then nutrition may be the most important for you. Dropping body fat makes you faster. Gaining muscle does too, as well as decreasing your injury risk and making you more of an all around badass. Don’t neglect your nutrition. Side note: MOST of the time, I notice athletes really learn about the importance of nutrition around the D1 college years…If you can master it prior to that, you’ll be ahead of the curve.


Stop being weak. If all you do is focus on your skill level, this will catch up to you. Too small and getting knocked off the puck? People stealing the basketball from you while driving the lane? Your wrestling opponents muscling you around? Get stronger.


This generally goes hand in hand with being stronger. Acceleration and speed are all about horizontal and vertical forces in the ground. That’s why “overspeed treadmills” are bullshit (that’s another article though). If you wanna be faster, you need to sprint, jump, bound, squat, and dead lift. Additionally, remember that in just about every sport minus track and field ACCELERATION is significantly more important than top end speed. Not many team sport athletes run more than 10 yards in a straight line.


Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Make sure you’re in shape.

Tactical Ability

This is an important one. If you don’t know your surroundings then you’re gonna have problems. Great athletes know where out of bounds are, how many timeouts they have, how many seconds are left on the clock, and how many points they’re down by. If you don’t understand the game you play, you’re gonna have problems!

Chris Webber shows us a poor example of tactical ability and it costs his team a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Mindset (Mental Toughness/Work Ethic)

MJ, Kobe, Brady. Tireless workers. Competitors. A never say die attitude. Supreme confidence. An “I’m the best” attitude. If you want to be truly great, you must have these qualities. MUST.


While you can’t do anything if you’re 5’9 and want to play in the NBA, putting on weight is an important thing that can be controlled. Weight correlates strongly to being a Division 1 4/5 star prospect. If you’re too light to play with the big boys you need to do something about it.

Movement Efficiency

The greatest athletes in the world sprint, change direction, and jump with smoothness, grace, and efficiency. If you don’t know how to properly move, then you need to learn how.


This is important. Good nutrition, hydration, massage, sleep, etc are all part of being a great athlete. If you don’t do all you can to help your body recover, all the work you’ve done in practice and in the gym will not show on the field/court/mat/ice.

Injury Prevention

Similar to the recovery portion. They go hand in hand. Make sure your body is mobile and flexible. Stretch, roll out, strengthen the areas of your body that could prevent injury, and don’t do anything stupid (Sadly, many injuries happen outside of sports from athletes doing stuff they probably shouldn’t be doing. Like JB sprint then jumping off a wall and breaking his ankle…even though he still won the World Championship.)

Make a list and check it twice

Honestly assess yourself here. What are you deficient in? What are you proficient in? Write it down and plan your attack. Do things you’re bad at. Fill up your “empty cups”.

The greatest are the greatest because they do stuff they suck at. If you can turn your weaknesses into strengths, and make your strengths even stronger, you’re probably going to have a good athletic career.

Every Season. Every Practice. Every Set. Every Rep. Every Game. Make them all count. Fill your Athletic Capital Cups. You won’t regret it.


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