The 7 Habits of Highly Recruited Athletes


“Winners make their own luck”

In a few days I will turn 28, which marks my 10 year anniversary of working with elite athletes. Over those 10 years I’ve been able to pick out a few habits that sets the athletes who are incredibly successful in their sport and training apart from the rest. While this is not a comprehensive list, I strongly believe that these habits will take you a long way not only in your athletic success, but in life as well.

1. Consistent Hard Work.

This is first and foremost the most important habit. I can say for sure that I have never seen an inconsistent, lazy elite athlete. Michael Jordan was famously cut from his high school basketball team, worked incredibly hard to improve himself, and proceeded to become the greatest basketball player of all time-through consistent hard work, not incredible talent. In the book Outlier’s, the author believes that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. It doesn’t matter if you have incredible talent or genetics because if you do not work hard consistently, you will never amount to your athletic potential.

Even if you hate training, never forget that “The Juice is worth the Squeeze”

Start NOW: If you have been skipping early morning workouts, dogging it in practice, or finding excuses to miss training then be prepared for mediocrity. If however, you demand greatness then it is time to step up your consistency and work ethic.

2. Iron Sharpens Iron

Successful athletes understand that in order to get better, you must surround yourself with those better and more knowledgeable than yourself. This includes coaches and teammates. If you are consistently top dog on your team, or not being pushed by your coaches or teammates then you will never reach your full potential. Seek out better practice partners or coaches. Find people in your athletic life that constantly challenge, inspire, and push you to higher levels. It will ALWAYS be worth it.

Start NOW: If you always look for an easy training partner in practice, stop it. Find the toughest person to guard, wrestle, race against, etc. and push yourself against them every opportunity you get. You may get your butt kicked initially, but over time your game will elevate.

3. Goals and Drive

“Vision without action is a daydream; Action without vision is a nightmare.” Read that again. Great athletes never mindlessly train for no reason. There must always be a goal because if you do not know why you are practicing, you will never give your everything or make the necessary sacrifices to get there! Whether it is to make varsity, win a state or national championship, get a D1 scholarship, etc, it does not matter as long as you know what ATTAINABLE (note: be realistic with your timeframes) goals you are working towards and the steps you need to take to reach them.

Start NOW: If you don’t know what a good goal in your chosen sport is, sit down with your coaches and map out a plan. Set attainable goals for the short and long term and do everything in your power to get them. Understand that short term goals met=long term goals met. Example for a football lineman would be- Short term: Don’t allow any sacks for the next game, do hill sprints 2 times a week, beat your squat record in a month, go against the toughest player in practice as often as possible; Long term: Make the all-state team, get a D1 Scholarship to your favorite college/university.

4. Attack!

Elite athletes do NOT do things half assed!! When you train or practice, do it to the best of your ability. One of the great wrestler’s of all time, Dan Gable once said:

“The obvious goals were there – State Champion, NCAA Champion, Olympic Champion. To get there I had to set an everyday goal which was to push myself to exhaustion or, in other words, to work so hard in practice that someone would have to carry me off the mat.”

Not only did Dan Gable set goals (See #3), he also attacked everything he did. He wanted to work so hard in practice he would have to be carried off the mat. When you are practicing or training, don’t use it as a time to talk, or have fun. Use it as an opportunity to improve mentally and physically.

Start NOW: Next time you are practicing and you want to talk or take a break, don’t. Keep pushing your limits and you will reach a level of athletic confidence you haven’t experienced before.

5. Champion Mindset

Highly recruited individuals understand that success is a long, grinding journey, not something that comes fast and easy. They do not get discouraged or quit when things do not go their way, but instead they use those negative events as motivation and a lesson to aid them in their quest for improvement. In the book Mastery, George Leonard argues that the journey to mastery comes with many plateaus in which there is no growth. However, when there is consistent effort eventually there will be a rise in skill level. Elite athletes recognize this and are willing to put in the work required to become great.

Start NOW: Next time you lose or make a mistake, don’t feel sorry for yourself or dwell on it. Instead, learn what you could have done differently, pick your head up, and move on like a true champion.

6. Do things others don’t want to do

One of my favorite quotes ever is:

“When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is, and when you meet him he will win.”

Highly recruited athletes do things others don’t want to do. I have had athletes come to train the morning of prom, on their birthday, and late at night right after sport practice. Even if they are tired, have other things to do, or just plain don’t feel like training they still make the time to do it because that is the price you pay for greatness.

Start NOW: In my experience, some of the training sessions you least want to attend prove to be the most fruitful. Next time you try to convince yourself not to go train, go anyways. You won’t regret it.

7. Sacrifice

No one achieves greatness without sacrifice. Instead of hanging with friends or watching tv and playing video games, use that time to get better instead. Yes, there will be times you miss something fun or exciting, but sacrifice leads to greatness and that will far outweigh any temporary fun. While this does not mean you should never have fun or alienate your friends, it does mean that if you want to be great when you have the choice to practice or watch tv, choose the former. Here’s a great video on Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs on Sacrifice:

Start NOW: Next time you have the choice between an extra practice and hanging with friends or watching TV, choose practice. The best never rest. For more information or to get started on your journey to being a highly recruited athlete, click here!

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