Lessons Learnt from Olympic Athletes

Everyone has those great career moments when they work on something that fills them with a mix of all the right things – challenge, excitement and meaning. For us, it was when we were asked to provide career coaching to some of South Africa’s Olympic athletes. We were in awe – these men and women had dedicated so many years of their lives to represent their country at the world’s greatest sporting event. While we coached and guided them we also learnt some life lessons from these athletes. Here is a bit about what we learnt:

1. Hard Work is an Understatement

This may sound obvious, but when you work with people who spend 4 years of their lives, training 6 hours a day for a single event, you realise the magnitude of that dedication. It goes beyond working hard, and it takes discipline to a whole new level. These athletes train when they are sick, only get 2 weeks a year off from a strict training schedule and had to sacrifice time spent with family and friends in order to achieve their dream. It taught us that hard work can be taken further and that it’s about the long game – persistent and long-term hard work pays off.

2. Always Be Humble

There is a rare strength in quiet humility. Perhaps one of the most surprising lessons is how humble these Olympians are – there is no arrogance and no boasting. Their strength, energy and quiet humility said it all.

3. Lean on People

A common thread in our work was the sense of community and family these athletes felt. The people around them - their fellow athletes, coaches, therapists and trainers were all there to support each other. We learnt that when the going gets tough, lean on the people you trust and be there for people when they need you. This simple act of mutual support goes a long way in providing peace of mind, which allows you to focus on delivery.

4. It’s All About the Mind | Back Yourself Always

While the Olympic Games take absolute physical strength, the mental element is even more important. Dedicating your life to something so challenging requires a mental dedication and focus that allows you to block everything else out. Through our coaching sessions, we learnt the importance of getting yourself in the right headspace and keeping yourself there. When in doubt, back yourself and believe that you can do it.

5. When Life Gets You Down, Get Up Quickly

Resilience is nothing new. The trend that we found was not just about bouncing-back, but about how quickly it was done. Despite injuries and exhaustion, these guys got up and they did so really quickly. There was no time for self-pity, they used their energy to get going and get back on track.

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