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Blog Series: Intangible Skills All Super Athletes Have (Part 2)

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*View part 1 of this blog series (skills 1 – 4).

With the excitement of football playoffs upon us, this is a great time to divulge another set of secret skills all super athletes have. One of my favorite times of the year we are treated to superhuman feats of athleticism and get to play witness to the grit of some of the greatest athletes on the planet.

When I discuss secrets of the super athletes in this series, I am talking about the intangibles. Skill and athleticism coupled set the talented athlete apart from the truly great in any sport. In Part 1, I covered the first four intangible skills of super athletes—teamwork, communication skills, emotional control, and tenacity.

Here I dial in four more skills that are absolute game changers.  When an athlete possesses extraordinary intangibles, it will allow them not only to turn the tide of a close game but also be their best at times when their best is needed most.

5. Determination

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” 

–Dan Gable, Olympic Wrestling medalist

This one is obvious for athletes and coaches. To achieve the highest levels of athletics requires extreme dedication to developing and perfecting your craft. Athletes must work diligently to develop the necessary skills to elevate themselves and their teammates to a championship level.

To improve in the realm of our modern competitive athletic landscape takes daily commitment, often in ever-changing circumstances. As coaches, we want to place our athletes in positions where they will be tested. We want to foster an understanding that to reach lofty goals and reap the benefits and rewards of achievement and success, it takes laser focus and intensity. Determination will allow them to stay on track towards their goals.

6. Coping

“If you can’t laugh when things go bad–laugh and put on a little carnival–then you’re either dead or wishing you were.” 

― Stephen King

Often in sports, no matter how hard we work and strive for excellence, things will not go our way. Dealing with failure in a constructive manner is a much-needed skill in any super athlete’s toolbox. This is the very thing that makes sports, athletics and the pursuit of excellence exciting. Over the periods of a career, we will be faced with many failures captured in the public eye.

Ask the kicker that misses the game-winning field goal, or the young batter that strikes out to lose the little league world series.

It is coping skills that we as coaches can impart on our athletes in such teachable moments. This can help them move on in search of greater glory and continued growth. Coping skills are needed to find the nuggets of learning that can fuel athletic growth in such moments.

7. Resilience

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.

– Gever Tulley, writer, speaker, educator, and computer scientist

Teaching skills to cope with failure and disappointment is linked to helping young athletes develop attributes of resilience. Resilience is the dexterity to not only work through difficulty, but find a way to develop and grow at times when all seems lost. The journeyman quarterback traveling between many teams and has the understanding that this next shot will be the shot that becomes his statement of excellence. In other words, it takes great resilience to understand to continue to work given circumstances that are less than optimal.

8. Leadership

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”


– John C. Maxwell, author and speaker

If you were to look through all sports and trace the careers of the greats, you would find one trait in common amongst most of the truly great athletes, leadership skills. Leadership is the ability to be part of the vision and to lead teammates toward that goal. Great leadership skills show that you motivate and drive a team towards a cohesive goal. As coaches tasked with the duty to shape and help our young athletes become better people, leadership skills are extremely valuable.

The skills discussed here are not the only skills needed. However, they are important in the context of coaching our athletes to understand that training for excellence is not just a faster 40-yard dash time or higher vertical leap. Therefore, more will be needed to reach the heights of potential than just our physical skills. It is our job as coaches to continue to supply the techniques and tools that can help them use these hidden tools to their advantage. Stay tuned for Part 3.

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