This post was published on March 27 2010 while on my journey to South African Olympic Trials and the 2012 Olympic team.
Success at the highest level is a very large, thousand piece puzzle. This is not a puzzle that you sit down to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon and finish before dinner time.
The pieces of this puzzle don’t come in a neatly packaged box. Or a picture of what the finished product will look like on the front. This is a puzzle that takes time and patience. First you need to get clear on the picture, then find the pieces. Only then can you begin putting them together.
To finish this puzzle you need talent. You need dedication, a drive, and an unflagging passion for what you do. You need the right equipment, the right plan, the right food, the right rest, the right temperament. And those are just the foundational pieces.
There is one more piece, it’s one that I think often gets overlooked…
Athletes need support structures. If you want to succeed, you need a team.
I’ve watched so many athletes fail because they chased the dream alone. Some of them I coached, others I trained with. They all had talent. They all had dedication and a great training program. But they didn’t have the support system they deserved. And it held them back from breaking through.
I have also seen athletes with incredible support systems fail to recognize it, or take it for granted… and the same thing happens, they don’t perform as well as they should.
I am learning more and more how critical this piece of the puzzle is. To be the best you can, as an athlete you need a support structure.
Sometimes support is friendly and cushy. Other times it tells you to quit your bitch’n and get the job done.
Whatever the form, it counts as support if you know that no matter what, you have a team that’s got your back. Whether you win or lose, succeed or completely blow it. The result does not matter because you know those people will be there for you. To love you, give you a hug or a high 5!
When you have a solid support system in place you open a whole new window of opportunity. You’ll have a lot more fun with your training. You’ll enjoy your racng experiences so much more.
I have been very blessed with a family that was incredibly supportive of my swimming over the years. From signing up to help the the Malawi Aquatic Union at the beginning of the journey. To flying 1000 of miles to cheer for me as I swum a 60 second race at the end. Never mind the financial investments that allowed me to live, eat and travel to swim meets. They were there all the way through.
Since 2005 I have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the most wonderful woman in the world too. I am really not sure what I would do without the love and support that I get from Carla (2018 edit – she’s now my wife!).
She has been by my side through the the worst of times. Looking after me through my 2007 surgeries when I was about as useless as a human being could be. She is endlessly patient, understanding and flexible. She followed me and my swimming escapades from Durban to Namibia and then to the USA. She has looked after me when I was sick. Loved me when training was tough, fed me when I was hungry, cheered for me when I’ve raced, spread news about my results. She’s the biggest asset I have in my corner.
There are many more people that have shown me love and support over the years and I am so thankful to all of you.
Spread the love, let your athletes know you are there for them regardless of what their results are. Get loud, make some noise, fill the stands, wear the T-shirt and watch as the ability we have to perform, sky rockets!