What’s your Legacy?
As a coach, my focus on my athletes isn’t necessarily just about them becoming the best athletes they can be. What matters most to me is who they become, as a person, through our time together.
My first triathlon coach, Yoli, did just this. The first thing she said to me, was: “You must always know that I care much more about who you are as a person than who you are as an athlete – how you treat others and how you treat yourself. I will train you to be the best athlete you can be and to achieve your goals. But none of that will matter if you don’t love and appreciate all those around you, show respect and give back.” She was right, and it resonated deeply with me because, ultimately, people won’t remember the races you win, but they will remember how you made them feel.
While you are relentlessly pursuing your dreams, you must always keep your eye on the ball of what matters most in life, and that is treating others how you would like others to treat you. Appreciate others – your training partners and opponents who fuel your fire every day – and their role in helping you achieve your goals. Appreciate the people who help to elevate you to the next level by pushing you daily, whether in your thoughts or physically beside you. Most importantly, appreciate your loved ones for supporting you in this pursuit, which at times can be a necessarily
I realise how much time and effort it takes to achieve the highest levels, and that means having to focus on yourself to an extraordinary extent. You can do that, but make sure that you also find within your heart, the time to thank all those around you – to support them in their goals. Be a role model, an example of someone who dreams big and goes after their dreams with passion; someone who works hard, but never forgets to love, support and give back to all those around them.
Be a gracious and grateful champion. Appreciate the amazing gift of having the ability and desire to chase your dream; to push yourself to the limit day after day. Appreciate your abilities and your opportunities, and celebrate these on race day along with celebrating all those that helped you get there. This is the key to a balanced life. It is the key to being able to end your journey in the sport, knowing who you are, outside of being an athlete. Knowing that you are valued not just for your talents, but for who you are as a person and the example you set for all those around you.
I have seen some great champions retire from the sport, who are forgotten within a few years. People forget who won what race, or who was ranked at the top. They do, however, remember someone that genuinely made a difference. Someone who inspired all those around them, through a smile, or a gesture of giving. A kind act that helped infuse a dream, or lit a spark of inspiration in someone that will remember that moment for a lifetime.
Be that champion! Be a champion not only of the sport, but of your own life. This is what will give you the richest, most beautiful experience of evolving into the person you are destined to become.
I won a world title in 2001 and was the number one athlete in the world that year, and the following year, 2002. It is now 15 years later and most people that I meet wouldn’t even know that I was once an athlete myself. They know me as a coach, or as a speaker, or an author, or just a human being. I have developed some unbelievable relationships through this sport, relationships that I will cherish for a lifetime. Relationships that I will celebrate and take care of, as I see that I would never be where I am today without them.
Open your eyes, not only to the black line in the swimming pool as you push lap after lap, or the ground beneath you as you hammer the pedals of your bike, or the pavement as you pound it with your feet – open your eyes to all the gifts around you. You will be amazed at how much richer your experience will be every single day when you look at everything that is adding to your becoming the athlete you dream of becoming!
Be a good person. Give your time. If a young child comes up to you after a race asking you how you became so good at this sport, take the time to encourage them, to share your story and to inspire them with your love. Give back to the sport that gives you so much. This will be an experience that is truly capable of shaping your entire future in the most beautiful and powerful way.
Think about yourself as an athlete now. Are you an example? Or are you a warning?
What do I mean by a warning? I mean are you in danger of getting so wrapped up in your training, results, titles, how many medals you have won, that you forget to love and appreciate all those around you? Are you finding the time to give back with genuine appreciation and gratitude for the path you are on, and the people that have helped you along the way? If you are only focused on your pursuit, this is a warning.
Who will you be if you no longer have the sport? Who have you become? What matters to you? What will people remember about you? They will remember you the human being, once they forget about your accomplishments, which they will.
What I don’t want to see happen is you having an identity crisis, of who you are without the sport defining you. I know you inspired those around you with your wins – you’re your accomplishments – but how did you make them feel outside of the arena of triathlon? Who are you as a person? What is your mission in life? These things will become so important when you make the transition out of the sport. Start preparing for that now by becoming the person you want to be, not just the athlete.
As you immerse yourself in this amazing sport, focus every day on what you can give back in terms of kindness, encouragement and gratitude.
Be an example. Shine and leave a legacy!
With love and admiration,