As the Olympics are heating up and taking place now, a couple weeks ago track had its own version of the Olympics for youth athletes. The Junior Olympic National Track and Field Championships were held in Sacramento, California and one of our athletes, Aziza Ayoub, was competing.

If you have been following our athletes, you may recall Aziza won the state title in her division for the 800M run this past June. She decided to try her chances against the best of the best and compete in the Junior Olympics.

After winning the Junior Olympic state and regional meet in both the 400M and 800M, she was ready to run them both in Sacramento. This track meet had lots of athletes from all over the country competing and was a whole week affair.

Aziza ran a semi-final in the 800M. The next morning ran a semi-final in the 400M and later that afternoon ran the 800M finals. The next morning after that ran the 400M final.

She ended up capturing first place in her 17-18 age group for the 800M and 6th place in the 400M, running a PR in the semi-final heat. Not a bad track season for this kid.

I’ve been the strength coach for a state champion football team, state champion field hockey team, a member of a 4×100 relay state champion team, and now Aziza as an individual champion. I’ve taken note of some of the qualities/traits you need to have to be a champion.

Here they are:

  • Unfortunately, the first one is that you have to have some talent to begin with.  I could do the same type of training I did with Aziza with another athlete and if that athlete doesn’t have any talent, it might not make that big of a difference.  Pound for pound, Aziza is one of the strongest athletes I have currently and she is very slight in build.  She has talent.
  • You have to have the desire to be great. It’s funny, but Ricky Bobby’s line, “If you ain’t first you’re last,” comes to mind. The great ones really have to control themselves to acknowledge good game when someone beats them. They don’t want to lose. Being fourth in the state isn’t good enough. They need to be the best. It is easy for me to be a gracious loser, but I can’t put myself in a pros shoes to know exactly how hard or easy it is. Their competitiveness is at a different level and what makes them great.
  • You have to put in the work to be great. Aziza plays three sports. One of the biggest excuses people have for not training with us during the season is lack of time. Aziza makes time. She makes training a priority so that she is as strong and as fast as possible for track season. If she has a basketball game that evening, then she will work out in the morning. If you want it bad enough, MAKE the time to get in and do the training.
  • Not only will she put in the work, but she will want to go full throttle all the time. Which is a great trait, but as a coach we need to dial it back at times in the training cycle. Not saying all athletes that go 100% all the time will be champions, but it is a good thing when as a coach we have to plan the lesser intensity sessions and watch the athlete to make sure he/she will dial it down.
  • Finally, you have to have an unwavering confidence that you can do what you think you can do. It doesn’t matter what people say. Even if you lose a race. You must chalk it up to that day, forget about it, and know you will win next time. If I say, “hopefully you will get sub 56 today,” Aziza might respond “HOPEFULLY!!??” In a tone of voice meaning, she WILL get sub 56.

There are a lot of people that have equal talent, but not all those people will be a champion. There are some people that are way more talented than others, who will never be champions. Things do have to fall right, but you have to have the right makeup and the right strategy to put yourself in the best position possible to be a champion.

Photo courtesy of Kent Capture on Flickr: