There are many challenges on the sporting field. Athletes and coaches perform in comparison to their opponents. They have to do their jobs better than the other team in order to win. The only way to meet the competitive challenge is to improve from within.

The pursuit of excellence is based on uncovering the talents, skills and abilities that lie inside each of us. Athletes learn to sharpen and train those talents so they can use them on purpose. Performance, in a nutshell, comes from within.

This is good because the only things athletes have any real control over are those that exist internally. They cannot do anything about the weather, crowd noise or a refereeā€™s call. All they can do is focus their talents on the task at hand.

It might be because of a grand design or maybe it is a coincidence, but the thing athletes have the most control over and the most crucial aspect of performance are one and the same thing.

The problem most athletes run into is when they try to base their performance on something outside of themselves rather than on their own innate abilities. They get caught up in where they play, with whom they play or how raucous the crowd is. They start to believe their strength comes from a pill or the way they put on their uniform. All of these are attempts to anchor performance on things of which they have no control.

Whenever athletes base their performance on outside sources, they place themselves at a competitive disadvantage. There is no guarantee the outside source is going to be there, which means an athlete could find himself in a competition with no connection to what he believes makes him good.

Take two athletes from opposing teams. The first has trained to think that the key to his performance lies within himself. Regardless of the circumstances he finds himself immersed, he knows the mechanism that controls his level of play is something he carries with him at all times.

The second athlete believes that when he wears a certain shirt and if he starts the game with a big play, he will feel confident out on the field. He also feels at his best when the stadium is alive with electricity.

The problem is that on this day he reaches into his bag to pull out his special shirt only to discover the shirt is not there. He forgot to pack it. Now when he steps onto the field he is slightly unnerved and preoccupied. He hopes he can still start the game off with a big play, however on this day the crowd is a little flat. He cannot feed off their energy.

Both athletes are playing in front of a rather subdued crowd. One has trained to depend on himself as the source of peak performance. The other depends on a shirt that he forgot, the outcome of a play and an enthusiastic crowd as the catalysts for his performance. Who has the advantage?

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