We’ve all heard that sporting success is an outcome of hard work, dedication, perseverance and sacrifice. But being ‘elite’ in sport goes beyond our genes. We can create it for ourselves, in sports through what we choose to do, how we think and how we train.
As the first female Olympian to ever represent NZ in the sport of boxing, I am often asked the question, “What got you this far? What does it take to be elite?
I started to reflect on what really lay beneath MY ability to achieve success in sport.
My sporting success is often attributed to my boxing alone, but that path to ‘success’ really began at the age of seven when my mother enrolled me in Indian classical dance lessons, as I was growing up in India. The challenge, and training aroused my interest. I persevered through daily practice and completed the nine-year dance course. During this time, I was also actively involved in state level basketball, table tennis, and athletics. I also squeezed in playing the violin for the local orchestra. My 10000 hours had just begun!
Was I a jack of all trade and master of none?
Yes, In fact I was!
When an activity captured my full interest, finding motivation, dedication, hard work and perseverance (intrinsic qualities), were behaviors I learned to develop early on. Consistency in effort led to being selected to represent India at the National Asian school basketball games. “A great opportunity!” But, belonging to a family of academics, a future in sports was unsupported.
At 17, I was awarded a scholarship for advanced classical dance studies, moved to another state, and completed my Masters in psychology. I continued to play competitive basketball, exposing myself to a higher level of competition.
In 2006, aged 24 my family immigrated to NZ. In need of an activity, a new skill sparked my interest. A sport I knew nothing about, boxing. To me it was “complex, challenging, yet enjoyable”, qualities that influenced my participation in any sport. By now the discipline required to train, to persevere, to dedicate oneself, the motivation, were ingrained within me. It felt familiar and I was home!
The difference now was I no longer played jack of trades, instead I realized that peak achievement now required a singular focus. I was physically, mentally and emotionally ready to master one area. My childhood sporting experiences all came together now. I excelled quickly. Those hard years of cross sport skill development made me elite and in three years, I reached the Olympics. Did it take 10,000 hrs of boxing? Definitely not. Was it 10,000 hours of “quality skill development”? Oh YES!
Elite qualities can be nurtured early on by quality time spent of developing a range of sporting skills. By cultivating an environment that nurtures ‘elite-ness’, we can help our children today become the active- elite adults of tomorrow.