By Gary Leslie, Assistant Swimming Coach, Potomac Marlins, Alexandria, VA
The following text is taken from an 8 part series titled “In The End, There Can Be Only One” that appeared in the team newsletter. The goal of the series was to help parents and swimmers understand that performance improvement does not just happen, rather, it is a planned sequence of events that requires hard work on the part of the athlete. The words, “In the end, there can be only one,” are spoken at the beginning of each episode of the television series The Highlander. While these words refer to the ultimate battle between two immortals, the meaning behind the words defines the reality of competition, to every athlete, in every sport. To prove this point, consider the following statements of fact: IN THE END, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.
- team record holder per event
- meet champion per event
- National Champion per event
- American Record Holder per event
- World Record Holder per event
- Olympic Record Holder per event
- Olympic Champion per event every 4 years
The immortals of The Highlander television series must constantly practice and train to perfect their fighting skills and are driven to the highest levels of commitment, discipline and excellence in order to preserve their lives. While civilized athletic competition does not have as severe a consequence as the immortal duel, success in athletics does require continual practice of the skill set for the sport, training to develop the physical strength required to perform the skills of the sport, and varying degrees, or levels, of commitment, discipline, and excellence. In order to continually improve athletic performance, the degree of commitment, discipline, and excellence will constantly change throughout one’s athletic career.
To prove this point consider the following example. Most of us start a sport because we think it will be fun and something we will be good at. During this period of time the three words, “commitment,” “discipline,” and “excellence” may not be in the athlete’s vocabulary;the sport is just fun. However, along the way, the young athlete expresses an interest in achieving a specific time, or to become a team record holder in an event. For some, an expression of interest evolves into a goal. It is at this point, the establishment of a goal, that the three words, “commitment,” “discipline” and “excellence” take on meaning. Eventually, the young athlete will learn, that with each new goal, the level of commitment, discipline, and excellence, increases. Finally, the young athlete will observe that as each goal is achieved, his performance level improves. Based on this example, one can see that commitment, discipline, and excellence are related to each other and form a cycle that leads to continuous improvement in athletic performance. The Performance Improvement Cycle It is a fact that every athlete cannot become an Olympian or earn the title of “champion.” However, every athlete has an individual performance potential.
The Performance Improvement Cycle (Figure 1) illustrates what is required by the athlete in order to obtain his maximum performance potential. The Performance Improvement Cycle is based on the following assumption: every athlete desires continuous improvement in order to reach his maximum performance potential. As an athlete completes each cycle, he will find that his performance has improved, and discover that the level of effort (work) required to complete the next cycle will also increase. It is important for every athlete to understand that there is a relationship between the athlete’s level of effort (work) and the development of athletic skill. There are three components to the Performance Improvement Cycle: Commitment, Discipline and Excellence. During the commitment phase, the athlete establishes goals and develops a training plan. Simply stated, goals identify what the athlete desires to accomplish. Within the Performance Improvement Cycle, goals serve two important functions. First, goals establish the proficiency (excellence) at which the skills of the sport must be performed. Second, goals directly influence the effort (work and discipline) required by the athlete to acquire the skill level necessary to accomplish his goals. The athlete’s goals become the foundation from which a training plan is developed. When completed, the athlete’s training plan will define the amount of work required to achieve his goals. During the Discipline phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle, the athlete follows the training plan to acquire the physical strength and the skill level required to obtain his goal. During this phase, the athlete will learn to overcome obstacles (sickness, injury; etc.) which may slow the athlete’s progress toward reaching established goals, and that progress toward a goal often comes in very small steps. During this phase, the athlete may also experience periods of time where, despite hard work, progress toward a goal stalls. This occurrence of limited or no performance improvement is commonly referred to as a plateau. By working together, the coach and athlete can overcome this obstacle that will be experienced many times during the athlete’s career as his body matures and the athlete approaches his performance potential. Excellence is the phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle where the athlete meets his goal. Achieving excellence demonstrates that the athlete has worked hard to acquire the strength and skill necessary to fulfill the commitment, thereby reaching his goal. However, in the continuing quest to achieve athletic excellence, upon achieving a goal, the athlete will be required to establish a new commitment, thereby entering another Performance Improvement Cycle. The Performance Improvement Cycle illustrates that commitment, discipline, and excellence are related. Each component of the cycle forces the other to be performed – to meet a commitment requires discipline and discipline enables the achievement of excellence. The cycle also illustrates that upon reaching the level of excellence required to fulfill a commitment, the athlete must make a new commitment in order for performance improvement to continue. By understanding the components of the Performance Improvement Cycle, and by remembering the simple phrase, “Commitment, Discipline, Excellence,” the athlete can continually remind himself of the requirements to reach established goals.
GOALS – The Foundation Of The Performance Improvement Cycle
Figure 1 shows that goals are very important to achieve performance improvement. By establishing goals the swimmer defines the level of skill proficiency required and the amount of work required to achieve the desired level of excellence. In order to understand the relationship between goals and performance improvement, it is important to establish a common definition of the word “goal.” The dictionary defines a goal as the objective toward which an endeavor is directed. However, the athlete would do well to follow the business world and also make goals measurable and set a time limit for accomplishing the goal. Therefore, a goal has three components: A statement of what is to be accomplished (the objective) A statement indicating what must be done to complete the goal (a measure of improvement, the level of excellence desired). A statement indicating when the goal will be accomplished (the time limit) An example of a goal that meets the three criteria would be;By the end of the season improve my 100 Freestyle time by three seconds. In this example, the objective of the athlete is to improve his 100 Freestyle time. The example is measurable because it specifically states the desired improvement is three seconds. The goal has a specific time limit by incorporating the words, “By the end of the season.” Another example of a goal containing all three components would be;Improve my 100 Breaststroke time enough to qualify for the Spring Championship meet. In this case, the objective is clearly stated, improve 100 Breaststroke, while the time limit to achieve the goal and the desired improvement are implied. The improvement in the second example is the difference between the swimmer’s current event time and the qualifying time for the championship meet. The time limit to accomplish the goal is established by the entry due date for the championship meet or other requirements listed on the meet announcement. For the young age group swimmer, it is recommended that the first format be used by the athlete in order to maintain focus on what is to be accomplished and by when. In addition to having components, goals are also divided into types. The two most common goal types are long and short term goals. The phrases “long term” and “short term” mean many things to many people. For the purpose of this discussion long term goals will be defined as follows: For the Age Group or Masters swimmers or where ability is divided into age groups, long term goals are those the swimmer has established to be accomplished before progressing to the next higher age group. For the High School, College, or advanced swimmer using multi-year training plans, long term represents the goals the swimmer has established to be achieved by the time the swimmer graduates or by the end of the multi-year training plan. Short term goals will refer to those goals the swimmer has established to be accomplished during the current season (i.e. – winter or summer) or a particular macro cycle for those athletes using multi-year training plans. The author recommends that each type of goal (long and short) be further subdivided into Realistic, Idealistic, and Optimistic categories. These three subcategories are defined as follows: Realistic – Those goals that can be accomplished with a reasonable amount of effort on the athlete’s part. For the young age group swimmer, realistic goals are usually achieved as a direct result of the natural maturing process of the body, that is as one gets older, one gets stronger;therefore, there should be a proportional improvement in performance. Idealistic – The goal the athlete is truly trying to accomplish. What the athlete wants to accomplish by the end of the current season or current phase of a multi-year training plan. The goal for which the work in the training plan is designed to accomplish. For the age group swimmer, idealistic goals represent improvement beyond that which is associated with the normal maturation of the body. This category represents the upper limit of the athlete’s current performance level. Optimistic – Those goals that are beyond the athlete’s current level of expectation, yet may be obtained with extra effort from the athlete. For the age group swimmer this category of improvement is well beyond that which is associated with the normal maturation of the body and is a direct result of obtaining additional skill proficiency (excellence). Dividing long and short term goals into the categories of realistic, idealistic, and optimistic promotes performance improvement in the following ways: Goals are further broken down into smaller defined steps that are worded positively in a progressive manner from least difficult to most difficult providing additional encouragement to achieve established goals. Allows the athlete to understand the amount of work required to accomplish goals. By doing minimal work, Realistic goals will be achieved. In order to achieve Idealistic goals the athlete will be required to train hard. To accomplish Optimistic goals will require the athlete to push herself even harder. As a result, the athlete is placed in the position to be held accountable for her own performance improvement. The terms realistic, idealistic, and optimistic are relative to the athlete’s ability, therefore they apply throughout the athlete’s career, from the rookie to the most elite. Applying the three goal categories to long term goals is illustrated in the following example. As a member of a high school swim team, a Freshman establishes the following long term goals to be achieved by the time she graduates: a Realistic goal to earn a position on the 400 Freestyle Relay, an Idealistic goal to qualify for the conference championship meet, and an Optimistic goal to qualify for the final in the conference championship meet. The three categories of goals may also be applied to goals for the swimmer’s Freshman season (short term goals) for a specific event, in this case the 100 Freestyle. For example, a 3% improvement in an event time might be Realistic, while 5% improvement might be considered Idealistic, and a 10% improvement might be considered Optimistic. In order to provide direction toward performance improvement, long and short term goals should complement each other. The examples of long and short term goals in the preceding paragraph can be used to illustrate the complementary relationship between long and short term goals. As the swimmer accomplishes each category of short term goal, 3%, 5%, and 10% improvement in an event time, she moves closer to achieving her first long term goal of earning a position on the 400 Freestyle Relay team. The complementary relationship is strengthened by linking short term goals to long term goals. For example, by achieving her short term Optimistic improvement goal for the 100 Freestyle (10%), the swimmer achieves her Realistic long term goal (a position on the 400 Freestyle Relay team). Due to the complementary relationship between short and long term goals, short term goals are often referred to as steps toward achieving long term goals. Therefore, it is important to stay focused on short term goals that contribute toward obtaining the athlete’s long term goals. After all, if you take enough small steps you will eventually walk a mile. However, the steps must be taken in the proper direction in order to reach a desired destination. It is the athlete’s goals that provide the direction to her training, but in order for the athlete’s performance to improve, it requires commitment, discipline and excellence, for in the end, there can be only one champion.
COMMITMENT – A Goal With A Plan During the commitment portion of the Performance Improvement Cycle the athlete will accomplish two tasks. First, the athlete will transform an expressed interest to achieve into a goal. Second, the athlete will develop a training plan to achieve the goal. The dictionary defines commitment as, “a pledge to do something, the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to an idea or course of action.” Therefore, a commitment is more than just a statement of words grouped together to express the intent of doing something. Consider the popular tradition of making a New Year Resolution. To many, the tradition is simply a statement of spoken words that are soon forgotten. In order to become a commitment, the words of the New Year Resolution must become a pledge backed by a course of action. For the athlete, a goal is a pledge to achieve improvement. By willingly accepting to perform the work outlined in the training plan, the training plan not only represents an athlete’s course of action to see a task to its completion, it becomes the emotional or intellectual bounding required to fulfill the definition of a commitment. Of the two tasks associated with commitment, establishing the goal is the most difficult. It requires the athlete to honestly evaluate where he is now, and where he wants to go within the chosen sport. The importance of establishing a goal can not be emphasized enough. If a goal is set too high, or too far beyond the athlete’s current ability level, and requires more work than the athlete is willing to give, then the goal will not be achieved and will lead to frustration. If a goal is set too low, then the athlete will not make progress toward his performance potential. However, if the goal established during the Commitment Phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle is just right, then the athlete’s short term goal will become a small step, rather than a quantum leap, in progressing toward the athlete’s long term goal. A goal is just right when it is challenging yet obtainable. A goal is challenging when there is a degree or element of risk involved. Risk in this case is represented by a comparison between the amount of work put forth by the athlete in order to reach the goal and the uncertainty of obtaining the goal within the established time frame to attain the goal. In this manner, risk provides the athlete the incentive to put forth the effort (work) required to achieve his goal. In most cases, a goal is obtainable if it is at the upper limits of the athlete’s current performance level or just beyond the athlete’s current performance level. A challenging yet obtainable goal can be compared to the carrot that is dangled just in front of the donkey in order to keep the donkey moving the cart. Dangle the carrot too far away from the donkey, and the donkey just gives up and no progress is made. Dangle the carrot too close to the donkey, and the carrot is eaten but the cart does not move. Dangle the carrot just beyond the reach of the donkey and in an effort to reach the carrot the donkey moves the cart forward. A challenging yet obtainable goal is also relative to the athlete’s current ability level. For example, if one is just starting a sport, becoming a team record holder might be a challenging yet obtainable goal. If an athlete is already an American Record Holder, becoming a World Record Holder might be an example of a logical goal progression. Given time, most athletes can learn to develop challenging yet obtainable goals. However, there is more to the commitment phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle then just establishing a goal. Before the athlete can become committed to a goal, he must understand the work required to reach his goal. Completing the second task of the commitment phase, developing a training plan, allows the athlete to match goals with the level of effort required to achieve the goals. For most athletes, the coach develops the seasonal or multi-year training plan. In developing the training plan, the coach assumes the athlete desires to improve his performance. As a result, as the athlete grows older, develops the physical strength, and acquires the necessary skills, the training sessions become more demanding and require more work on the athlete’s part. If it is the coach’s responsibility to develop the seasonal or multi-year training plan. What role does the athlete play in developing a training plan? The athlete has two primary responsibilities that allow him to personalize the training plan developed by the coach. It is important for the athlete to communicate his goals to the coach. This exchange of information allows the coach to explain the work intensity (number of training sessions per week, length of each training session, the time training sessions are available, etc.), and the level of commitment, discipline, and excellence required to achieve the swimmer’s goal. As a result of communication, the athlete can then determine if the work required to attain a goal is equal to, or greater than, the intensity level at which the athlete is willing to train. If the athlete determines that the work required to achieve a goal is greater than he is willing to commit to, then it will be necessary for the goal expectations to be lowered to a level where the work intensity required to attain a goal matches that at which the athlete is willing to train. Communication helps the athlete understand that even a modest improvement in performance can not be attained if he is not willing to do the work required to improve. In addition to communicating with the coach, the athlete’s primary role in developing a training plan is to control the environment outside the training session. For example, eating right, getting enough rest, and meeting any other obligations required to be performed outside the formal training sessions. To help the athlete visualize the amount of work required to achieve his goals, and determine the impact training will have on his daily life, it is recommended that the athlete develop a weekly training schedule. The athlete’s weekly training schedule should identify periods of time for school, homework, family activities, formal training sessions at the pool, any additional training the athlete will perform on his own, and free time. In developing the weekly training schedule, it is important for the age group swimmer, and to some extent the high school and college swimmer, to understand that training time does not impact family or study time, rather training time directly determines the amount of free time the athlete has to do things like going to the movies and parties. By developing a weekly training schedule, and communicating his goals to the coach, the athlete takes an active role in developing a training plan designed to meet the individual needs of the swimmer and helps ensure that his goals are challenging yet obtainable. The goal defines the level of skill proficiency (excellence) required, and the goal determines the training (discipline) required to achieve the goal. Once the athlete’s goals match the level of work the athlete is willing to put forth, the athlete is ready to make a commitment to improvement. By accepting the training plan which leads to a challenging yet obtainable goal, the athlete makes a commitment to one small step in his performance improvement, and perhaps, over many years, with enough small improvements steps, in the end he, or she, might become the one who stands on the top step of the awards platform. DISCIPLINE – Working To Achieve A Goal Discipline is the characteristic that sets the great athlete apart from all the rest. On the TV we see the final product of many years of training to develop the strength and skill required for elite athletic performances. It is unrealistic, and impossible, for a young athlete to enter a sport for the first time and “just do it.” Only through many years of hard work will the young athlete develop the strength, skill, and coordination required in order to “just do it.” During the Discipline Phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle the athlete will learn there are no short cuts in reaching goals. The athlete will also learn that if you want to be like your favorite sports superstar, you must work like your favorite sports superstar. Coaches and athletes use the term “discipline” in many training and motivational phrases. Parents even tell their young athletes that they must maintain discipline in order to improve. The actual meaning of the term “discipline” is often lost in the various training slogans and advertisement campaigns designed to sell athletic products. Often the young athlete develops her own definition of the term “discipline” by the context in which the term is used in a sentence. As a result, the young athlete never truly understands the term “discipline” as it pertains to athletic performance improvement. The definition of the word “discipline” found in the dictionary includes the following statements, 1) training expected to produce a specific pattern of behavior and 2) a set of methods or rules. For the athlete, the training required to produce a specific pattern of behavior is contained in the training plan and the athlete’s goals represent the pattern of behavior, in the form of skill proficiency required to achieve excellence. The Training Plan also establishes the set of methods or rules that must be followed to attain one’s goals. In this case, methods or rules directly control the training environment by defining the number, frequency, and intensity of training sessions. While the Training Plan establishes the rules/methods to be followed in formal training sessions, the athlete is responsible for developing rules/methods to control situations that could affect the training environment. Examples of situations occurring outside the formal training environment yet directly impacting the training environment include, but are not limited to, the athlete’s diet, rest between training sessions, rest in preparation for a “Big Meet,” simultaneously participating in other sports, and decisions like going to a movie, a party, or a training session. The athlete will be required to make decisions everyday that influence her ability to train;by having rules/methods the athlete will be able to balance athletic goals and achieve a desired lifestyle. During the Discipline phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle it is also the responsibility of the athlete to monitor her progress toward achieving established goals. The easiest way to monitor improvement is to record swim meet times of each event in a log book. This simple exercise lets the athlete see her progress and determine if additional effort is required at training sessions. If the swimmer’s goal is to qualify for special championship meets, it is her responsibility to know the qualifying times for the special meets. By periodically comparing the event times recorded in the swimmer’s log book with performance goals and championship qualification times, the athlete can monitor progress toward achieving the required level of excellence necessary to fulfill her goals. The time required to achieve one’s performance goals are dependent on many variables. Some of the variables which affect the time required to achieve one’s goals are, the number of training sessions per week, the number of hours spent training per week, the age of the individual, the current performance level of the individual, the general health of the individual, and the work habits of the individual (that is, does the athlete just attend training sessions or does the athlete work her best to meet the physical effort required by the training session?). While the athlete’s goals and training plan identify specific time frames for the achievement of goals, it is important to remember that the time frames are targets and do not account for unexpected occurrences like prolonged illness, injuries, or other factors that may affect the athlete’s ability to train. Therefore, the actual length of the Discipline Phase may be longer or shorter than defined in the Training Plan. Discipline is required if the athlete is to develop the physical strength and skill necessary to achieve the goals found in the training plan. During the Discipline Phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle, the athlete learns that performance improvement does not just happen, rather, in order to reach one’s performance potential it requires planning and hard work on the part of the athlete. The athlete will also learn that her goals will enable her to maintain the focus and training intensity required to achieve performance improvement, for in the end there can be only one champion.
EXCELLENCE – The Result Of Hard Work The Excellence Phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle is but a brief stopping point where the athlete feels pride in achieving his goal. While the Excellence Phase is a time for celebration, it is also a time for decision, and a time to prepare for a new improvement cycle. Upon achieving the level of excellence required to reach his goal, the athlete will be required to decide if he is satisfied with the level of excellence attained, or continue working toward his maximum performance potential. If the athlete is satisfied with the level of excellence attained, the athlete can maintain the current level of training. In choosing this option, it is important for the athlete to understand that any further improvement will most likely be small and will be the result of gains in physical strength associated with the normal physical development of the athlete’s body. However, if the athlete decides to attain a higher state of excellence, then the athlete will be required to do some “homework” before proceeding to the Commitment Phase of a new Performance Improvement Cycle. By examining the training plan used to reach his goal, the athlete can review the training commitment that enabled him to attain his current goal. This examination will help the athlete identify what training activities worked and those that did not. Then when developing the next training plan, appropriate changes can be made. Perhaps the hardest question for the young athlete to answer will be, “What am I willing to give up in order to continue my performance improvement?” While it is healthy for the athlete to be exposed to many activities like scouting, band, drama, sports; etc. when they are young, sooner or later decisions will need to be made. Eventually, the athlete will discover, that for any activity, more of his time will be required to master the skills necessary for continued performance improvement within that activity. As a result, in order to achieve his performance potential and goals, the older athlete will find it necessary to become more selective in choosing his activities and set priorities for participation in sports and other nonathletic and social activities. Sooner or later the athlete will also be faced with decisions concerning specialization. We all know that doctors specialize, for example a heart doctor, or an eye doctor, or a bone doctor. Musicians, while they may play many instruments, usually have a favorite or specialty like the flute or violin. Athletes specialize in particular sports, like swimming, track, baseball, football, basketball; etc. Like doctors or musicians, athletes specialize in events or positions within their chosen sport. By examining the log book, which contains all the swimmer’s events and times, the swimmer may find that a particular event is starting to emerge as a dominant event. If this is the case, the athlete may want to discuss with his coach the possibility of training for that specific event, or starting to put more emphasis on that event. As previously stated, achieving the Excellence Phase of the Performance Improvement Cycle is a time for celebration, and a time for decision. As with training, the decisions will become harder and harder to make. However, decisions will need to be made if the athlete is to achieve a balance between continued performance improvement and the lifestyle desired by the athlete. Once the athlete has taken the time to reflect on the events of the cycle just completed, and has made the required lifestyle decisions, then the athlete is ready to enter the Commitment Phase of the next Performance Improvement Cycle. While it is true an athlete will improve his performance with each pass through the Performance Improvement Cycle, it is also important to understand that improvement is not synonymous with winning (being first). The dictionary defines excellence as, “the quality or state of doing better than others or being greater than others, something in which one does better than others.” In relation to the Performance Improvement Cycle, the word “other” refers to the athlete who has just completed the cycle. By working hard, and maintaining the discipline required to develop the strength and skill proficiency required to attain his goal, the athlete reaches a higher state of excellence with each pass through the Performance Improvement Cycle. As a result, the athlete is “better” than when he started the cycle. With enough self improvement, the athlete may eventually become better than those around him. If the athlete desires to stand on the top step of the awards’ platform, he will need to make additional passes through the Performance Improvement Cycle until his goal is achieved, for in the end, there can be only one. Epilog – A Message to the Athlete Hopefully, it has been clearly explained that becoming a “champion” does not just happen, nor is it a result of the athletic clothing that one wears, as implied by athletic sportswear advertisements. While everyone has the right to compete for the title “champion,” one must EARN the privilege of being called “champion,” for in the end there can be only one. In order to become the “One,” the athlete will be required to complete many Performance Improvement Cycles, and require many, many, many years of commitment and discipline in order to attain the level of excellence required to climb the steps which lead to the top step of the award platform. In today’s world, where so much emphasis is placed on being “the best,” we often forget the WORK and the COMMITMENT required to become “the best.” The athletes we see on TV, competing in amateur or professional sports did not get there overnight. They had to work for many years to develop the strength in order to perform the skills of the sport at the highest level of excellence. Many well-known athletes were “cut” from their high school teams. That is to say, they failed to make the team. Rather than “quitting,” they accepted the challenge and worked harder in order to achieve their goal. Other athletes had to overcome physical limitations, like being “too short” in order to play the “tall man’s game” of basketball. That is to say, they WORKED HARDER than the other guy/gal to overcome the disappointments and obstacles placed in their path. In a sport like swimming, as an individual develops the level of excellence required to compete at higher levels of competition (like Zone, or Sr./Jr. National Championships), the individual’s responsibilities to the team also increase. As a result of personal accomplishments, like it or not, the individual becomes a team leader. Others who have a dream of competing at higher levels are watching to see how you accomplished your achievement. DO NOT send the wrong message to your teammates, especially the younger members of the team. Continue to work hard at practice and encourage others to do the same. Continue to give 110%, and expect nothing less then 110% from your teammates. As a team leader, if you see a teammate “goofing around,” do not be afraid to tell your teammate to “get with the program,” it is part of your responsibility to the TEAM to help the coaching staff maintain a proper training environment. As a team leader, if you see another team leader not “pulling his/her fair share of the load,” or not promoting a proper training environment, tell him/her to “get with the program.” Again it is part of your responsibility to the TEAM to help the coaching staff maintain a proper training environment. By acting responsibly, and expecting others to act responsibly, you will continue to improve your performance, help others to achieve their goals, and establish high performance standards that are essential to continued team improvement now and in the future. In conclusion, the following are presented as “food for thought: ” It starts with a dream … Reaching the dream requires many, many, many, small steps rather than one giant leap … The Performance Improvement Cycle allows the athlete to identify the steps required to reach a dream … Each small step requires commitment, a goal with a plan … Discipline is required to reach the next higher level of excellence … By completing a Performance Improvement Cycle, an athlete achieves the next higher level of excellence, which represents the completion of one small step toward the athlete’s dream … Having achieved the next higher level of excellence, the athlete has improved … With self improvement, the athlete contributes to team improvement … As a member of a team, the athlete will witness the drama of athletic competition, and experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat (from the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports). As a member of a team, the athlete will learn that while in the end there can be only one champion, fulfilling the dream is the result of teamwork … Commitment, Discipline, Excellence: elements for performance improvement in athletics and life.