As a junior athlete starting out in the world of athletics, I was part of a group of young British athletes that had the potential to make it to the top. However, as a young sprinter, the athletics pathway through the age groups was especially challenging. The Under 23 age group was in its infancy, un-established and had limited races to compete in. A great many athletes tried to make the huge leap straight from the junior category to the senior age category. I was one of those athletes.
Competing at this elite level made perfect sense to me; it would give me experience competing against a high calibre of athlete. I was confident. I got myself ready, set and primed to burst out of the blocks as the starter pistol fired us all into action.
What I felt next shocked me to my core. As I pushed out of the block, I was suddenly conscious of being just a boy competing against men; a young cub trying to compete against the lions. I was clearly competing at a level far above my current capabilities. The primal forces generated by the athletes around made me ask the question: can I ever be that good?
Can I ever become that good?
To this day I’m not sure where I finished in the race, but what I do know is that I was beaten, fairly convincingly, and it hurt!
Sometimes being successful is not just about how you win but how you react when you lose. After this race, and in many subsequent races, I sat in an empty stand and did some serious soul searching. Could I really do this? Do I have what it takes to win at this level? Will I make it?
Our beliefs are like our software. Together they create a fundamental system that either helps us reach for the stars or hinders us as we progress through life. When you take on big challenges there are setbacks along the way. These setbacks trigger emotions, concerns and fears within our belief system and are a real test of one’s resilience.
These beliefs are often set at an early age and can either limit your potential or allow you to be strong and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Building strong positive beliefs in young people involves creating a strong support structure. As a father, I know that I have a big influence on my children. My words and my actions are all processed by them. As parents, we need to be mindful of making sure we do not project, however unwittingly, our own negative beliefs on our kids and encourage them to take on new challenges with a positive mindset.
Parents are not alone in this journey. Our professional sports educators put an extraordinary amount of thought and planning into creating a culture of positivity, on setting challenges that are appropriate for the child and creating a support structure that helps them grow.
When I coach individual children at BISS, we often speak about creating a winning mindset. We discuss what they are doing well, where their challenges are and creating a plan to push through those challenges. Having gone through so many challenges in my career, with some failures and some success along the way, I hope I can be a real world practical example of what can be achieved if you believe in yourself and the amazing heights you can hit if, even after disappointment, you think smart, dig deep and go again.
Want to see Marlon in action with students at BISS Puxi? Check out his video here.