5 Tips an Olympic Athlete Would Give to her Past Self
I caught up with two-time Olympian (and gold medalist) Jessica Mendoza and asked her what things she’d tell a young athlete just trying to get into college athletics – in other words, what would she tell her 17-year-old self if she could go back in time.
It was a surprise how much great advice she was able to work into a few short answers, but you don’t get to the Olympics, campaign for justice in Africa, earn a master’s degree from Stanford, anchor for ESPN, and raise a family without picking up some wisdom along the way. Starting with…
1. Time management
The balance of the student athlete is beautiful and cool, but it’s also hard. The younger you can start managing when you do homework, practice, and hit the weight room, the better. This skill will also help you manage your time for you, like when you hang out with your friends
2. Stay passionate
It’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of practice, schoolwork, and the other responsibilities of an athlete. It’s hard work to get to the hardest levels, and you have to realize WHY you play your sport and WHY you want to go to college. Don’t lose sight of that passion!
3. Be creative
Find different ways to stay in shape while balancing sports and school with a life. Don’t just do the same things all the time – instead of always running, maybe you mix in salsa dancing, or zuma, or snowboarding. You always want to have fun and enjoy life. At 17 or 18 years old, you don’t want it to be all business, all the time – in fact, you don’t want that at any age!
4. “Back it up”
It’s easy to sit down and talk about goals. It’s another thing when nobody is looking or listening, when nobody is holding you accountable, to get out of bed in the morning and working hard. You will achieve your goals not by being told what to do, but by doing it yourself.
5. Don’t take anything too seriously
This is last, but definitely not least in terms of this advice. It might be the most importance piece. Sometimes you need to be serious, because being an athlete is a lot of work. But you want to balance that with being able to enjoy what you do. Work your tail off and do your best, but don’t be too hard on herself – don’t beat yourself up about a B+ in school or strikeout. My son reminds me how important it is to appreciate life and keep a smile on my face, even when everything isn’t perfect.
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