Steps to Become an Olympic Athlete
Don't assume you're
too old or out of shape to make your dream of becoming an elite athlete
come true. The oldest Olympic medallist was 72! Here are 10 steps
you can take towards living your dream:
Assess your physical condition
The first step
is to determine what shape you are currently in. This will help you to
select the best sport for you, as well as the training program you will
need to follow.
If you are 35
years old and your favorite activity is sitting on the couch with a six
pack and a bag of chips, you probably aren't cut out to become an Olympic
gymnast. However, if you are willing to make a few lifestyle changes, there
are a number of sports you could successfully compete in. You can get an
assessment of your current level of fitness by visiting a local gym and
consulting with one of the trainers.
Choose a sport
select a sport based on what they enjoy doing and what they are good at.
If you already have an athletic hobby, such as target shooting or judo,
you are already one step ahead.
If you are an
older athlete, you are more likely to achieve success in a sport that focuses
on "mental" rather than purely "physical" strength. Some examples of mental
sports include: archery, canoe/kayak, equestrian, fencing, sailing, shooting,
and table tennis.
Find a place to train
Once you decide
which sport to pursue, you need to start developing your skills. Join a
local athletic club or visit a recreation center so you can practice and
take classes. Another good place to train, depending on your sport, is
your local high school or university.
Join your National Governing Body
A crucial step
that will get you to the next level is to join your National Governing
Body (NGB). The NGB conducts National Championships, maintains a National
Team, and often supports various developmental programs for athletes. You
can find the website for your NGB by visiting the Team
If you haven't
already started competing at the club stage, now is the time to do it.
Your NGB hosts a variety of tournaments that start on the local level.
It is important in many sports to build a national rating by competing
at certain competitions. Your NGB will be able to tell you when and where
you should be competing.
Get a coach
This step should
be taken at the same time as you start competing. A coach can help you
develop your skills, so you can progress to the next level of your sport.
A good place to start looking for a coach is your local training facility.
The people who teach classes at the facility can recommend someone to coach
you, or they may be able to coach you themselves.
Visualize your success
A training technique
used by top athletes is visualization. According to one theory, if you
see a perfect golf swing 1,000 times in your mind, it's better practice
than actually swinging the golf club 10,000 times.
If you're a diver,
you can play out the entire sequence of a perfect dive in your mind. Imagine
yourself climbing up the ladder, taking each step toward the end of the
platform, launching yourself in the air, performing each flip and twist
perfectly, and entering the water without a splash. Then see yourself
coming out of the water to a roaring crowd, toweling off, flashbulbs popping.
The more detail you can add to your visualizations - including imagining
any sounds, smells, and physical sensations - the better your visualizations
will prepare you to achieve the result you want.
At some point
you may be ready to start training full-time, which means you will have
to find a way to support yourself financially. Elite level athletes
have several options including: attend college on an athletic scholarship,
become a resident athlete at an Olympic Training Center, or obtain corporate
sponsorships. Your NGB can give you information about becoming a resident
You may be able
to obtain corporate sponsorships through your employer, by contacting the
marketing department of other companies, or by having a sports marketing
agency contact companies for you.
Attend the national championships
Most NGBs run
their National Championships in a similar format to the Olympic Games so
it will be good practice for you. Often, the National Team coach
is present at the National Championships, and will be able to tell you
what you need to do to make the Olympic Team in your sport.
sports open their National Championships to any competitor who has achieved
some minimum qualification at the local or regional level so you may have
a better chance of competing than you think.
Qualify for the Olympics
Each sport has
a different process for qualifying for the national Olympic Team. Athletes
in team sports (such as basketball or soccer) tend to be chosen by the
national coaching squad via their national reputation, national ranking
or through results at previous competitions. Some team sports also have
an Olympic tryout.
Athletes in individual
sports (such as track and field or tennis) compete for a spot on the Olympic
Team through qualifying tournaments or their national rankings.
Once you make
it to the Olympics, you have achieved the dream of a lifetime - enjoy the
experience and go for the gold!
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