We are looking at Erin Cafaro Mackenzie, a Southern California girl who went to college at UC Berkeley and has since two gold medals in the past ten years. We’ll also be taking a look at Sara Hendershot, a northeastern girl who rowed collegiately at Princeton, then rowed in the 2012 Olympics—where she finished fourth by less than a half a second.
As a whole, we are looking at six aspects of training that elite-level athletes make use of. I got a chance to spend two or three days with Erin and Sara and got to view all of their habits on and off of the water. Of the two “off-the-field” aspects of training that we’ll be looking at today, we’ll check out coaching first.
# 4 Coaching
Every elite athlete in the world has a coach. Jordan had Dean Smith and Phil Jackson, Tom Brady has Bill Bellichek, Joe Montana had Bill Walsh, and Derrick Jeter had Joe Torre. Each of these athletes are whom we would consider some of the best all time within their respective sports. All of them would probably agree that their coach was a major part of their success from an individual and team aspect.
Why have a coach? Coaches can see things that athletes cannot see, whether that be a physical flaw or a mental hole that needs to be filled. Coaches are there to help with more than just the physical aspect of the game; they can prepare you for what’s coming next. In addition, a coach can help you maximize your pre-competition routine. And when all hell is breaking loose around you during a competition, your coach can help keep the peace.
Erin and Sara have two main coaches. Mike Lombardi is their to serve as the technical coach that looks at the small aspects of the rowing technique that make a major difference. He is a Princeton Graduate who was selected by the U.S. under 19 national teams before going on to row at Princeton University. Mike then went on to coach at Princeton University for 4 years, and focuses on the boat moves that make athletes more efficient through the water—the tiny tweaks in technique that make the difference between bringing the gold and going home empty handed.
Their other coach is Brian Mackenzie. Brian is a world-renowned strength and conditioning coach and the innovator of the endurance, strength and conditioning paradigm. Brian had coached numerous professional athletes from football, CrossFit, paddelboarding, MMA fighting and professional surfing. His research and accomplishments have been featured in Competitor Magazine, Runners World, Triathlete Magazine, Men’s Journal, ESPN Rise, The Economist and Tim Ferriss‘ New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Body.
Brian wears multiple hats in his role as a coach. He’s in charge of all of the programing of both the rowing and off-the-water strength and conditioning workouts. Brian specializes in movement, and making the movement as efficient as possible. He’s well aware that at this level, everyone is great—and the small increases in strength, efficiency and conditioning are what will really make the difference.
Brian’s job is to:
- Make the athletes’ movement and flexibility as good as it can be.
- Create a robust internal engine.
- Engineer a mindset so that when these ladies enter the water, they know they are the best in the world.
Together, these two coaches are a great combination of the technique on and off the water; their strengths complement each other so that the girls get some of the best coaching they could hope for.
In this article we have discussed a myriad of attributes that contribute to the success of elite athletes. What they have in common is that they can be controlled by the athlete. The athletes have a choice whether or not to:
- Work harder
- Pay closer attention to the details
- Eat cleaner
- Recover smarter
- Hire a better coach
But they do not, however, have control over their genetics. Now, this will not make some of you happy; you wanted to read this article and apply these 6 steps and change your life.
This is 90% true. If you apply the previous 5 steps to any aspect of your physical life, you will train better and improve your game. But you can’t do one thing about the genes your mom and dad gave you. One of the main factors that lead to the success of the elite is their genetics. There are tons of athletes out there that do all of the above but just cannot reach that next step when it comes to being an elite athlete. In my opinion, one of the factors that keeps the hard-working good athlete from being one of the best is their gene pool.
On the other hand, there are also numerous athletes out there that have the genetics to be an Olympic gold medalist, or a professional football player, or a world-class sprinter, but they lack the above attributes that can take them to the next step. I have seen it many times before while coaching college football.
We’ve had athletes that can work out half as much as the other guys during practice, eat from a drive-thru, sleep only three or four hours a night because he’s out drinking and chasing girls. But on Saturday he can show up for the game and play better than anyone on the field, make more plays and end up being the MVP of the season—all because of the genetics God gave him when he was born.
I am not sure who you are as a person. You may be an incredibly, genetically gifted athlete who is the best at his sport right now but who does not work very hard. Or, you may be the hard-working Johnny hustle type of athlete that continues to bust his butt only to find that it’s never good enough. Whoever you are, continue to apply the above principles to your life in business, sports, personal relationships or anything that means anything in your daily life. I promise that these principles can take you to the next level!
Which of these 6 aspects do you want to get better at and WHY?
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