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Advice for Athletes

11:16:56Want to know how to improve sports performance or what makes a good athlete? Ask a coach! Swim coach Bob Bowman has worked with Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps for 14 years. He shares his thoughts on everything from recognizing talent to avoiding burnout.

Talent and Skill

What did you see in Michael Phelps that led you to believe he has a special talent?

I saw a tremendous competitive spirit, no matter what he was doing. The first time I saw him he was playing games with his friends behind the pool, and it was clear from just watching that he loved to win and he hated to lose.

The other thing was, he's built as a swimmer. I saw him swim in a meet when he was 10, and you could tell that he had the physical skills and physical attributes that were going to be necessary.

What would you say are the top three things people can do to improve their performance in a sport?

Number one, improve their technique or skill level. Whatever the sport, you need to really practice the fundamentals and improve your basic skills.

Number two, be a student of the strategies of the game. That comes from looking outside yourself and at the sport as a whole.

Number three, take care of yourself away from the field of play or the pool. Proper nutrition, getting enough rest, taking care of your body by stretching, and doing things like that.

What signs do you look for that tell you an athlete might have the right stuff to really excel in a sport?

The first thing I look for is competitiveness and mindset. How do they approach their sport? That's the first thing I noticed about Michael when he was young.

The second thing I look for is skill level. People naturally tend to gravitate toward activities that they feel comfortable in and their bodies are really geared toward doing. So how do they pick up the basic skills? That would be a good indicator.

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