Intangibles For Successful Athletes


Being a former athlete myself (collegiate football), I was always (and still am) interested in the behavioral traits successful athletes have in common. No-matter the sport or the level, top athletes have certain characteristics in common. 

In the paragraphs to follow, we'll be listing and discussing three necessary intangibles, every athlete needs to achieve their potential and experience success! These 3 points are non-negotiable and if you're missing them, you're most likely not reaching your potential!

GPP (General Physical Preparedness)

GPP is not a training style nor is it something you can purchase at Dick's Sporting Goods. General Physical Preparedness is a component of training and a very important one at that!  

GPP is intended to provide balanced, physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness.

- Dr. Mel Siff

GPP is recognized as the earliest phase of any training cycle, whether it be for strictly weight lifting or sport related. GPP provides a solid base for the athlete to grow from! Novice or advanced, GPP provides trainees the opportunity to work with lower-intensity movements that improve all-around conditioning. This may include, improving body composition by losing fat and building muscle tissue.

The greatest benefit that GPP offers is taking time to teach the basic concepts of sport such as; proper running technique, correct foot and body positioning during specific movements. It wouldn't be very smart to build a house on a foundation of sand would it? So it amazes me when coaches take an athlete and throw them directly into sport specific training. Without a solid base, the athlete is set up for failure, plateaus and possible injury! Placing a properly constructed General Physical Preparedness phase prior to sports specific training will help the athlete become more proficient and effective at their given sport!


Now I'm not suggesting that each and every athlete needs to monitor their calories and every minute detail of their diet! What I will say is though, to achieve optimal success, athletes need monitor their macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat). Whether you accomplish this through simple pencil and paper or using a new age app, make sure you know where you stand.

Here is a short run-down of what each macronutrient provides to the body;

  • Protein - building blocks of the human body, essential for gaining and maintaining muscle mass, recovery from training.

  • Carbohydrates - body's top choice for energy, fuels nervous system and brain, boost mood, lower cortisol post-workout.

  • Fat - essential for optimal functioning of the body and brain, control inflammation, manufacturing of hormones, cells, cell membranes and nerves.

Thats just to name of few of the many benefits each macronutrient provides! Nutrition is one of the three intangibles because lets face it, the U.S. eats pretty poorly! The typical American diet usually consists of saturated fats, high amounts of processed carbs and very little protein.

It is pretty simple to make the assumption that this way of eating is not ideal for an athlete. Particularly when it comes to performance and body composition, nutrition accounts for 80-85% of your success, if not more! Improving your muscle to fat mass ratio (body composition) goes a long way in terms of enhancing your performance. Drop 3-5% in body fat and watch your 40 yard dash, vertical leap, agility and bodyweight strength shoot straight through the roof!

For a crash course on improving your body composition, refer to my recent post titled; Eat Right For Your Body Type.  A certified strength and conditioning specialist can map out exact nutritional needs, taking your performance to the next level!

Constant Progression

Whatever the target is - strength, speed, endurance, mobility, agility, etc. - the overall trend must be constantly upward. Progression doesn't always go as planned so, it's important to notice small take aways from your performance. Just as the quote says, "small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results."

Your body is smart and if the stimulus (weight, exercise, movement pattern, etc.) stays the same, the body will adapt and progress will stop. This is not good, athletes need to be constantly evolving and gaining an edge on their competition.

Be mindful that in order to avoid staleness, changes do not always have to be major. Here are some possible options; switch up the exercises, reps, sets, rest periods, different implements, tempo and different angles. Thats just a few, the combinations grow depending on your goal and sport!

With sleep, nutrition, and a solid training plan being in check, continued progression hinges on constant repetition of your craft. Many plateaus and injuries are a result of poor form. In conclusion, take care of the little things and over time you'll achieve staggering results!