After thinking about these athletes, a number of common traits emerged. They shared a number of commonalities that differ from most other athletes I've encountered, and I feel it is these traits that are what make them special.
So in no particular order, here's the best athlete I've ever played/coached with...
The best athletes I've been around held themselves to a higher standard, they didn't care about about other people's standards, they only cared about their own because they're own standard's are higher than anyone else's... This is how great people think.
They aren't driven by rewards, or acknowledgements, or validation from others… they don't stop working hard just because they lost or may have been shorted or didn't get picked for an award… No they continue to work even harder and use set-backs to their advantage. It's not about the set-back, but the comeback.
They are humble… they take coaching, they listen, they observe, they WANT TO IMPROVE. They don't have all the answers and they don't have an attitude because someone tells them they have weaknesses or need to work harder or do something they don't want to do.
They know that success has been the spoil of many before and many more to come. Success is temporary, and in order to continue to have success, they can't rest on the past.
They are humble because they know, eventually they will be beat, they will grow older, and someone better will come along.
They show up to practice or training 45-minutes early, so they can do their soft-tissue, mobilizations, warm-up, activation, and work on specific weaknesses. They don't show up 30-seconds before they need to, they don't half ass the warm-up or skip activation, they don't skip out on recovery - they know every piece has it's place and is inherently important to the whole process.
They aren't impressed when they get a base hit, or make a 3-pointer, or win a race… because they know it's only a small stepping stone and at the end of the day it's about self competition and improvement.
They use failure as a learning experience. They know failure is a prerequisite for success in life.
They have humility.
They don't listen to the hype or the papers because they know false ideas about oneself can cause destruction and inhibit growth.
They have a realistic view of themselves, they know their strengths and weaknesses. They don't have unrealistic views of themselves, instead they know exactly where they need to improve and attack these weaknesses to turn them into strengths.
They plan their work and then work their plan.
They know their attitude is their decision and it requires discipline and energy to sustain it. They don't let others dictate their attitude, instead they take ownership for their attitude, no matter the situation.
They don't place blame on any others but themselves when things do not go well. They don't blame the coach or their teammates or the refs, instead they take responsibility.
They welcome challenges and look forward to the toughest competitions. They seek out situations where they may fail and lose because they know this makes them stronger.
They know there will be others who are bigger, faster, and stronger BUT physical ability is never the defining factor in elite performance.
They put the quest for individual awards/glory/acknowledgement behind them and wholeheartedly commit themselves to the team effort.
What common qualities do great athletes you've played/trained with have?
Go Get 'Em