Column: Launching factors for high performance

What makes an athlete rise above? What makes one achieve a higher level of performance than other teammates within the same program?

What makes an athlete rise above? What makes one achieve a higher level of performance than other teammates within the same program?

There are numerous inter-related determinants for success well beyond genetics. Here are 10 launching factors from a cross-section of local coaches:

Happy place

Olympic 1500-metre runner and now coach, Malindi Elmore, shares what makes her cross-country runner, Hannah Bennison, succeed.

“She is driven and disciplined, but loves running and it is her happy place so it comes naturally to her to work hard.”

Intrinsic drive

“I would say her greatest strength is her passion for the sport. She is committed in a way that I have not seen before in someone her age; she strives to be the best runner she can be but this drive is largely intrinsic.”

Work ethic

Reid Jenkins, Staff Technical Coach for Pinnacles Football Club (PFC), in charge of player development, scouting and coach mentoring explains, “The tangibles are, but not exclusively, WORK ethic, commitment, resilience, tenacity, being goal-oriented and having a strong desire for unstructured training.”


Jenkins makes it simple. “Take your mistakes seriously not personally. That is how you grow at sport — failure breeding success.”


Tama Corday, former UBC Thunderbird Varsity basketball point guard, Summerland Secondary School basketball coach and teacher, also runs the Mini Hoops program.

“They need to be confident. Sport is a game of mental toughness and a lapse of focus or belief will lead to weakness and perhaps failure. If there is a lapse, a confident athlete can move forward and refocus then allow their weakness or failure to make them stronger and fiercer.”


Corday adds a confident and dominant athlete must also be coachable.

“Criticism is the only way to get better and an athlete who is open to critique is way more likely to improve and develop. Many athletes are unable to handle being picked apart but it is the key to being better.”


Corday said self-motivation is a key to excellence.

“Every athlete is training on a team but which athlete is training at their peak performance and putting in hours on their own time?”

Extrinsic Motivation

Melissa and Michael Berrisford, coaches of TriPower Triathlon club find that “Athletes who excel are self-motivated and extrinsically motivated; genuinely seeking to learn as much information from their coaches, mentors, peers and experiences as possible.”

Athletic integrity

The Berrisfords share their philosophy of athletic integrity, meaning that “they always do their best, respect their sport and fellow competitors, balance ambition with patience while showing resilience at times when achievement is challenging.”

Little things

Chris Taneda, a seventh degree karate black belt, six-time national champion and four-time world champion who now trains athletes across the Okanagan said “I have noticed that it is the little things that make the difference at the higher levels of competitors. Taking care of the little details in training, preparation or in strategy. Competitors that understand this will actually put in a lot of smart work to be a little bit better. At the top, there is only a little difference, so to be the best, you must be a little bit better.”