The Real Game Starts Early: A Lesson for High Performers


High performers are not just high performers in the finals of the Olympics. They apply high performing behaviours, thoughts, learning and actions each day. 

Medals are awarded on the day but won in the months and years before.

Dr. Richard Young

And it all started with a decision to be a high performance learner earlier than we think.   Sometimes it starts with the athlete, sometimes the coach, sometimes the parent.  Either way that decision starts well before the athlete finds a path to high performance. 

During a family sabbatical in Canada, I coached my son’s soccer team of ten-year-olds. After a tournament, a parent from the opposition team was trying to calm the younger brother of one of the players. The four-year-old boy had not played but was disappointed that he did not get an ice-cream along with every player in the tournament after the game. I was about to hand him one when his Dad asked me not to. He looked down at his crying son and said, ‘There is no ice-cream unless you win. You weren’t on the team, so you don’t get ice-cream. This is what happens when you don’t win”. 

The young boy was emotional and confused, and I was stunned.  My conversation with the father did not change his mind. He had a belief about what high performance looked like.

Photo by Peter Figura

Unfortunately, we often find this anti-high performance language in kids sport environments. 

Yet when a young athlete arrives into high performance from years within a strengths-based parenting or coaching environment, they have deeper confidence and a wider view of what performance means to them.  They are ready.

They can then focus on improving rather than proving.  They focus on creating their future rather than fixing their past.   High performance is for life, not just the big event.  That is the game that matters.  That game starts early.

Dr.Richard Young, Contributing Editor for ONcourt and Founder of Simplify2Perform

For more from Dr Richard Young, visit

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