Written by Coaches Chris White & Michael Harvey -
The pursuit of high performance in sport requires certain traits. The journey is of course different for each individual athlete, however there are underpinning requirements to reach each level of the performance continuum, which can be summed up when looking at the process of ‘Climbing the High Performance Mountain.’
Level 1: Introduction to the Mountain
Mountains have been there for people to climb, conquer and challenge themselves forever. The ‘mountains’ that we are introduced to initially are those in our immediate, local area. We can see them for ourselves from the comfort of our homes and hear stories from the friends and family who have climbed them.
Level 2: Looking for Mountains Further Afield
When people are no longer content with climbing the same local mountain over and over, they then go looking for higher peaks to challenge themselves on. People travel far and wide in search of new peaks to pit themselves against, rather than staying in the comfort of what they know or have done before. These new mountains are in a way a kind of myth, or legend. At first they are told only in stories from those that have been to far away lands and seen them with their own eyes. They can tell stories of just how spectacular these mountains are or how satisfying it is to have reached the summit.
Level 3: Changing Mountain Myths into Reality
Wanting to change these myths into reality, others begin the journey to see these mountains for themselves, often at great expense. On the other side of the world, they finally get their first glimpse of their new challenge from the plane as they fly over enormous peaks that reach rarefied air. The sight from the air is a treat enough and beckons those interested to investigate further. After landing, the panoramic view from the ground of snow capped mountain peaks fills the athletes’ imagination. This is arguably the longest yet most simple part of the journey. There are still hundreds of kilometres to travel to the base of the mountain, but they are no longer a myth, they are here in reality and the view is the best it can ever be.
Level 4: Planning to Climb
From this distance you can’t see the specifics of how to climb the mountain. So a plan is created to get closer. As you near the base, the available or required climbing routes become clearer. Once the base has been reached, the imposing rock looms large and reality sets in on just how big this thing is and how considerable the effort and resource will be to climb it. The path at the base seems clear but even with a map and GPS at your disposal, there is still uncertainty about what obstacles will be found along the way
Level 5: Who Really Wants to Climb?
At this point it becomes clear that the view you admired from the air and hundreds of kilometres away, has now been replaced with the rock, earth and path infant of you. This is where the separation of who ACTUALLY wants to climb the mountain and who would prefer simply soak up the view from a distance occurs. The choice is simple, but the difference in what follows could not be more stark. Either soaking up the panoramic view whilst sitting on a picnic rug eating your sandwiches from a comfortable distance, or a lot of gruelling work to tackle the climb
Level 6: Reaching the Summit
For those who choose the gruelling work, once the mountain climbing begins, reality sets in. The test of how prepared you are physically is brutal and there will come a point where you become content with how far you have come, thinking, “the view is good enough from here.” Conditions change rapidly on the mountain making it increasingly more uncomfortable and the only guarantee is that the higher you go, the harder and more exposed the mountain becomes. The air becomes thinner, the wind stronger, the temperatures lower and everything seemingly harder. That beautiful view isn’t there and thoughts of why you even wanted to come here cross your mind. With genuinely difficult peaks, very few athletes will make the summit. Of those few, they can admire the summit views only for a short while as other athletes look to replace them at the summit. The higher the peak, the more difficult and dangerous it is to stay atop. For some athletes, one summit is enough. One and done, thank you.
Level 7: Staying on Top
For others who’ve reached the summit once, questions will begin rolling through their minds. Could I have done it better? Can I do it faster? How many times can I do it? These athletes aim is to get to the summit multiple times or summit multiple mountains. They are part of an even more select group that the world calls ‘Champions’ or ‘Masters’ of their fields.
High performance sport is not for everyone. As we saw with the Olympics recently, for the majority of people simply looking at the view from a distance, celebrating the spectacle and the accomplishment of others is where they are and prefer to stay. It takes a different type of person and approach to actually climb the mountain all the way to the summit.