As a track athlete, I idolized Carl Lewis and Maurice Green. And as a basketball player, I have to say Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were my favorite players to watch. I wanted to be just like those guys, which was a lofty goal. And honestly, who doesn't want to emulate the best athletes in their respective sport?
But unbeknownst to me and other young athletes, this may actually hurt your athletic development.
Being young and impressionable as an athlete can have the same kinds of ramifications as if you were caught up in popular culture, media and fads. You may not be able to identify yourself.
RELATED: Overcome Your Fear of Failure
In my case, I tried too hard be like my heroes. I'd copy Kobe's crossover and jump shot, and even pushed to be a shooting guard instead of playing the small forward position where I was much more useful and effective. On the track, I used the characteristic "slouch" of Justin Gatlin and even ran in his spikes.
I put my natural abilities behind what I thought looked cool. Their unique styles worked for them and their bodies, but no two people are alike. In my case, mimicking my heroes caused me to develop bad habits that hurt my game. I didn't play basketball for long enough to break those habits, and it was a never-ending mission by my track coaches to help correct my form through college.
So, it's critical to remember to play your game, regardless of what sport you play. Use your athletic gifts to the best of your ability and don't try to be someone else.
RELATED: Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit
One of the best examples of this is a baseball pitcher. Pitchers have wildly different pitching motions. They all have the fundamentals down, but they go about it in different ways, because each player is built differently and each has learned to use his athleticism to his advantage.
Take time to master the fundamentals and seek advice from qualified sources. Develop your own style and don't try to be like someone else. This will help you maximize your potential as an athlete.
This doesn't mean you can't play like the pros. You should try to mimic their intensity, focus and dedication to improving their craft. That's how the pros stand up above the rest, and it is something you should copy.
RELATED: 5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock