Over the past year, I've interviewed dozens of current and former pro and olympic athletes.
One of my favorite questions to ask these accomplished people? If they could go back and talk to their 16-year-old self, what would they say? The insight and advice this question produces can be extremely helpful for young athletes as they navigate their own journey through sports and life.
Nicole Hensley, US Women's Hockey Gold Medalist
"I say believe in yourself. Going through the recruiting process, there were definitely times when I didn't think I could play at a high level, and those thoughts were based on other people's opinions. There are going to be people who don't believe in you and think you will fail; their opinions mean nothing unless you give them meaning."
Karter Schult, NFL Defensive Lineman
"I would go back and tell him that as important as it is to work hard, it is equally important to always smell the roses and make sure you are enjoying having fun with what you are doing."
Ryan Harris, Super Bowl Champion
"Stay positive and compete every opportunity you get."
Joel Dreessen, Former NFL Tight End
"I would tell myself to take a deep breath and let bad plays go. I had a tendency to dwell on a dropped pass or missed block and allow it to impact an entire game at times. If I wasn't perfect, I was pissed. Which is a good thing, but not when it impacts the next play. I would share with my younger self the five-second rule. No matter what I did on the play that just occurred, I had only five seconds to be as happy or mad about it as I needed to be. Because the next play is coming up and the previous one doesn't matter."
Lauren Gibbs, USA Bobsled Silver Medalist
"Work harder, work harder, work harder and stop complaining about having to work harder."
Tyler Walker, USA Skiing Paralympic Silver Medalist
"Competition and winning isn't the goal. The process of competition will make you a better person and winning will briefly make you feel good, but the journey is what really matters. All those weird people you meet, the places you visit, and the experiences you have will define you."
Keith Van Horn, Former NBA Player
"There are always ups and downs and to remember that the downs always make you stronger."
B.J. Bedford Miller, USA Swimming Olympic Gold Medalist
"Keep laughing, you're doing it right. I always laughed, I always searched for the fun in what I was doing. I played hard, I trained hard. Sometimes I doubted it was the right path, because some of the people around me were very serious. But that didn't work for me. I needed to do what worked for me. And I did. And I think that paved the path for me to win."
Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images, Joe Amon/Getty Images, Gary Dineen/Getty Images
- Once a Lanky Teen, Cody Bellinger Offers Crucial Advice to Undersized Youth Athletes
- Recruiting Advice From 8 Former NCAA Division I Athletes
- Soccer Superstar Mia Hamm's Best Advice for Athletes