Engineering The Perfect Athlete

By Coach Gaetan Boutin, B,Sc Kine, CSCS, CCP

A 6 Factor Approach To Turn Talent Into Greatness

It all started at an early age in grade school... I’m sure you had the same experience at some point as I did growing up. We were all sitting around the lunchroom table debating about our favorite athletes. Who’s the best athlete in the world was always a hot topic. But the ultimate debate for me was this one simple question: Are elite, world-class athletes born great or just built to be champions? This question planted a seed inside my head and is still growing to this day! I would research and research about my favorite athletes in hopes of coming up with the perfect solution to this age-old question and it turns out that I have made it my life’s mission.

I am a high-performance athlete development coach and I have helped engineer elite athletes, myself included, in all sorts of different sports. I am going to share with you my proven, battle-tested approach to developing athletes from years of research, trial and error, and actual case studies. I have come to the conclusion that the answer to this question is simple; elite, world-class athletes are both born and made! An athlete is born with a certain set of genetic traits that help to make them elite in certain areas but in order for them to achieve the highest level of sport they must go through the daunting gauntlet of elite development.

Over the years as a coach, experimenting with world-class athletes, having lots of success and lots of failure, I have created what I believe is the ultimate formula for engineering the perfect athlete – the Strong Athlete 6 Factors to Elite Performance. Like any good blueprint, you have to be precise, know what kind of materials you have to work with, and accept that it’s going to be a long haul because there are no shortcuts to greatness.

It’s important to note that these factors are not treated in a specific priority sequence. Think of it like building the perfect wheel; all spokes have to be of equal length to balance the wheel so it can roll smoothly. Now that you understand the foundation, let’s get right into the 6 factors.

6 Factor Approach

Champion’s Mindset

The perfect athlete must have a laser-focused mindset. This can’t be underestimated so I work endlessly on developing and formulating specific mindset strategies for the athletes I coach. If you ask an elite athlete who has reached the pinnacle of their sport the story of their journey to the top, you can bet that they will say something along the lines of, “when I was kid, I always envisioned myself playing the Super bowl or winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics”. The perfect athlete is driven and motivated first and foremost by a fire deep inside that pushes them through extreme conditions that most people could not tolerate. This is something they are born with, but like I said early, it’s something they have to constantly work at developing.

In addition to laser focus, the perfect athlete must be hungry. Hunger is such a powerful force that makes humans go to absolute extremes in order to eat. It’s basically survival principles and when an athlete can take this basic instinct and translate it into a driving force to relentlessly hunt down their dream of being great, they become unstoppable. The perfect athlete usually needs to have a chip on their shoulder. Something that they are pissed off about and have been for years. You’ve heard stories countless times before like my high school basketball coach cut me from the team or everyone said I wasn’t good enough, big enough, strong enough, talented enough, the list goes on. If done correctly, turning that anger into motivation is so powerful and will fuel the rise to greatness.

Superior Skills

The perfect athlete always has superior skills and these skills are developed from hours and hours of working on their craft. In fact, the rule of thumb in the performance world is that in order to achieve mastery of a skill you have to dedicate at least 10,000 hours of work on it. So as much as someone wants to say athletes are born great, they obviously are not familiar with this fact. I tell athletes all the time it takes 10 years to become an overnight success so you better settle in and get comfortable because there’s lots of work to be done.

I advise parents all the time that from an early age it’s so important to have young athletes playing in a wide range of different sports to help them develop diverse motor skills. The perfect athlete starts as the perfect well-rounded athlete at an early age. They should be able to pick up a new sport or skill very quickly because they were exposed to so many different movement patterns early on. This is critical! Once the athlete reaches a certain age, usually around mid-teens, they can start the transition into specializing or focusing in on the sport in which they want to be world-class at. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule of athletes who only played one sport 12 months of the year and that’s how they became great, but the majority of case studies prove the best approach to building the perfect athlete is to diversify their exposure to sports at an early age.

Never, ever can the perfect athlete think that they have “made it” and they no longer need to work on improving their skills! New skill development needs to be a lifelong mandate for the perfect athlete.

Freaky Strength & Conditioning

This is where we separate the good from the great. Physical abilities such as strength, power, mobility, agility and endurance definitely falls more under the born with it side of the equation. Elite athletes are born with certain genetic traits that will help them excel in specific sports. For example, an athlete born with a higher ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers is going to be much more successful at explosive sports such as sprinting or powerlifting. On the contrary, they wouldn’t do so too well in an Ironman endurance race. So, it’s important that the athlete’s genetic strengths are identified at an earlier age to steer them in the right direction for success.

Don’t get down if you don’t think you were blessed with genetic greatness. With today’s scientific advancements in strength and conditioning training, an athlete can make exceptional improvements in their physical capabilities. I’ve seen it firsthand! It will take hours and hours in the gym lifting weights, swinging Kettlebells, doing pull ups, pushing sleds, running sprints and going far beyond the limits but the work will pay off in the end.

Elite Nutrition

You can’t build a world-class athletic machine and then piss in the gas tank and expect to win! When it comes to nutrition, the perfect athlete must make a life-long commitment to eating REAL FOOD (whole, unprocessed, natural and organic food), drinking REAL WATER (spring water naturally sourced from deep within mother nature) and use only the highest quality nutritional supplements available on the planet that don’t contain harmful artificial ingredients like PVL supplements.

The perfect athlete doesn’t waste their efforts from practicing and training by refueling their body with low quality sources of protein, carbs, fats and fluids – it just doesn’t work that way! There are so many hidden toxins and performance robbing chemicals in processed, fast foods that over time will cause the athlete’s body to breakdown, leading to chronic injuries and early retirement. The perfect athlete doesn’t eat with a fast food quick fix mindset. The perfect athlete must have so much respect for their body that they seek out every nutritional advantage they can get based on the latest cutting-edge research.

Calculated Rest & Recovery

A great coach knows when to push their athlete and when to scale them back. All performance adaptations from training occur during the recovery time away from training so the perfect athlete must make sure they are factoring in enough down time. You can’t always be training full out – hard work alone doesn’t build champions – smart work is what I always suggest to take performance to the next level.

The perfect athlete treats their body like a well-oiled machine, getting regular maintenance such as massages, infrared sauna sessions, cryogenic therapy and salt bath therapy to name a few. They also know the importance of sleep and ensure that they are getting enough sleep every night to support the recovery process from their physically and mentally demanding schedule. Sleep is underrated and should move to the top of the priority list for every elite athlete if they want to become legendary!

It’s All About Team

The simple truth is that no one ever truly achieves greatness on their own. It takes a dedicated, hard-working team to help an athlete become a champion. Even in individual sports where the athlete is out there seemingly on their own, there is a team of experts right behind the curtain. Champions have intelligent coaches, great training partners, and a strong network of social support such as family, friends and loved ones around them.

And the most important thing is that all members of the team believe 100% in the athlete and support their goal by being positive and motivating at all times ¬– no haters! To build the perfect athlete you need a village behind them, supporting the journey every step of the way. It’s that simple.

That’s the simplest breakdown of what I believe it takes to engineer the perfect athlete based on my years of coaching elite world-class athletes and personally competing at an international level. In my opinion, athletes are born and made and without a strong support team even the most talented athlete will get lost in the mix and never reach their potential. I will end with one of my favorite quotes that I think is perfect to sum this up: “Hard work beats talent every time, but when talent works hard look the hell out!”

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