The dictionary defines elite as, “a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.” 

When relating eliteness to athletics, many are often left wondering what the key ingredients that make an athlete superior are. Sure, some are natural talent and genetics, but elite athletes prescribe many of the same essential habits. 

Be Disciplined

First and foremost, being an elite athlete requires discipline. Yes, athletes like Mat Fraser and LeBron James have natural talent in their sport, but elite athletes spend many hours practicing their sport. It’s their focus every day. They put training sessions before social engagements. 

Five-time CrossFit games winner Mat Fraser has often commented on the number of times he’s had to miss out on time with his family, on date nights, and on fun, so that he can put in the work needed to train to be the best. 

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s commonly said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at something. As an 8-hour workday, that’s 3.4 years, including working weekends! In the case of athletes like James, they spent their formidable years focusing on their sport. 

When their friends went to parties, they worked on weaknesses. As a mature athlete, even though James is considered the greatest of all time by many, he’s still very coachable. 

To earn elite status and continue to be elite, you have to listen to those around you and know that there will always be ways to improve your game. 

Mentally Prepare

This is where mental toughness comes into play. Elite athletes don’t let themselves become distracted by outside forces. They also have the mental wherewithal to work through the pain. 

They push themselves harder than their competitors. They don’t let competition or their competitors break them. 

This also requires stopping that internal dialogue that allows self-doubt to creep in. You have to believe you are good enough and don’t let your fear win. Use it to work harder. 

It Takes Grit

Having the determination and toughness needed to be an elite athlete takes grit. Grit is the strength of character, the courage and resolve, it takes to put it all together. 

It’s that little bit of edge that makes you a tiny bit better than your competitor. It’s what you get when you add up mental strength, determination, sacrifice, and talent. 

Grit is what it takes to win, no matter your sport. Elite golfer Tiger Woods showed his grit when he won the 2008 U.S. Open. He fought through immense pain after a knee reconstruction to win in sudden death. 

He announced just a couple days later that he would have another knee surgery. Playing through that kind of pain with that kind of determination, to win a game that requires as much focus as golf does, requires that something extra.

It brings the talent, the character, and the resolve together.

Focus on the Basics

Of course, underneath the grit and the hard work, you need a foundation in the basics. Raw talent and determination are only enough if you’re practicing every basic element of your sport. 

You’ll need to combine that with nutritional choices that fuel your body for elite fitness. Having the right team of coaches and nutritionists makes being the best much more attainable. 

Take Dave Witt and Serena Williams as an example. Witt served as William’s coach for 11 years of her career. For five of those years, Williams was in the top 20 in her sport and a seven-time Grand Slam champion. 

A good coach not only knows the sport, but they’re honest and they push you. To win, you’ve got to surround yourself with good support.


From mindset and hard work, to support and training, it takes a lot to become elite. There’s only one way to know if you have what it takes. Lace up and find out. 


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