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There’s a common misconception in the world of elite athletes:
It’s the notion that they work alone – tirelessly striving through a personal battle to achieve their own individual success.
But in reality, that’s rarely the case.
When they’re given the chance, most athletes go to great lengths to recognise the people who have helped them along the way: expressing their gratitude towards every person who supported and encouraged them over the years and decades.
Thinking back over my own career (which I never planned to be a career when I started at the age of eight!), there must be over a hundred people who have influenced my journey.
The vast majority helped me. A small percentage hindered me. But every single one of them (for better or worse) have made me the athlete and the person I am today – shaping my view of the sport and my success in it.
So what does an aspiring athlete need to be sure they have the right people around them?
As I’ve grown older and developed into an athlete on the brink of making it a full-time career, I’ve come to realise more and more the huge importance of having a solid support network.
And for me, it all comes down to three main areas:1. Expertise is essential
Every committed athlete relies on a close and supportive coach. And that’s no different for me.
My relationship with my coach is vital – helping me to manage my training regime, and balance it against both my studies and my personal lifestyle. With the right coach on your side, you can reach your full potential as an athlete, while still maintaining a balanced life.
But beyond the coaches themselves, there’s a long line of sports experts working behind the scenes with every athlete, all with a positive part to play.
Sports scientists, physiotherapists, assistant coaches, nutritionists, and sports psychologists – they’re all involved in my success in and out of the water. In order for me to succeed, all the different aspects of my life need to line up and work together. And these sports experts are the people that make it possible.
Outside of the sport itself, I’ve been lucky with the support I’ve had. I have an agent who I’m eternally grateful for, helping me to manage everything that happens outside of the water – so I can keep my focus locked onto my training, my competitions, and the short-term goal of qualifying for the Olympics.
But it’s not just about the people who help you manage the daily regime. I’ve also had to learn about managing brand relations – and having SOUL CAP in my corner, supporting me and rooting for my success, is a dream come true.
It’s an area of being an athlete that I never thought I would reach. And it’s moments like these that make the years of hard work – and the rollercoaster ride that comes with it – all worthwhile.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get all kinds of support and encouragement from people in the swimming community.
I’ve had help from swim teachers, coaches, officials, other competitors, and even the parents of other swimmers – all of them helping to stoke the small flame inside me that’s grown into a passionate fire, hungry to succeed.
But the most important parts of any community are the friends and family who devote their time to you.
My own friends and family have devoted their time. They’ve shown me love and companionship. They want to see me happy, to see me achieving things beyond my dreams.
My mum, most of all – who spent years waking up at 4am to take me to training, and then picking me up at 8pm to do it all again the next day. She’s forever been my biggest fan and my biggest supporter, and for that I’m truly grateful.
Looking back on my career, there’s a long list of people who helped me to get where I am today. And that list will continue to grow throughout the rest of my career, and my entire life.
We’re all going to find people throughout our lives who can help or hinder us. Some of them will want us to succeed – and some of them will want us to fail.
Our only goal is this:
To find the people who want to see you at your best – and surround yourself with them.
Humans are social creatures, thriving off the love and support of the people around them. And if you want to give yourself the best chance of success (in sports, your career, or any part of your life), you need to have the right people by your side.
I’ve found myself in a fortunate place where my support network is as strong as it can be. I’m surrounded by people who want me to be my best – in and out of the water – and it’s led me train at my best, compete at my best, and hopefully achieve my goal of qualifying for the Olympics.
So to everyone who’s helped me along the way so far:
Written by Michael Chapman
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