• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: What separates champions from other great athletes

February 16, 2018

Every athlete has the championship dream at some point: the tennis player winning a Grand Slam or the Olympic athlete taking home multiple medals. Dr. Max Trenerry, a sports psychologist at Mayo Clinic, says there are generally two factors that separate those athletes who dream of championship glory and those who achieve it.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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First, Dr. Trenerry says, is that champion-level athletes simply practice and prepare more than anyone else. He says true champions are usually the first ones in the gym or on the field, and the last ones to go home.

"There is that 10,000-hour rule out there, and I think it's more of a guideline than a rule," Dr. Trenerry says. But if ... you track elite performers of any kind, many of them – whether they're playing the violin or whether they're throwing a football – started training, and they have played and trained for hours over years. And if you count those hours up, it's thousands."

The second factor, he says, is sacrifice.

"There's always some sacrifice," Dr. Trenerry says. "At that level, there was sacrifice ... athletes that are going to succeed at that high level have made sacrifices. They have been willing to give up one thing to attain something else."

So for those dreaming of being the next Serena Williams or Michael Phelps, the key may simply be working harder than all the other great athletes to be the very best athlete.

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