Knowing Your WHY as an Elite Sailor [6]

This is the most important question to ask yourself before getting started in the journey towards your goal.

Whether your goal is to make a career of professional sailing, racing around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race, wanting to be the World Match Race Champion or compete for a Gold Medal in the Olympics, without your “why” aligned, achieving and progressing towards your goal can be difficult and unsatisfying.

Image Via
Image Via

Many times the competitors, coaches, parents and perhaps the medias perception of a training session, a competition, or how the journey is progressing are very different.


Facebook Post: “It was so good to see everyone giving their all and cheering everyone on at the competition – you should be proud of your efforts.”

Athlete at that competition: “that was horrible, I sucked in that race, I was anxious the whole time – it was painful.”


Coach: “you really did not have it all together out there – guess we have to go back and look at the basics.”

Their athlete: “that was so awesome – the conditions, the competition – I had a ton of fun!”


An athlete immediately after a drill or race: “that didn’t feel good at all, I just couldn’t execute that one maneuver the exact way I should have – I feel way behind.”

The same athlete immediately after reviewing camera footage of drill or race: “overall, it actually looks a lot better than it felt, perhaps I am not that far off.”

These are obvious misalignments between what the coach and athlete are thinking or what the athletes mind perceives in the moment vs after the fact. In these cases there is often a missing awareness of the actual WHY behind and between the people in elite level sports.

Image Via

Asking these simple questions is a really good step to figuring out your why:

1) WHY do you compete and train for your goal?

2) What do you VALUE in competing and training?

3) What do you enjoy MOST about working towards and executing your goal?

Allow an open place in thought for the answer – no judgment. Then share them with your teammates, coaches and parents so you can fix any misalignments.

It seems that all to often an athlete starts a journey without identifying their why and at the end nothing has really come together – and you look back wondering what you were actually doing. Knowing your WHY distinguishes the truly empowered athletes that endure through the best and the worst of times. The true answer to these questions above is not as important as the reflection IN IT. What you, your teammate or someone you coach are trying to get with these answers is awareness and noticing of the WHY.  With that they can have perspective and enjoy the journey towards the goal.

The WHY for being on the journey can differ greatly from person to person:

  • It is what everyone else is doing
  • It will make more people like me
  • It will prove my knowledge and experience
  • It will teach me some things about the unknown
  • It is just what athletes do
  • It will ensure others perceive me as competent
  • It will make me feel more competent
  • It will make me feel worthy
  • It will pay the bills
  • It allows me to express my true ability
  • It will make me the best version of myself

And again, any and ALL of these are good – and are real.

Can you see how these WHYs create certain perceptions in our minds of success, achievement and even progress. This is exasperated when you are a part of a team, where everyone’s WHYs are potentially different. Thus, having a TEAM WHY is also important, the statement that you always go back to regardless of the situation.

I urge all of you wherever you are in your journey as an athlete, coach, parent, etc. to ask these questions: What is your WHY and how can this awareness better prepare you and your team for the unknown and unknowable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s