Olympian Mindset: Refocus, Redirect and get Ready
By Greg Bach
While these are challenging days for athletes of all ages and abilities dealing with the sting of lost opportunities, U.S. Olympic great Kristi Castlin is a welcome source of positive energy and powerful perspective during these tumultuous times.
“This is definitely tough on everyone,” says Castlin, the fleet-footed, hard-working 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100-meter hurdles. “But we all have to use this time to refocus and redirect our energy in order to be successful when that time comes to return.”
Castlin was part of Team USA’s sweep of the 100-meter hurdles during the Summer Games in Rio in which Brianna Rollins (12.48) won gold, Nia Ali (12.59) silver, and Castlin (12.61) bronze.
Three spots on the podium decided by a grand total of 13 one-hundreths of a second.
So, with the Olympics sidelined until next summer, Castlin is refocusing on the work needed to be done to return to the podium on the world’s biggest stage.
“For myself looking ahead it’s the small things that always help me get better,” she says. “So I’m using this time to really work on my weaknesses, things that I’ve struggled with for years.”
It’s all part of the process.
She knows as well as anyone the ups and downs that accompany competition at any level.
As a young athlete she wanted what most kids do – lots of success.
And she wanted it to come fast.
“I was that kid who always wanted instant results,” she says. “And after going so long without really getting those instant results I really had to sit back and grow and learn to appreciate the process.”
So when speaking to young athletes her powerful and all-important words drip with the years of sweat and the hard work that were required to achieve success.
“I think my journey of it actually taking me eight years to make my first Olympic team, that resonates with kids,” she says. “Because I think a lot more people have more so of a story like that versus the first time they tried out for the Olympics they made the team and they won a medal.”
It’s a message that young athletes in all sports need to hear and understand as they navigate their journeys.
“I just try to provide transparency when it comes to kids and young people to let them know that most likely you are going to fail or have a hiccup or you’re going to fall short before you are successful,” she explains. “That’s just the natural process of life and it makes you have a better appreciation as well.”
And regardless of how many races are won or lost, and how many medals are captured or missed out on, it’s all about being in the heat of competition.
Doing your best.
And coming back the next day to give it your best again.
“I always hope to instill in others that the glass is always full,” Castlin says. “I tell kids that life is limitless and don’t put any limits on yourself. If you feel passionate and you feel ambitious about something you keep going at it and you keep trying.”
Few will ever follow in the very fast footsteps of Castlin, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy sports, working hard, dreaming big and pocketing all-important life lessons along the way.
“Everyone is not going to be an Olympic medalist and everyone is not going to be a doctor,” Castlin says. “But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have value in the world; or that you are not successful. I tell kids that everyone has something about themselves that is unique, that gives them that sense of success and that gives them that sense of value in the world.”
Now that’s a great message from a great Olympian.
You can follow Kristi Castlin’s journey to Tokyo in 2021 for the Summer Olympics on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Use these tips from U.S. women’s volleyball great Kelsey Robinson to help your young athletes navigate the all-important mental side of competing
Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, head gymnastics coach at the University of Arkansas, on the importance of young athletes experiencing failure and developing that all-important resilience to excel in sports and life
Former University of Michigan All-American gymnast Olivia Karas and her father Jim share what parents and young athletes need to know to help them navigate their athletic journey in their new book CONFESSIONS OF A DIVISION-1 ATHLETE: A DAD AND DAUGHTER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL
Former University of Louisville volleyball player Courtney Robison-Dixon, author of the new book LIVING IN REAL TIME, on helping young girls navigate the intense pressures imposed by social media and flourish on and off the court