For this post I found an awesome interview done by Steve Mesler pulled from teamusa.org, about bobsledder, Elana Myers, who will be performing in Sochi next year. What I found inspiring and interesting is how she approaches her sport and the detail put into everything she does. Take the time to see what leadership is like on the highest level. You can read the interview in this post or click here to read it.

Elana Meyers (L) and Erin Pac celebrate bronze in the women’s
bobsled at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games at the
Whistler Sliding Centre on Feb. 24, 2010 in Whistler, B.C.

You’re an Olympic bronze medalist already and you want to be an Olympic gold medalist. You’ve been through the Olympic cycle already and understand what it’s all about.

With your experience in mind, what are the top three priorities of this coming Olympic season for you?

Number one is making sure I have the right support team and system in place. That includes everything from my faith and making sure my relationship with Christ is there, all the way to making sure my training group is right. I also have to make sure I have the right sports psychologist and coach – all that encompasses my support team. So that’s number one, making sure the support system is in place.

Number two is figuring out my training schedule and my training plan. Making sure I know exactly where I’m going to be and when. Making sure I have mapped out what days I’m going to train, what days I’m going to have off, my recovery and what my nutrition plan looks like.

Number three is to have some fun bobsledding. This year is going to be exciting. I want to do well and have some great results but the only way I’m going to do that is if I remember to enjoy the journey. Enjoy the process, enjoy the road to making an Olympic team and hopefully win another medal.

Support team, training and fun – that’s a great setup!

So how do you address each of them and ensure they happen? How do you make sure you have the proper support team in place?

As far as the support team – the first thing to do, as much as it hurts, as hard as it is, is you’ve got to cut out the negative people in your life. That’s the very first thing. When you’re going for such a high goal, having negativity around you is really going to bring you down.

So what that meant for me right away was that I needed to switch agents. Even something as simple as that was important. I needed to put myself in a better position and, well, it just needed to happen.

Also getting a new training group, that was huge – just surrounding myself with better people. I learned that at World Championships, specifically this year. My brakeman and I made a point of being around people who uplift us. It caused us to hang around with very few people, but it saved us the drama of them picking other teams and just allowed us to focus on ourselves.

As far as the rest of my team, which includes sports nutritionist, sports psych and coaches – I have to go with people who are knowledgeable in the industry and people who have produced results.

Lastly, finding people that I’m comfortable with. I did change coaches back to Stu McMillan, who I’m very comfortable with. I’m very excited to work with him again. He’s had some great results not only with me, but with almost every bobsledder he’s worked with.

 
Erin Pac and Elana Meyers in USA-2 celebrate their final run at the
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games at the Whistler Sliding
Centre on Feb. 24, 2010 in Whistler, B.C.

I don’t know what you’re talking about! (I said with a smile, as Stu was my coach from my second year in the sport in 2003, through my team’s Olympic gold medal in 2010.)

Yeah, exactly! So just really getting great, positive people in there. And when it comes to finding those people – it comes down to talking to other athletes or searching for them myself. It’s an important process. Sometimes as well, your friends can be very well-intentioned, sometimes that little bit of negativity they have can be bad. You just need to remind them of what you’re trying to do and that you need them to stay positive for you.

So your second priority – how do you address your training schedule and program? How do you make sure that priority number two happens?

First of all, I have to create a comprehensive plan with my coach to realize what the best strategy is for me. Where I want to be, when I want to be there and scheduling what other events I’ll be doing and where my training programs will be around them is a big process.

It really involves working with Stu to deal with how we’re going to handle all of this. Making sure I work with him on my nutrition and everything like that, but also part of the day-to-day basics is I’ve got to wake up and remember what I’m doing and what I’m training for. I think a lot of times it’s easy to just go through the motions.

I have to remember everyday I’m training for the Olympic Games; I’m training to win a medal. I’m not just going to the gym to get fit or to look a certain way. I’m training for the Olympics and that requires dedication and a lot out of you. Keeping that perspective is what’s really going to help me develop my training plan.

What’s going to get in the way over the next six months to a year that might mess with that plan?

I think the biggest roadblock for me is nutrition (with a devilish laugh). It’s the one thing I struggle with the most. I am a foodie and I love to eat!

So, the final priority – have fun doing it. As an Olympian you have all of this serious stuff happening, so how are you going to make sure fun rises above it?

I really believe my biggest gains will come from my nutrition. Reminding myself that this piece of chocolate cake isn’t going to help me be where I want to be in February of 2014. I need the food to fuel me. I need to eat to live, not live to eat.

One of the things is to actually have fun during my runs. I talk to myself a lot in my sled. I talk to myself after I get out of my sled, before I get in my sled, and one of my biggest things is remaining in attack mode while I’m in my sled. And while I’m in attack mode, I’m having a lot of fun.

I’m focused and everything’s coming at me fast. My adrenaline is up and I’m just really excited and having a lot of fun. The times this past season I wasn’t having fun is when I pressed. When I thought too much about the outcome or the result, or just stressed too much about a certain line or drove tentatively. That’s going to be very important for me to keep that mindset.

The other thing is remembering it’s just fun – it’s sliding down an icy hill! As a kid, who wouldn’t love to do that? As an adult, I get to do that every day. I’m very blessed to get to do what I do.

Lastly, getting better and feeling myself get better is a lot of fun. There’s days you don’t feel yourself get better. There’s days you feel like you’re never going to recover from this – but pushing yourself into things you’ve never done before is fun, too.

And it brings me back to my support team…having the right people around you will remind you about how much fun training is.

That’s a great perspective, Elana. That’s the exact environment we tried to foster on Team Night Train heading into the 2010 Olympic year.

And now, the two questions every athlete I interview for the Journey of Champions series gets to answer. You ready?

Of course!

What does success look like to you?

 
Pilot Elana Meyers and Jamie Greubel of Team USA start their
second run of the women’s bobsleigh World Championships on
Feb. 18, 2011 in Koenigssee, Germany.

Success to me is the achievement of a goal, however I choose to define it. What that means in my terms is that it’s not necessarily about winning a gold medal. It’s not necessarily about having a certain downtime. It’s about putting everything I have into a goal and giving everything I’ve got, and then seeing what the outcome is.

It’s doing the work, day in, day out. Working hard and doing everything I can towards that goal and going after it. And when I say go after it, I mean REALLY go after it.

What people ask me a lot is whether or not I’ll be happy if I don’t win a gold medal at these Games. For me, it’s not about winning a gold medal. Of course I want one, but it’s more about me doing everything I can to go out there and put together the four best runs of my life. And that’s all that I can control. For me, that’s what success at the Olympics looks like.

Ok – and now another three things – what are the three most important factors for an athlete to reach that definition of success?

Number one is confidence. I’m a strong believer that in order to achieve something, you have to believe you can. If you don’t believe you can do it, no one else will either.

Number two is hard work. You have to be willing to do what no one else is willing to do. You have to be willing to put in the time, energy and be willing to give everything you have.

Number three is along the lines of surrounding yourself with the best people – surrounding yourself with a positive team. I’m a huge proponent of that. I don’t know if it goes back to my softball background or my father’s instruction having three girls in the house, but I’m a huge proponent of surrounding yourself with the best people. Then you’ll be able to be successful in whatever you do.

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