After launching a series of performance camps for 14-18-year-olds with Perform, Olympic champion Michael Johnson talks about the importance of playing different sports, having supportive parents and his new venture with Perform at St. George’s Park
When I was young, the social system encouraged young people to play a selection of different sports. I was exposed to football, baseball, basketball and then athletics later on. This allowed me to not only try different sports and ultimately find the sport that I really truly loved and was good at, but being exposed to playing different sports also allows you to develop different athletic skills, for example; playing football helps you to develop agility and basketball helps you to develop power, which are both essential skills for most sports.
Many athletes that enter our system at Michael Johnson Performance have already chosen the sport and position they want to play. Upon testing these individuals, our data often shows that they have not developed certain areas of their athleticism. We have programmes to identify areas of weakness and support gaps in athletic development.
I was lucky that my parents were supportive but didn’t get too involved, they allowed me to progress at my own pace with my coach. There is a fine line between encouraging and supporting your child and pressuring them. My parents encouraged me to participate in different sports and to find something that I truly enjoyed but they never put me under any pressure.
There are many parents who think their child will become an Olympian and we have to be careful in how we deal with that as it puts a lot of pressure on the child. Ultimately, a child who is subject to an incredible amount of pressure often doesn’t continue with the sport for long, as they only take part because of parental pressure as opposed to their enjoyment in what they are doing. It’s up to parents to support their kids and to periodically check that their kids are still enjoying it.
It’s easy for young athletes to be absorbed by long-term goals but it’s important to focus on the present and enjoy what they’re doing. In my opinion, it’s best to set a series of short-term goals which are achievable in the foreseeable future. When I was young, my goal wasn’t to be an Olympic champion – it was to be the Texas state champion at high school. I didn’t achieve that, I came in second and I’m still not happy about it! But then I set my next goal and once I achieved it, I set another one and I went into each competition with a plan.
When I was a young athlete, I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to analyse my performance data and learn about how I could improve my fitness. But at Michael Johnson Performance, we have technology which we can use to help young people understand how they can be a better athlete.
I’ve spent a lot of time travelling to look at facilities and athletic development across the world. I think St. George’s Park is an immensely important initiative for English sport and the development of football and athletes far into the future. I’ve been tracking its progress since I visited in 2011 and have been looking for ways to get involved.
Our new venture with Perform is the perfect partnership because we share the same coaching philosophy on human performance development. Together, I am confident we can have a significant impact on the future of English sport.
If you would like more information about our Michael Johnson Performance coaching, enquire now or call 01283 576333