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Table 2 Representative quotes in response to questions:

From: A survey of elite and pre-elite athletes’ perceptions of key support, lifestyle and performance factors

If you have achieved a medal at a benchmark event—why, in your opinion did you succeed compared to your less successful counterpart
Superior self-regulation
Train hard, believe in yourself, maintain perspective and be in the moment. (IP)
Strong work ethic
We set out the goal to win, and everything we did, every training session, every meeting, every recovery session, was all very much focused on that and it was consistently at the forefront of our mind. That melted away any complaints, of too much hard work, or too boring meetings, or being tired, it drove us to DO the right things, even if and when we didn't FEEL like it, because the goal was bigger than any obstacle. (n-IP)
Effective coping strategies and positive mindset
Confidence in the process and the training (IP)
Responses in the themes of: superior self-regulation; intrinsic motivation; and effective coping strategies and positive mindset
Superior self-regulation
Self-reflection. To know the good in the bad, and the bad in the good and to subulate each into your performance. For me, being an athlete is about the movement of your own performances throughout your career. Incorporate your previous performances into how you will perform in the present. (n-IP)
Intrinsic motivation
You have to be tough. And I also feel that if you are able to cultivate an internal motivational complex, you are far more likely to be successful. For example, if your motivation come from within, you are more likely to train harder every session, miss less training sessions and put yourself in the necessary uncomfortable situations without prompting. (n-IP)
Effective coping strategies and positive mindset
Mental training is the key to success, invest time in this. (IP)
Examples of responses from athletes concerning the importance of interpersonal relationships
Establish a support team around the athlete as early as possible. These support members will then be able to guide the athlete and help develop the mental framework so that the athlete exhibits better thoughtful action and awareness, as suitable for the individual athlete and their individual sport. (IP)
Find a great coach who understands you and who you are as a person as well as who you are as an athlete, and the ways to support you best. Find the best people to support you and guide you and to train with as early as possible so you don't miss out on valuable time, or waste time learning poor techniques/skills/ideas/strategies. Work hard so you have no regrets. (IP)
To insure sport/life/school balance. The earlier you can see a counsellor or sport psych is important, particularly if you are competing at a high-level during puberty. Insuring support is always in place at training, not always sporting related but social support for LGBTQI and gendered related issues as the dynamic at training with a group of young people can bring up a lot of issues/concerns in this area. (n-IP)
Support from friends and family is crucial, let them know you appreciate it. (n-IP)
Ensuring that those who are around young/newer athletes in a sport have the athletes’ best interests at the heart of their core priorities. I witnessed first-hand in two sports parents/coaches living their goals and expectations through young athletes. It often destroyed the athlete and most certainly their passion for the sport. (n-IP)
Focus and getting on the same page with my teammate…. emotional resilience was strong. Purposeful practice and visions. (IP)
What could be done better to educate and empower athletes regarding their knowledge and effective usage of athlete and lifestyle strategies?
Get advice from experienced/retired athletes new sub-theme
Other elite athletes being available to share their experiences and be available to meet with developing athletes to help guide and mentor them. (IP)
Have more top athletes visiting younger athletes in sport to give them a better perspective of life in their sport. (n-IP)
Education (for athletes and coaches) New sub-theme
More podcasts/e-Learning modules sent to athletes. (IP)
Coaches set up the program from the beginning to incorporate the WHOLE plan, not just the technical plan! (IP)
Effective use of SMSS
More balanced lifestyles, a more scientific approach to elite performance, psychological/nutritional services etc. etc. is relatively new, at least its significant importance to performance has only recently been realised. (IP)
Maximising training and performance opportunities
Opportunities that provide greater flexibility to undertake education and work, in a capacity that still allows training and travel to work as expected by sporting bodies/ SIS/SAS and sponsors etc. (n-IP)
Educational videos and support from officials. (n-IP)
Subtle information throughout each training session rather than hour long info sessions. (n-IP)
A summary of responses to questions concerning – ‘lifestyle Practices’, ‘advice and strategies for young athletes’, and what they would have done differently
Lifestyle practices
The importance of not just 2 h at training but the other 22 and how you utilise them. (n-IP)
Emphasising the importance of sport/life balance, particularly in sports with limited or non-existent support mechanisms and difficult sporting politics. (n-IP)
Importance of time out
Reminder that athletes need downtime as well from high intensity schedules (n-IP)
Honestly finding time to relax is key. Having a healthy balance between work, training and life is essential. Alongside that, realising that this is a marathon not a sprint. It’s going to take a long time and you’re going to fail sometimes, but never be afraid of failure. Also find a supportive and encouraging partner. Because life as a HP athlete is a selfish one and it’s important that family and spouses realise that. (n-IP)
Balance
Conversations and advocate a balanced life. (IP)
Don't forget to live. This will help you contextualise yourself in your sport as it relates to your life. Perhaps, then you will regain an enjoyment for your sport. (n-IP)
Plan school, rest and training. Not the other way around. Career/school is important. (n-IP)
Nutrition and hydration
Eat food to fuel your body. Whole foods are the best for you and if you are eating a balanced diet you don't need supplements. (n-IP)
Meal preparation is key to success. During competition you need to work out the snacks and meals that will best fuel you for performance. (IP)
Younger athletes’ bodies are continuously growing and developing, therefore avoid dieting or starving strategies to make weigh-ins. In essence, chose divisions that correspond to your natural weight rather than lower/higher weight classes that require extreme weight fluctuations. (n-IP)
Balance in lifestyle (A new sub-theme)
A well-rounded person makes a good athlete. You must love what you do but also live a fulfilling and nourishing life. If that means a drink of alcohol or a block of chocolate here and there, it will not be detrimental to your performance. Eat lots, have fun! (n-IP)
Maintain a good balance between sport and other parts of life—otherwise it is easy to get burned out. Spend time to plan out each day to make sure you have time for everything you need to do. (n-IP)
Always keep in mind that even though you love the sport and you want to be the best in the business, you have a life outside of it. Learn another skill, socialise and always think about the future. Have the support of your family is important and have a team behind you. (IP)
Keep it fun and have something else to fall back on. Sport is not life. (n-IP)
Planning and goal setting (A new sub-theme)
Focusing and setting goals and having a plan but also making sure you don’t overwork yourself and allow yourself to unwind and relax and recover between training and competing. (IP)
Know the importance of being an elite athlete and eating, planning and structuring your day and overall year to make you the best performer. (n-IP)
Set your goals and then set mini goals within those goals. Don’t give up and keep moving forward. Worry about how what you do makes you feel, not anyone else. (n-IP)
Know your ‘Why’ (New sub-theme)
My advice to make sure you understand your driver. What drives you to do the sport. Knowing your why? When you know why you do something, the driver, energy, passion, dedication and desire to succeed is very clear. When you don't know your why, then it’s very hard to commit, pursue and persist with elite level sport. When hardships, sacrifices, adversity and everything else that gets thrown at athletes, the WHY needs to be clear so the pull and the want to keep moving forward with focus it automatic and STRONG when road blocks appear. The WHY creates a clear vision!! (IP)
Find your 'why'. (n-IP)
Know why you are doing it. Understand how you are going to do it. Do it. (IP)
Take control/know yourself (new sub-theme)
Ensure you have the right people around you for 'YOU'!
Focus on who you want to be and what you want to achieve, don’t let anyone change you into someone you don’t want to be. Stay true to yourself, know your emotions and feelings, know your body
Don’t be afraid to seek help
Be organised. Take time to be by yourself when you need it. Reach out for support. Be fit. Be healthy. Be happy
You need to learn how to have tough skin in any sport and how to have self-motivation be disciplined enough to keep you going. Support systems may come and go, the biggest and loyal support you have is in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself or have the discipline to continue to push yourself and strive for greater, you will never gain success
Is there anything in your sporting journey so far, that you would have done differently?
Find better qualified people e.g. a coach earlier in my sporting career. (n-IP)
Worked with sports psych earlier (× 3 responses) (n-IP)
I would have spoken to more sports psychologists to manage the demands of my career on and off the diamond, to minimise breakdowns (N-IP)
Made the effort to find the right people to speak to when I missed on achieving goals (IP)
I wish I had asked for help sooner from professionals regarding my coping strategies and stress levels. The pressure and stress of hitting my peak in sport at a young age has permanently affected my mental and physical health and at the time I had severe effects on my mental health, weight and sleeping habits. I wish I had diversified my support network to outside of the sport itself. (n-IP)