Last week, I posted a piece about not being afraid to be good at something. Almost immediately, I was contacted by a few coaches and athletes asking to guest post on the same topic. Being the selective guy that I am, I decided on ESWIM's Hassaan Abdel Khalik for the official response.
Hassaan was a stellar age group champion with countless records and victories to his name. This season, he put his studies at Michigan on hold in order to focus on training to make the Olympic team. Although he came short of that goal, Hassaan is still quite young. Already in his young career, he has competed on some of the highest stages in swimming and has a lot to say on this topic. Enjoy.
Hassaan Abdel Khalik:
Last week Coach Mike posted a blog about swimmers who are "too cool to be good." You know, that swimmer who is to afraid to take credit for what they rightfully deserve: praise. I have thought a lot about where this fear might stem from and I think I am getting closer and closer.
Let's use a hypothetical swimmer named Phichael Melps. Phichael is a real good swimmer. In practice he exemplifies the work ethic and determination of a workhorse. At meets he is a thoroughbred racer. As a result, he has been very successful…but he shies away from any recognition that comes out of his hard work.
Because Phichael is afraid he will be labelled "cocky", "arrogant", "douchey", the list goes on.
Well I am here to explain to Phichael the difference between being confident and arrogant. So listen up all you Phichaels out there.
"Confidence is the constant, arrogance the variable."
There is major difference between confidence and arrogance. A confident person is always in control of their outward attitude no matter what situation they might find themselves in. A person who exhibits arrogant behaviour more than likely is easily influenced by outside factors, namely performance.
Swimmers, or people in general, who emit confidence do it regardless of what is going on around them. Whether they are having an awesome meet, season, year or not, that confidence is always there. Whether they are receiving praise or criticism, they take it in. with the same calm, cool and collected demeanour. That confidence is characteristic of the greatest athletes in the world.
It is difficult to judge a person's confidence solely on successful experiences. That is why we have to find a case study where an individual achieved greatness not once, but TWICE.
Rewind to the 1990s and we can compare the Michael Jordan that achieved the first Bulls Three Peat compared to the Michael Jordan that achieved the second Bulls Three Peat. Jordan's first three-peat came on a wave of success. He led the league in scoring for four years before winning his first national title. No one doubted Jordan. He became the worldwide symbol of success. Success led to success which led to more success. That is why we cannot conclude whether Jordan possessed a champion's confidence or not.
Well, leave it to the media to question Jordan's abilities and, as always, the first time someone achieves a marvel in sports everyone asks, "Can they do it again?"
When Jordan returned to basketball after a swing at baseball (pun intended), that question was still hanging, "Can he do it again?" Jordan's return to basketball wasn't easy and there were doubters this time. People questioned Jordan's abilities. He never did. This is what separates Jordan from other athletes. Jordan's self-belief never wavered. The next year Jordan's second three-peat was underway.
You see Phichael, confidence means you can take both praise and criticism all in the same stride. Jordan used criticism to fuel his comeback. Jordan was also aware of his talents. Before every game Jordan would realize that there is one person in the stands that has never seen him and will never see him again, and that would be the person Jordan would play for. Jordan had heart. Protected by that hear was his unwavering confidence.
Now let's take a look at arrogance...
Arrogance isn't self sustaining and relies on external sources of fuel. Arrogance is only present during an individuals perceived success (anyone can be arrogant, it just depends on their definition of success). It's usually characteristic of one hit wonders or "busts".
Can I give you an example of an arrogant Great in the World of Sport? I can't. That's because arrogance acts like a fog that inhibits the victim from facing reality and truly understanding what it takes to succeed ALL THE TIME.
Now you might be thinking, "I can now start owning up to what I have achieved in the pool and I will never be called arrogant?"
Yes, but you will still be called arrogant. Why? I'll save that for next time.
At least now you know the difference between confidence and arrogance. So for the future, don't be afraid to be confident.