Monday, August 18, 2008

What Michael Phelps Can Teach Teenagers

There is no debate about the awesome performance of Michael Phelps at the Beijing Olympics. I am in awe of the physical and personal strength Michael Phelps has displayed at these Olympic games.

It's not hard to see why Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have become big favorites.

As I cheered for him to win his eighth olympic gold medal, I was curious about his his past and the discipline he clearly developed as a teenager. I thought that there might be some lessons for high school teenagers who might want to emulate the success of Michael Phelps' career. Teenagers should start thinking about where they could be in four years for the London 2012 Olympics.

- Explore extracurricular activities in high school. Before starting swimming, Michael tried his hand at baseball, soccer and lacrosse, golf and even thought about trying out for football. Motivated teens can do anything with support and determination.

- Be flexible. Flexibility is a skill that will help you well beyond graduation. If your high school lacks the facilities or support the sport you love, find ways to participate outside of school. Phelps swam for North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Maryland

- Be disciplined and willing to work hard. Those two behaviors will help you set and attain goals well beyond high school graduation. As a high school junior, Michael Phelps worked out up to 10 times weekly and in preparation for the Beijing Olympics, trained 2-5 hours daily.

- Be willing to challenge established processes. At 15, Michael Phelps became the youngest swimmer in almost 70 years to compete for the United States. To gain a spot on the olympic team, Phelps competed with and beat swimmers, many years his senior.

- Use weaknesses to your advantage. Michael Phelp's mother, Debbie Phelps says that her son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). "He was an energetic boy who drove his teachers crazy," she says in an article for the Baltimore Sun.

- Know that you are never too young to be outstanding. At 15 years and 9 months, Michael Phelps was the youngest US male swimmer to turn professional and the only swimmer to break five world records in one meet, and qualify for the olympics in six events.

- Be a team player. Michael Phelps has won 8 gold medals in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing not by winning only individual races. Three of his gold medals came because he worked with a team of swimmers in the Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay, Men's 4x200 Freestyle Relay and the Men's 4x100 Medley Relay.

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