Athletes and coaches occasionally experience struggles caused by training or a rough season. Prolonged or repeated adversity can decrease motivation and inspiration; key drivers in the athletic industry. Without them, athletes and coaches will find it hard to pursue their goals and will be overtaken by the competition. When things seem at their lowest, they can find strength and determination in those that have worked their way to the top. They can discover those key drivers in the example and careers of successful professional athletes.
There are many professionals throughout history to revere and pull inspiration from – especially today’s female athletes. They overcome hurdles not all athletes have to face, pursue equal opportunity, and have risen to the top using the key athletic drivers. Their example provides athletes and coaches with the grit and determination to surpass their struggles and continue succeeding. The following influential women are seen as role models in a variety of sports.
Venus and Serena Williams
“If you’re not a competitor, you’ve just got to go home.” – Venus Williams
“I’m a perfectionist. I’m pretty much insatiable. I feel there’s so many things I can improve on.” – Serena Williams
Venus and Serena Williams, born in 1980 and ’81 respectively, are powerhouse sisters in the tennis world. Both are repeated Olympic Gold medalists known for their tenacity and passion on and off the court. Their father, Richard Williams, began coaching them as early as three years old. As kids, they competed to the top of junior tennis competitions and associations while being trained by their father. By 1992, Richard had moved them to Florida to receive professional training as they had surpassed what he had to offer.
Along with their prestigious medals and victories, Venus holds the record for the fastest recorded serve at 129 mph and Serena has won twenty-three Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon. Off the court, they have authored books, participate in fundraisers, and Venus even led the movement to equalize prize money between men and women’s tennis. Venus and Serena were inspired by Billie Jean King and followed her footsteps by positively impacting the world of tennis.
“Even if you fail, learning and moving on is sometimes the best thing.” – Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick’s quote reflects her professional career as an Indy and NASCAR driver. Born in 1982, Patrick wasted no time getting on the racing circuit. She began racing at a young age in go-kart competitions into the late ‘90s. After her third World Karting Association Grand National Championship win in 1997, it was clear she was going to be a competitor.
Patrick entered a sport almost entirely comprised of male competitors, but that hasn’t hindered her success thus far. Setting the pace with her skilled car control, she has been the first woman in multiple racing aspects that has paved the way for more to come. She was the first woman to: score in the top-five during the Indy 500; lead laps and finish in eighth place during the Daytona 500; win at Motegi; compete in every scheduled race in 2013; earn sixth at the Atlanta Motor Speedway; and, in 2005, the first driver to be featured in Sports Illustrated in roughly twenty years.
Danica Patrick has carved her own path through the racing world catching the attention of fans, sponsors, and other drivers. She is recognized, not as a female driver, but as a strong competitor.
Kerri Walsh Jennings
“Once you win a semifinal, the gold medal match is easy.” – Kerri Walsh Jennings
One of the most recognized names in volleyball is Kerri Walsh Jennings. She is a five-time beach volleyball Olympian, passionate mother and wife, dedicated volleyball partner, and all-around tough competitor. Nothing stops her from competing as proven by her resilience to injury or external factors.
For example, she won first at the Rio Grand Slam in 2016 after having shoulder surgery less than a year prior. It was her fifth surgery but through determination and hard physical therapy she was competition-ready in no time. Additionally, she competed while pregnant with her first child in 2009, and won gold in the 2012 Olympics while pregnant with her third child. Jennings quote, seen above, exemplifies her desire to compete and be the best. Not placing in the top three during her multiple Olympic experiences was unacceptable, so she never let her team slip below.
Role Models are Coaches
The successful female athletes described above are role models to everyone around them. They have chosen to be the best in their sport, which means setting an example for others to follow. Leading by example is a form of coaching, allowing actions to speak for themselves. When morale is low, athletes and coaches can look to them for motivation and inspiration because they embody those key athletic drivers.
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