How do you elevate others?

written by Erica Quam

Back in the day

When I was a young swimmer, I remember one of my coaches telling our team, "You either add to and contributing or you take away from the overall mission of our team. Which will you choose to do?" 

This simple statement helped me bring more on the days I didn't have the energy to really bring 'it'. It made an impact on me. 

As a coach

One season we placed a piggy bank outside the locker room. At the end of practice each person would evaluate themselves - on a 1 to 10 scale. They put coins in or they had to make a withdrawal - based on what they had given or taken from the team that day. 

I realized how connected they were to tangible results (like how fast they had gone that day) and how disconnected they were from the bigger picture (working hard, being competitive, staying positive, encouraging others, being disciplined, etc.). This provided a great opportunity for a discussion.

We talked about how on the days where they were tired - and the effort they put in did not match up to their times - they could shift their character skills. This gave them another perspective and a different way to contribute.  

We changed the activity. Instead of using the 1 to 10 scale, we had them write how they contributed. This was a completely different energy. When they began to realize how they contributed was more important than what they contributed, we had more quality workouts...and grew closer together as a team. 

Am I saying that results aren't important? Absolutely not. However, when success is ONLY tied to results - going a certain time or scoring a certain number of points - then most days athletes are going to walk away from a practice or competition feeling unsuccessful. When we can teach athletes to recognize the importance of how they do things they will build more confidence, gain momentum, and elevate their performance.

Elevate others through character

Who we are matters more than what we do. That's how we will be remembered.

Think about someone in your life who has helped to elevate you - a teacher, a coach, a parent. What was it about that person that helped you grow and evolve? How did they help you move to a higher level? Maybe they were encouraging. Or they cared about you as a person, not just as a student or athlete. Maybe they challenged you to do more than you believed you could.


Most of the time you remember them for who they were as people...their character.

Character can be developed and can elevate others.

  • Confidence: You can help other people be more confident when you exude this quality.
  • Kindness: You can help others be kind and compassionate when you model this behavior.
  • Positivity: Your positive attitude can help others see their glass as more half full.

Character through adversity

It's 'easy' to coach when things are going well. It's much harder to coach through the tough times. Yet, we all go through challenging times. Every season we face a new set of obstacles. During these challenging times how do you show up? 

Coaches impact athletes each day - either building up or tearing down. What do you do to elevate others? 

Share which character skill you will choose to work on this year to elevate your athletes in the comments below.