The Four C’s of Optimal Performance

The Four C’s of Optimal Performance

by Coach Cathy

As athletes, we all want to do our best.  We strive to perfect our performances and to be faster and more efficient.  We hope we’ve trained hard enough and we hope it’s good enough for race day.  Within this thinking process, there’s usually room for doubt to fill our minds.  Did I forget anything in my transition bag?  What will I do if I have a flat tire?  How will I manage the situation?  Am I ready to race?  As a coach, there are four mental qualities that I help develop in my athletes to ensure they are completely ready to achieve optimal performance for training and on race day.

Concentration:  Concentration is the ability to focus on the task at hand and to maintain that focus over the duration of the event.  Sounds easy, right?  There are many things that may distract someone from their focus, such as flat tires, weather, course conditions, etc.  These are all external.  How about internally?  I’m sure most of us have some type of anxiety or stress related issues that easily take our focus away from the race.  How much discomfort am I in?  How am I doing?  Is my heart rate getting too high too soon?  Anxiety and fatigue play major roles in disrupting concentration for triathletes.  The great news is that we are all capable of managing these types of issues.   There are strategies to help increase your concentration such as relaxation practice, pre-performance routines and mindfulness exercises.

Confidence:   Confidence is believing in yourself, your skills and your ability to successfully master the challenges you face in your sport.  Confidence has a lot to do with having a positive attitude and self-image in addition to carrying oneself in an effective manner.  The confident athlete sets specific, realistic and challenging goals based on execution of a great training plan performed by the athlete.  This is why having a coach is a crucial part of an athlete’s strategy since it frees up the stress and worry of developing your own training plan and allows a professional to do that work for you.  The athlete is able to focus on execution of the plan, increasing the chances of a successful race and improved confidence.

Composure:  Competition is an emotional experience.  Athletes engage in a range of emotions before, during and after competition.  These can range from anxiety to elation and joy.  They may hinder or help the competitive effort.  Thus, it’s important to develop composure to effectively handle the pressure and manage the emotions that come with it.  Composure is about self-control.  Athletes need to acquire the ability to manage their response to what happens to them, which puts them back in control.  Being aware and mindful are key skills to help gain this emotional control.

Commitment:  Regardless of the competitive level of the athlete, the sport of triathlon requires considerable commitment to achieve desired success.  Without commitment, an athlete does not get up in the morning to swim or go for a run at the end of a long day at work.  Commitment is connected to dreams, desires and motivation.  Only when athletes are committed can they be successful at their chosen level.  It takes commitment to train, get the appropriate rest and recovery and eat the proper nutrition.

The four C’s represent the key qualities that play a role at all stages of performance and training.  It’s important to employ these qualities all of the time.  Take a moment to think back and reflect on your best and worst performances whether in training or competition.  Describe your behavior.  How did you feel?  What were you thinking?  These are the types of questions that will make you more aware of how you react to situations and how you can overcome challenges in order to increase your concentration, confidence, composure and commitment.

Cathy Obordo is a Triathlon Coach with Experience Triathlon Coaching Services.   As leaders in the endurance coaching industry, Coach Cathy and the Experience Triathlon coaching team help athletes of all ages and abilities achieve success in training, racing and life.  Learn more about Coach Cathy and Experience Triathlon at



USA Triathlon, Level I Coaching Certification Manual, pgs. 26-29. Copyright 2011.


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