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No "Ideal" Strengths: 2 Pathways to Athletic Success

No "Ideal" Strengths: 2 Pathways to Athletic Success

No 'Ideal' Strengths: 2 Pathways to Athletic Success

This story is based on research from Dr. Angela Robles, President/Founder, Forza Institute.

They are both elite. They have performed and excelled at the highest levels of the sport. They have both journeyed from childhood to adulthood to succeed in the most excellent and demanding echelons of the game. By this, they have joined a class of athlete that is reserved for only the most talented and strong.

Both of them are repeat Olympic gold medalists. Both of them are two to three time NCAA All-Americans. Both of them have multiple National Championships. Both of them played 1st base in the Pac 10 conference. Both of them adore the game of softball.

What they achieved is remarkably similar. It is how they achieved it where their stories dramatically diverge. Each of them used their uniqueness to get themselves to a place of greatness.

Dr. Angela Robles once wondered whether all elite athletes share a common set of strengths that distinguishes them from the competition and leads them to excel. As a three-time ASA National Champion and former Division 1 softball pitcher for the University of Notre Dame, professional athlete, and later an NCAA coach herself, Dr. Robles could not help but question what "ideal" strengths would look like in the sport of softball. Herself a relational powerhouse and self-described "hugger" of the team, she wondered if she were an outlier or part of the norm.

With this athletic achievement under her belt, coupled with the personal influence of Dr. Chip Anderson, she embarked on a dissertational journey to discover just how strengths play out on the field and beyond. She studied a pool of elite athletes, and her findings were transformational.

From hours of conversations, two women emerged -- practically identical in achievement, and strikingly different in strengths -- Sheila Cornell Douty and Leah O'Brien Amico.

Two Elite Athletes -- Achievements and Top 5 CliftonStrengths
Sheila Cornell Douty Leah O'Brien Amico
1st baseman 1st baseman/Outfielder
Pac 10 Conference Pac 10 Conference
Olympic gold medalist (2) Olympic gold medalist (3)
NCAA All-American (2) NCAA All-American (3)
National championship (2) National championship (3)
Achiever Belief
Competition Relator
Learner Harmony
Analytical Connectedness
Deliberative Adaptability

Both of these athletes connect deeply with the way they are each wired. Both of them see their own strengths as their pathway to success. Yet, the way they approach goal setting, team relationships, and leadership roles is filtered through strikingly different-colored lenses.

Douty had clear-cut goals and determination that were present from the day she first hit a ball off a tee -- she had her eyes set on the gold and worked hard to get there. Amico spoke about her elite achievements by emphasizing the importance of working toward a common goal, wanting the experience to be meaningful within the larger picture of life.

Douty was driven by an internal stamina, where her achievements were separate from relational connections. She thrived, despite disagreements and contention with head coaches for many years. Amico relied on key relationships to fuel her perseverance and worked diligently to resolve conflicts so she could operate at her best.

As a leader, Douty was the silent type, nicknamed "Quiet Thunder" by her team, while Amico's teammates relied on her to be a vocal encourager who was integral to the team's success.

And they both rose to the ultimate success in their sport.

Today, Dr. Robles uses this example, along with others from her research and career, to remind athletic and business teams that our strengths define the how and not the what. They guide us and help us succeed in our current roles, and they push us to pursue our passions from a place of true authenticity.

Becky JB Hammond's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Arranger, Learner, Belief and Connectedness.

Angela (Bessolo) Robles' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Positivity, Woo, Includer, Belief and Empathy.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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