Top pole vault coach Allan Williams gives 10 commandments to maximise your potential, whatever your discipline

Don’t just train

Ensure that you have a very specific focus at every training session and on every jump, run, throw or lift. Unless you engage mind and body, you will not get the most out of your efforts.

Do talk to yourself

How you “talk to yourself” is a pivotal part of building the belief system that will enable you to achieve more. By far the most important person you will ever communicate with as an athlete is yourself. So learn to develop a good, positive dialogue and an optimistic rapport with yourself.

Whether you tell yourself that you can or you can’t do something, you are right. Only you can give the embedded command that can switch on or shut down the belief system that will allow you to achieve something (or not).

Don’t let negativity hold you back

It is very easy to allow negative thoughts to take control if you constantly bombard yourself with the wrong thoughts or lose focus on what is valuable and productive in training. Although positive thinking won’t allow you to achieve anything you want, it will allow you to do everything much better than negative thinking will.

Do share your goals

It is not arrogant to confide in others about your goals and ambitions, particularly with people who help you stay focused and on track.

Don’t be afraid of failure

Failure itself is of little consequence, but how you respond to failure is of critical importance. The pathway to success is built on experiencing many failures and mistakes. If you never make mistakes then, apart from being very unusual, you probably aren’t challenging yourself enough or are not open-minded enough to try new things.

Do learn something from every training session or competition

No experience is wasted if you learn from it. If you learn from any outcome, then it becomes a positive and valuable experience that will help you improve.

Don’t make it personal

When you are competing, don’t ever make it a personal confrontation against your competitors. Everyone has to deal with up-and-down moments and you need all of your energy and focus to help you succeed. You cannot really influence what others do in competition and worrying unduly about others will only detract from your own efforts and most likely add to theirs.

Get to know your competitors

Not only will that help your own competitive campaign, but you may well make a friend of them. Everybody wins.

Don’t compete in a bubble

It is very easy to become too insular and disconnected from competition when you try to shut out everything and withdraw inside yourself. Far better to stay focused but also stay in the moment. That way, you can make good tactical decisions that might mean the difference between winning and losing.

Surround yourself with the right people

It is important that you interact with others that have a supportive influence on you and have a similar positive outlook. Stay away from those negative people who brighten a room simply by leaving it.

» Allan Williams is founder of the London Pole Vault Academy, four times world masters champion and coach to the GB junior athletics team