What’s the secret to athletic success? People attribute their success to many things and it’s a helpful query to keep in mind when pondering greatness on a playing field. Kemba Walker, the University of Connecticut’s superstar point guard who helped win this year’s NCAA Championship, isn’t just a fantastic basketball player. Ask Kemba’s father, Kenya, the secret to his son’s success on the basketball court and he has an unusual answer, writes Aditi Kinkhabwala in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “The dancing.”
Kemba danced throughout his childhood, taking modern, jazz, and hip-hop classes as a youngster, and performing with his dance troupe throughout high school. Watch him move on the basketball court, and look for the dancer within. “It shows up in the way Walker contorts his body on reverses, shimmies through traffic and tap-steps around picks. It’s partly the net result of thousands of hours of practice, but it’s also a byproduct of his lithe feet and the flexibility that allows him to do the splits—something Walker always hated practicing in Patterson’s dance class,” writes Kinkhabwala.
Maybe you won’t rush out and sign up for ballet to improve your tennis game. But this is a point to ponder. What creates athletic success? While Kemba’s dancing had an impact on his success, we have to look deeper at his dancing to see what was really going on through it that contributed to his success. For Kemba, it appears his dancing was a path to helping him build his core fundamentals. We know that core fundamentals influence elite performance: hard work, good balance, intrinsic motivation, perfect practice, and confidence. Dancing for Kemba wasn’t just about the footwork and physical flexibility, it was also about the mental side of performance. While people want to attribute success to many things, and there is no doubt those things play a role, success for elite performers is truly about building the core fundamentals.