There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. — Beverly Sills


Tight on time? Stick with the 3 Key Takeaways and The Basics. These will provide your athletes with a solid foundation for understanding shortcuts.

Have more time? Share the TrueSport Talk and discuss how an Olympic athlete can relate to this lesson.

Looking for more? Sign up below to explore the Downloads & Additional Resources, which offer Tips & Applications for more valuable information to share with your group, and additional conversation starters with our fun physical activities to support each lesson.

3 Key Takeaways

The Basics

Shortcut: A route that is shorter or more direct than the one usually taken, or a way of saving time and effort in doing something. Every day in life we face temptations of possible shortcuts and opportunities to get somewhere with less effort. Efficiency will certainly make the journey easier, but make no mistake—anything worthwhile takes diligence and hard work. If you want to be a writer you must write. If you want to be a successful athlete, you must train. Sometimes athletes may take shortcuts like skipping a tough practice, taking medications that are not prescribed to them, or they may not give 100% in a workout. They may even turn to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to try and add muscle quicker or recover faster. Typically, athletes who live ethically with solid values will make the appropriate decision not to take shortcuts and recognize that they do not have to ‘cheat you’ to beat you’. When an athlete is faced with the decision of whether to take a shortcut or not, it’s helpful to think through the six steps of the Decision-Making Model:

Decision Making Model

TrueSport Talk

Watch this TrueSport talk with Peter Vanderkaay or read the lesson aloud


Swimmer Peter Vanderkaay knows better than most that shortcuts are not the way to success (or the way to winning two Olympic gold medals).

One of the biggest traps an athlete can fall into is taking a shortcut like missing practice, taking medications or supplements not prescribed by a doctor or trainer, or not giving 100 percent when given the chance in a game or practice.

Athletes in most sports and at all levels usually have one competition on their calendars that is bigger than the rest, be it a local race or the Olympics. Peter says that when there is temptation to take shortcuts, it’s important to remember these long-term goals and how much we want to perform well at them.

He has seen many teammates and opponents alike slack off in practice by taking shortcuts, or not completing a workout. While it might have felt nice to quit early in the moment, in the end it hurt them at the big events because they didn’t put in the time at practice.

As Peter’s coach puts it: training is taking your paycheck and putting it in the bank. If you do this every time, at the end of the season you’ll have enough saved up to buy yourself something nice (or perform well). If you spend that money throughout the year by taking shortcuts at practice, you aren’t going to have anything left in your bank when you need it most.

TrueSport Talk Questions

1. What was the main point you took away from the lesson?

2. What are some shortcuts athletes might take in your sport?

3. Can you think of a time when you took a shortcut that ended up costing you in some way later?

Downloads & Additional Resources:

Lesson Companion (PDF)
Printable version of the online lesson: Away from the computer or internet access? Print out and use this handout that’s identical to the online lesson.

Chalk Talk (PDF)
15-minute activity: Understand your athletes’ attitudes about taking shortcuts by leading a discussion with these conversation starters.

Activity (PDF)
Energy Drink Label-Reading Activity. 15 minute activity: See how well your athletes know how to read an energy drink’s nutrition label and identify its hidden dangers.

Activity (PDF)
Shortcut Scenarios Activity. 15-20 minute activity: Have your athletes act out and discuss these three shortcut-related scenarios

Review Handout (PDF)
10 minute quiz: Test your athletes’ knowledge of decision making, shortcuts, energy drinks, and PEDs. (answers included)

TrueSport Certificate (PDF)
Lesson Certificate: Celebrate your groups’ completion of the Shortcuts lesson with this special certificate.

Parent Handout (PDF)
Handout: Learn about the importance of avoiding shortcuts and how to incorporate those lessons into everyday life.

Athlete Handout (PDF)
Handout: Have your athletes learn about the importance of avoiding shortcuts and incorporate those learnings into their everyday life.

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