(Photo by Cedric Gillette)
Chiles class of 2015 and current Georgia Tech middle distance standout Avery Bartlett writes a letter to his younger self. While in high school Bartlett was a three-time state champion on the track and ran in the prestigious Adidas Dream Mile.
If I were to write a letter to myself 6 years back, at the start of my high school career, I wouldn't really say anything that would help me avoid mistakes that I made, but instead just remind myself to have fun. I personally value each mistake and misfortune that I encountered due to the fact that there were valuable lessons behind all of it.
Some mistakes were small things such as finding out what I should and shouldn't eat before a race, and other mistakes some were a bigger deal such as running through pain to the point of major injury. Going off this, some general advice I have for some younger athletes is to embrace any mistakes they make or obstacles that may come along their path and to deeply reflect on these things to have a better understanding for next time.
For example if you go out too fast in a race, think about how much you slowed down the second half and what you have done in practice to determine a better pace for yourself the next time. In my experience there is no such thing as an "off day", the bad race likely happened because of something in the past week. Maybe you stood up too late for a test, ate bad, or trained too hard in practice. Think about these things and try to do better next time.
(Photo by Don Rich)
Also, you will constantly be getting advice from others in your career, but you should always take these things with a grain of salt in the case that you may be different. A mistake for someone else may not be a mistake from you. For example in my career, people would often criticize me of running the first half of a race too slow, and told me to go out faster, but my best races have always been when I run even or negative splits. I understand that that style or running works for others, but from my experience and understanding of myself, going out slow is the best fit for me.
To sum things up, mess up a lot and make sure to learn something from every misfortune..., and of course make sure you are having fun. Not having fun is a mistake.