Some athletes have a kind of spiritual drive to hone themselves and perform well in their chosen sport. Other athletes are just naturally gifted in their chosen sport (success based on genetics, timing, opportunities, etc). Some athletes do not hone themselves spiritually.
In 2002, I read G. Sheehan's "Going the Distance", and till this day I still recall gems from Sheehan's reflections. While George Sheehan is not a perfect man, from his writings, one can see that at least he is focused on improving -- not only on improving the quality of his performance as a runner, but also trying to be conscious about life, and to find a path that leads him to do what is right. He sets an example by noticing his own areas that need improvement, and somehow, he touches the reader, and inspire the reader to do the same.