England coaches join forces to talk tactics
Sport? It's not about life and death. Know the next line?
Bill Shankly's insistence that football was, "more important than that," is one of the game's all-time great quotes. Of course, it's hyperbole, often taken out of context and every once in a while it's worth reminding ourselves of that.
So how refreshing to hear England's cricket coach Andy Flower, bring an audience of sport's biggest business hitters out of their orbital existence and back down to earth.
Holding his own on a panel which, probably for the first time, brought the head coaches of England's football, cricket and rugby union teams together to discuss their roles, Flower was contemplating how to deal with the big personalities, and how he keeps himself sane.
"Keeping things in perspective is the only way to do it. Training and playing as if it's life and death, but in the real knowledge that it's not, and that there are actually more important things about," said Flower.
"You can be obsessed with your sport, and obsessed with your skill, obsessed with the art of what you do, but also realise that it's not life and death and that the love of your family, or whatever your values are, are actually more important."
Martin Johnson is another not getting drawn into the "it's all about winning the big one" hype. Admittedly he can say this having lifted a World Cup, but he's adamant that sportsmen and women (and those of us who follow them) have to learn to appreciate the struggle.
"People always say to me, 'what's it like to win the World Cup?' Well, yeah, it was great, and that was the pinnacle, but for the players that did it, it was seven years of getting there that was what it's all about," he said.
"The symbol of it is lifting the trophy, but the six or seven years of ups and downs, of building yourself into a team that's capable of doing it, that's far more fun than the one game or one tournament.
"You always want to get there, but sometimes you won't. But to say that's been a waste of time trying to do it is wrong, because that's what you're in the sport for: to strive and to actually try to get there.
"To try to get that across to our guys that actually striving and having bad moments in games and getting criticised by people who don't know what they're talking about is all part of it, and as long as you keep true to what you do, then you can be happy with yourself that you're going in the right direction."
Balance, perspective, hard work and self belief are, by common consent of this mutually respectful trio, the secrets of success: Fabio Capello retuned to a favourite theme of his. Overcoming fear.
"When I arrived here, I remember the first training. I was surprised, because the players were really good! I thought, what happened here? Such good players, why aren't they in the European Championship?" he said.
"I understood everything when we played against Switzerland. They were not the same players as in training.
"They played with fear, without confidence. I understand this is a big problem in the mind and we've worked a lot on this, and step by step, game after game, we've improved a lot."
What impressed me about this trio, who were joined at the top table by legendary NFL coach Mike Holmgren, was their desire to learn from each other.
Capello admitted a fondness for rugby and ice hockey, volleyball and baseball. Johnson revealed one of his coaches had been spending time with British Sailing.
Flower's another fan of baseball, and Holmgren likes to get his players to watch other sports to appreciate excellence.
Modern coaches have to have an open mind, and increasingly the, "my way or the highway," characters are being left behind.
I want to finish where we started, with Bill Shankly, and the life and death stuff. This is from a transcript of an interview he gave on TV back in 1981. It's quite illuminating...
SHANKLY: "Everything I've got I owe to football. You only get out of the game what you put into it. So I put in all my heart and soul, to the extent that my family suffered."
INTERVIEWER: "Do you regret that at at all?"
SHANKLY: "I regret it very much. Somebody said: 'Football's a matter of life and death to you'. I said, 'Listen, it's more important than that'. And my family's suffered. They've been neglected."