The president of UK Athletics and an Olympic gold medal winner believes "It's perseverance that's the key. It's persevering for long enough to achieve your potential."
Look and learn
As a youngster, I enjoyed sport and my ambition was to be a great sportsman. My sporting heroes were people like Cliff Morgan, Stanley Matthews, Ken Rosewall. Stanley Matthews was known as the wizard of the dribble.
I watched Stanley Matthews and the way that he used to send an opponent one way and push the ball the other way. Then you'd go down to the local park and practise that yourself. Youngsters do watch the top players and the top sportspeople of the day. They copy them and they try to emulate them.
- CBE (2006)
- MBE (1967)
- Competitor: 3 Olympic Games
- Olympic Gold Medallist Tokyo (1964)
- Team Manager, British Athletics Team: 2 Olympic Games
- Director Athletics: UWIC Athletics Team
- Technical Director: Canadian Track and Field Association
If you have a coach helping you, developing your skills alongside you, that's when you're on your way to becoming not just a participant, but achieving. You're setting a dream and trying to achieve that dream with good quality practice with a coach alongside you.
It's very much about technique, about skill, about practice, about application, about ambition, about enthusiasm - and all those things coupled with talent will ensure that you reach your potential.
Learn to lose
It's about lessons for life. It's not just about winning either. Sport and life is about losing. It's about understanding how to lose. Life isn't about winning everything, it's about having the grace to learn about yourself.
By putting yourself against the challenges of sport, you don't only learn about sporting techniques, but you also learn about what sort of person you are, what kind of character you are. It's about coming up against adversity.
There are hurdles to overcome in sport and in life. Sport is a very valuable learning ground for how to live your life in the best possible way. It's about acquiring the discipline of practising. It's about sportsmanship. It's about developing friendships and networking. It's about having a coach and working with a coach/teacher, which is what life is all about.
Listen and think for yourself
You've got to be a disciplined person if you want to succeed both in sport and in life. It's not just about a coach telling you what to do and just following it unthinkingly.
You've got to be actively involved in the process yourself and you've got to listen carefully to what the coach is saying, take that on board yourself and implement what the coach is saying. It's about somebody initially knowing more about it than you do, but eventually you learn a lot about it yourself and practise the skills and techniques that you've been taught.
Perseverance is key
First of all competitors have talent, but it's not the most important thing. The important thing is that they have perseverance. They've had injuries, they've had setbacks, they've had illness, but it's a process of daily, weekly, monthly, yearly practice.
Learning about yourself, learning more about the techniques, developing physically as a person, developing mentally as a person and then basically over a period of ten years achieving your potential.
That's what sport's about and that's what life is all about - motivation, ambition and enthusiasm. Talent is important, desire is important, commitment is important, but it's perseverance that's the key.
It's persevering for long enough to achieve your potential. You're not going to be great at 15 or 16-years-old, but you might be at 25 or 26. If you're prepared to perceive and overcome hurdles.
Focus on doing something you enjoy.
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