Persistence: a key life skill

I watched a really interesting TedX video yesterday on YouTube by Steve McNamara, the English national Rugby League coach. The talk was called “Talent That Whispers”.

In the talk McNamara focusses on four players, Ryan Hall, Sam Tomkins, James Roby and Jamie Peacock,  who have been the backbone of the English national team for the last ten years.

He stated that none of these four players was considered an outstanding talent when they were younger. Each of them had to come into the game and work their way up through sheer hard work, dogged determination and drive.

Any of them could so easily have quit when they were struggling to get to the top, so many do. McNamara states that it is people such as them that he looks to when developing the talent and abilities of the national team. The main reason he gives is that these people do not cave in when the going gets tough.

He said he had seen so many glittering talents that shone like a bright stars when young and yet disappeared almost overnight. This was what he called ” talent that shouts”, “look at me, I’m brilliant” but cannot withstand the hurdles when they come, that rises too high, too quickly but crashes to the ground like a spent rocket on Fireworks Night.

He ended his talk with a great story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree. This plant grows in fertile land in China. The farmer plants the seed, waters and cares for it and after the first year only a tiny growth is seen. The next year he does the same, again there us hardly any growth, the same process goes on for another three years. In year 5, after a few weeks, the tiny shoots begin a massive spurt that takes about five weeks. The tree can grow to 9 feet tall!

The question is, did it take five weeks to grow or  five years? The answer of course is 5 years. The key is persistence, grit,determination. The ability to persevere even when things get tough and the inner-belief that you will get there in the end.

Yesterday my football team, Tottenham Hotspur, appointed a new manager, Mauricio Pochettino. This morning I have read reports that state that he has to achieve a top 4 position in the Premier League next year or lose his job. This is not the way to run a club. As the Chinese Bamboo Tree story shows, it takes time to nurture a group of players. It takes persistence and it takes defeat and failure in order to achieve success.

I obviously wish Pochettino well in his new endeavour but I have visions of a bright firework briefly lighting the night sky that lies on the ground, a spent force, whilst the owner goes rushing to his box to light a new one!

Persistence is an important life skill as is patience. There are many in sport as well as every walk of life who would do well to nurture these key skills.

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