Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Sporting Spirit

No shame in saying that this title was lifted from the famous George Orwell essay from decades ago. I have always spoken of the positive impact that sport has & have encouraged people to take it up in any small way they can.

To put it down as a simple blogpost would never really do justice, to what playing cricket in my days as primary schooler & football from high school till date has taught me in life. Nevertheless, although I haven't played competitively for a bit, it has been a great year in sport & the ebbs and tides of a few key events has truly helped me battle some very interesting challenges at work.

Below I have listed down five very important tenets that I have internalized and has helped me become the person I am today.

The importance of being a Unit 
The motto of the Welsh national football team said it all. #togetherstronger
Appearing on the international stage after a long spell in the shadows, led by the talismanic Gareth Bale, the Welsh dragons seemed to be mellifluously in sync and behaved like one single fighting unit. Recording memorable victories over big names like England & Belgium, it reiterated my belief that a team that has one true focus and a fighting attitude can do wonders, making up for what they may lack in skill and talent.

Leading, with silent strength
Growing up watching Steve Waugh leading the Aussies to victory after victory had a strong impression on me as a teenager. I found striking similarities in one of India's greatest captains MS Dhoni. Both of them in their own right were also great finishers of the game. I have seen numerous occasions where both of them have turned games for Australia, India & CSK respectively where they single handedly absorbed the pressure around them & converted it into a positive work ethic.I have never seen these two gents ever lose their wits in the worst of situations & have always taken loss in their stride.

Never stop working hard- Form is temporary, Class is permanent
The Under Armour commercial starring Michael Phelps pays homage to a great athlete. A man who retired after being at the highest level of swimming a few years ago, came back in the 2016 Olympics overshadowing every other athlete & this is credited to his focussed hard work no matter what the circumstances.

Another fantastic story of hardwork comes from closer home, Hyderabad. PV Sindhu won a silver, losing a tight game to Carolina Marin. The stories of her work ethic and sacrifice along with the legendary Pullela Gopichand are inspiring.

So knowing yourself, your strengths-weaknesses, putting in a good shift everytime you enter the field and backing yourself every time will work wonders.

Build a strategy that suits the situation - one size does not fit all
I started following the fortunes of FC Barcelona and everyone who has been associated with it, during the days when Van Gaal was coach in the late 90s  He had a fluid strategy with a 3-4-3 setup and combined this with the right international talent such as Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Kluivert and local lads such as Pep Guardiola & Luis Enrique who are now master strategists in their own right. Van Gaal was a legend during his Ajay days as well, but we all know what has happened to him in the recent past.

A similar story of the Oakland As, made famous by the movie Moneyball. A strategy masterfully built based on an analytical pattern that the manager had seen, but this could not become a formula for success everywhere.

Always keep the big picture in sight - tags & odds don't matter
Whether you are a top seed or an underdog, tags don't really matter. It's understanding the bigger picture & making that the real driving force behind your team, that will push you that extra mile

Case in point - The West Indies cricket team battling against their own cricket board, showed up to the T20 World cup this year without even have their kits sorted. But Darren Sammy kept reminding his team that they had to win it for the people of the Caribbean, and boy did they do it in style or what ! Braithwaite in that last over seemed like a man possessed.

Chennaiyin FC, an ISL team gave their heart out during the semifinal against a stronger on paper Kolkata team and they kept saying just one thing - that they wanted to win it for the people who were suffering due to the flood situation. They went onto lift the Cup last year.

And finally the unbelievable story of Leicester City, a team that had fought relegation in the past few seasons and had no real chance at even making it into a Champions league position. Under the watchful eye of Claudio Ranieri, the team beat unimaginable odds to win the Premiership despite tough competition from likes of Man City and the other English biggies. This team again goes on to say that they did it for their fans and for the folk from the town of Leicester.

Sport is not fiction, it has real heroes with blood, sweat and tears that teach you innumerable lessons everytime it plays out. It is for you to observe, learn & adopt.

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