“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them. A DESIRE. A DREAM. A VISION. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali
The term champion is derived from the Latin word ‘Campio,’ which means ‘fighter’. We often hear this term especially in the world of sport. We all know that champions are born as a result of several years of determination, passion, and a strong will to succeed, combined with the self-belief that a player has in being the best.
In this two-part series, I would like to lay emphasis on champions in sport. For insights and perspectives on this, I have turned to a man who has nurtured many such champions in golf. Vijay Divecha is one of India’s most renowned golf teaching professionals, and over the years has groomed some of the country’s best golfers.
Although there are no hard and fast rules that one can follow to become or develop a champion, highlighted below are a few characteristic factors that he feels are common to all champions:
An athlete should have started playing the sport and competing from a young age; usually anywhere below 13 years. Tiger Woods had already been introduced to the game of golf by the time he had reached age two, while Roger Federer started playing tennis when he was six-years old.
Being extremely talented is over-rated; however, a basic level of proficiency in the sport is a necessity to reach a high level. A fairly talented athlete can become more successful than an overly talented one, with the right combination of hard work and determination.
There have been several cases of extremely talented sportspersons who end up taking their talent for granted, thus sending their careers on a downward spiral. Even in Indian sport, we have seen numerous examples of sportspersons not living up to their full potential.
The important role that a solid support system plays in building a champion is never given its due. All champions need support in the form of families, coaches, trainers, support staff. The families and especially parents/guardians play a very vital role especially from a young age.
All champions have the inherent belief to succeed and are willing to work hard to get to the next level. Virat Kohli repeatedly mentions in his interviews that he has immense self-belief that arises out of the sheer hard work that goes into his practice sessions.
Even though he is at the pinnacle of peak performance, he believes that his abilities can take him to greater heights. I personally feel this quality allows him to constantly keep raising his own personal standards.
Fear is an emotion that hampers performance and limits an athlete’s natural ability. It takes away the focus from the task at hand and diverts the minds attention. A champion though will always be fearless about the unknown.
A champion like Usain Bolt is never scared about his next race, the result, his competition beating him and so on. He focuses on what he needs to execute and goes about performing his routine.
At the higher levels of professional sport, the mind-set becomes more important than the skill-set. Learning is all around us, the possibilities are endless. An athlete can pick up insights from fellow competitors, idols, by being aware of surroundings, reading, watching videos and such. If you have a fixed mind set and are not open to learning, not just in sport but in any field, chances are you may not reach too far.
If you take any example of a past or present champion, you will realize that they all have a never-say-die attitude. You can put them in any situation, and especially when they have their backs against the wall, they never give up. This attitude is implemented in their daily life by default.
I have been extremely fortunate to have met and interacted with some of the champions mentioned above in the examples. My most memorable experience was a chance dinner with my idol, Roger Federer. Also, having a father who was a former world number one has allowed me to imbibe some of his characteristics and implement those in my daily routine.
While I admire all the qualities that champions possess, there is one quality that is the most common, the most striking, and possibly the most significant : the sense of humility. If there is one take-away that everyone should try to absorb, it is to be humble despite the highest achievements of success and fame.
I will explore this topic further in my next article, where we try and delve deeper into the creation and moulding of a true champion.Published 30 Apr 2017, 19:45 IST