Sport mirrors life

Lots of thoughts fly around our mind when one gets to watch great sporting actions take place in front of our eyes. It can be a champion athlete smashing a record on his way to winning the championship or a tennis champ losing out to his competitor in a fierce five setter. The emotions and the feelings they exhibit during these moments have a lasting impression on the minds of the audience.

Have we ever wondered how these sporting personalities reach the pinnacle of their careers; plying their craft day in and day out. Well, it's a success story worth penning to inspire the rest of the world. Developing a strong work ethics at a young age and learning the life lessons each day prepares these athletes to a competitive mode. With a big goal ahead of them, the time you have to work towards them becomes precious. The rigorous daily workouts take its toll on the mind and body but the unwavering determination to reach the summit guides them to slog through the rough parts. Focusing on the mental, physical and emotional preparation cultivates a winning habit. And once the winning habit is ingrained in the system, there is no looking back. Yes, there are failures on the way, but how to respond and overcome those failures is important. Evaluating own performance is one way to overcome failure. And mind you, evaluation shouldn't mean measuring yourself against another. Thorough preparation is another way to overcome failures.

Sports mirrors personal and corporate life. Excelling in sports as in life isn't easy. One has to have perseverance and fortitude to perform under adverse and stressful conditions. There is pain but also a gain. This is the same with life. It is easier to throw in the towel and give up, but getting up and proving what we are made of and making a difference in our and others life is the key to success.

Can sport really help develop life skills ?

It's a popular belief that sport builds character. But does this belief hold water, as many researchers and purists have often held that sports have its own share of negatives as well as positives. Sports participation is associated with negative issues like aggression, breaking rules, adult modelling and among more older professionals, alcohol and drug abuse. On the other hand, sports participation is also associated with positive developments like self-esteem, goal setting, decision making, problem solving and more importantly academic performance among children.

So how can sport balance both the positive and negative outcome? Well, the answer is simple. The outcome depends on how sport is delivered by parents and coaches and how sport is received and experienced by the individual. Positive outcomes such as life skills are taught to these young minds. They do not occur by just playing a sport and thereby proving the point that life skills are taught, not caught.

A classic example of a sporting icon who experienced both phases of this outcome is the legendary American diver and author Greg Louganis. He is the only male and second diver in Olympic history to win two consecutive diving gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, thereby becoming the Greatest American and probably the greatest diver in history.

Adopted when he was 8 months old, Louganis took up dance, acrobatics and gymnastic classes at about 18 months. As a young lad, he was diagnosed with asthma and allergies, and, to overcome this condition, he was encouraged to continue gymnastics and dancing classes. At the age of nine, he began his diving lessons after the family got a swimming pool of its own. As a junior Olympic competitor, Louganis was tutored by Sammy Lee, a two-time Olympic champion, and won a silver in the 1976 Summer Olympics at Montreal. He was a favourite in the 1980 Moscow Olympics but America boycotted these games. Louganis convincingly won the spring board and platform diving golds in the 1984 Los Angles Olympic games. However, his true calling came in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. On the ninth dive of the preliminary round of the springboard event, he stuck his head on the board, opening a wide gash that required four stiches. The fortitude showed by Louganis took him to the final where he repeated the same dive on which he was injured and won the gold hands down. A week later, Louganis won the platform gold medal, beating his rival by a mere 1.14 point difference. This come from behind encore earned Louganis the Athlete of the year award in 1988.

In his much acclaimed autobiography, Breaking the Surface, Louganis details a relationship of domestic abuse as well as teenage depression, smoking and drinking at a young age. But he showed the world that by overcoming adversity, training setbacks, injury and personal tragedy, one could reach the pinnacle of their success.