The pressing question of what makes a Champion is one that has been examined on numerous occasions. We can delve into eating habits, training techniques and all sorts of new recovery strategies. Or perhaps, it would be more beneficial to us as fans to simply look at the mindsets of some of the heroes in the sporting world who accomplished great feats and apply these principles to our own lives.
A notable trait among athletes, is their seemingly positive mentality. When observing a manager like Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, it is hard to deny that his constant sunny demeanor takes centre-stage. Klopp always confessed that Liverpool would win trophies with the famous saying, “next year will be our year”. In 2019, Liverpool certainly made it their year, securing the UEFA Champion’s League trophy and look to finish the year on top of the Premier League table. The German manager did indeed make world-class signings and changed the way the Reds played but more than that he changed the belief of the players and made the Merseyside team a force to be reckoned with throughout Europe. It cannot however, all be down to slapping on a smile for the press.
In comparing Klopp with arguably one of the greatest managers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, there seem to be some commonalities. Ex-Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand, brought to light an interesting contrast between big clubs and the less successful teams in his autobiography. He proposed that players in high-performing teams had different mindsets to those in the lower ranked clubs. This could be seen by observing the conversations in the locker room. Oddly enough, players in the smaller clubs would often talk about material possessions, their next holiday or brag about their experiences. Whereas players in regular trophy winning sides would rather chat about the matches at hand, how to improve performances and getting another title. It is interesting to note that teams who win silverware actually earn far more than those in clubs that do not. Jurgen Klopp changed the speech of the players at Liverpool and just by listening to the likes of Virgil Van Dyk and Mohamed Salah, this team continuously involve themselves in conversations about winning trophies and do not just speak positively but are solely focused on the next win.
Vladamir Morozov had another impressive year, winning the title of FINA’s Best Male Swimmer for the third time. Morozov looked to continuously improve himself throughout the season and pushed to break records without resisting the urge to ease up. In the end, the champion who won by a landslide said that his best moment would be hoisting that trophy and already has his eyes set on his next achievement. Champions often look to the next challenge even after reaching their goal and are not consumed by their successes which keeps them striving to achieve more.
Champions also do not dwell in a state of hopelessness but seek to defy the odds even when their backs are up against the wall. Case in point is the famous triumph by Novak Djokovic who defeated Roger Federer to win the most coveted grand slam in tennis – Wimbledon. After the match, Djokovic explained that even though he was two match points down, he kept his focus on the point at hand. This would ultimately lead to one of the most inspiring victories in 2019. So often, as human beings, we get consumed by the score board of life and do not focus on what we have still have in our hands.
We can also get lost in our emotions instead of using them as fuel to reach the checkered flag. Charles Leclerc’s first win in Formula 1 will be forever remembered as his tribute to Anthione Hubert, who lost his life in a Formula 2 race a day before the Belgian Grand Prix. The young Ferrari driver performed at his optimal and paid respects to Hubert in every manner possible, from the sign on his car to the message on his steering wheel. What is truly remarkable, is that Leclerc braved the exact same circuit that claimed the life of his friend and drove without fear in order to secure more than just a win.
Often in sport, trying circumstances brings out the best in athletes who are driven by a message they wish to share and are on a mission to inspire hope. South Africa’s Rugby team is a prime example of this. The Sprinboks went into the final of the Rugby World Cup as the underdogs but this group of players were not just aiming to attain the Webb Ellis Cup. Instead, they were playing to reignite a nation plagued by hardships. Siya Kolisi’s men got the win, making him the first black captain to lift the biggest trophy in rugby and by so doing embarked on a campaign to inspire unity and hope. The number six from the township of Zwide used the winning platform to prove to young people that despite coming from poverty, one can still do the impossible; a sentiment shared by coach Rassie Erasmus. The late great Chester Williams was quoted saying that the win of 1995 was not capitalized on as it ought to have been. This mistake would not be repeated in 2019 as the Boks, speared on by Erasmus, have sought to change the culture of rugby and promote all races working together for the common good.
Sport in 2019 certainly made a statement and served as a testament to us as fans as to how we can also adopt a Championship mindset in order to defy the odds. These principles can be used in our daily lives, from staying focused on the right goals to striving to aimingfor more than an achievement but the opportunity to make a difference. For we can all be Champions in our own right and use the athletes we love to keep us going.
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