Lucy Broadbent explains how the World Cup football players can be studied to inspire all of us in our own lives.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the World Cup is on – a grand showcase of sport, but even more significantly, of the power of motivation and inspiration. It is the forum where the tools which inspire football players can be studied to inspire all of us in our own lives.
“The best way to improve the team is to improve ourselves” said John Wooden who became known as a motivational leader in all fields and is regarded as one of the greatest sports coaches in history after leading UCLA’s men’s basketball teams to ten NCAA championships and a record number of wins during his career.
His words were regarded as revolutionary when he first said them in 1948, but they echo still in both sport motivation and life coaching today. They even turn up on the Apple TV+ comedy show Ted Lasso.
In the show about an American coach who is hired to turn around the fortunes of a British Premier League football club, we learn about a coach who cares more about his team being good, valuable human-beings who have integrity and courage, than if they win a football match.
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field,” he says, precisely echoing the words of John Wooden.
John Wooden put it this way: “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” His book The Pyramid of Success, which became a best-seller, defined success as a framework of behaviours like industriousness, friendship, loyalty, honesty, co-operation, self-control, sincerity, and confidence. They were traits which he believed, if aspired to and adopted, could lead to success in and out of the sporting arena. And when his team broke all records, they became the ideals for many motivators and sports coaches.
Study after study show that team success comes down to the mental attitude and behaviour of individuals within it. “Sport while superficially frivolous is underpinned by themes which are basic to the human condition: heroism, drama, competition, hierarchy, psychology, morality and, perhaps the most important of all, the quest for greatness,” explains Matthew Syed, a former English number one table tennis player, now a motivational leader and author of The Greatest: What Sport Teaches Us About Achieving Success.
He argues that sporting success isn’t always about talent. Other factors, like having good support and access to facilities come into play. But most crucially, determination, self-belief and having the right mental attitude make the key difference, and that is as true for sport, as it is business and every aspect of our lives. “As a metaphor, sport helps us delve deeper into the nature and construction of greatness.”
The message is simple – we can all be sporting heroes in our own lives if we set our minds to it.
John Wooden’s best inspirational quotes:
“The best competition I have is against myself, to become better.”
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal, and it’s courage that counts.”
“Today is the only day. Yesterday’s gone.”
“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.”
What Would Ted Lasso Do? How Ted’s Positive Approach Can Help You (Uncommon Publishing) is available as an ebook here.