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A young runner was very excited.

After months of intense training, he was running in his very first marathon.

After the starter’s gun went off, he started with great enthusiasm, taking great strides and building a strong rhythm.

However, after a few miles, he began to tire and he felt like stopping.

“Don’t stop!  If you can’t run, at least you can jog,” said a small voice in his head.

So, he slowed to a jog and was able to continue along the road, if a little slower than before.

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Jerry Sloan was the no-nonsense, hard-nosed coach of the Utah Jazz from 1988 to 2011  and he was honoured last weekend by the team with a banner raised with the number 1223 on it, representing the number of wins that he had as coach.

It was a fitting tribute to a great and widely admired servant of the game who achieved consistent success over the course of his long tenure.  If it wasn’t for some guy named Michael Jordan, he most likely would have won a couple of championships which is probably the only achievement missing from his coaching resume.

During the celebration of his career, one of his start players, John Stockton was asked what he had learned from Coach Sloan.

Stockton replied:

“The game is pretty simple; it doesn’t need to have a lot of nonsense in it. You come to practice, you bring your lunch pail and you go to work. … Whether it’s a win or a loss, you keep that even keel and you get ready to go again the next day.”

These are great principles that can be applied to most aspects of life.

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Denis Istomin

Denis Istomin

I was watching the Australian Open during the week and caught some of 3-time champion Novak Djokovic’s third round match.

However, as the match went on, I became more fascinated by the back story of his opponent, little known Uzbek, 27 year-old Denis Istomin.

When he was 14, Istomin was in a horrific car accident on the way to a junior tournament, resulting in a severely broken leg.  After 80 stitches and three and a half months in hospital, doctors said that he would never hold a tennis racquet again.

Normally, that would result in the end of someone’s professional tennis aspirations, but not for Denis.

This is where his mother, Klaudiya, enters the story.

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I coach my oldest son’s soccer team.

They are a great bunch of kids aged 7-8 who know each other well from school and they have a lot of fun together.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that some of the boys just kick the ball when it comes near.  It doesn’t matter to them where they kick it, just that their foot has made contact with the ball and the ball has left their vicinity.  If the ball goes flying out of bounds, it doesn’t matter to them, soccer to them is all about kicking as hard as they can.

However, some of the boys know how to shoot.  They get the ball at their feet, can take a couple of dribbles, size up their target and let fly.  They understand the difference between random kicking and deliberate shooting, and as a consequence, they lead the team in scoring and are able to regularly celebrate slotting another goal home.

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In the midst of the English cricket team’s disastrous tour of Australia, former England captain, David Gower said, “

“The moment you believe that what you’ve been talking about is actually going to happen, that’s the moment you gain the ability to make it happen more often.  Australia suddenly believed it could win – and that has made all the difference.”

I love this quote as it reminds me of the importance of self-belief in living a successful life.

If an athlete goes into a contest with the belief that she has done the work and has the talent to win, the chances of success are much higher.

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English: Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs with another trophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the Manchester United versus Bayern Leverkusen Champions League match a couple of weeks ago and marveled at the Red Devils’ Ryan Giggs, who was to turn 40 later that week, as he pulled the strings in midfield in United’s 5-0 win.

I’m old enough to remember Giggs when he was still a teenager and his precocious talent burst onto the international football stage.  He had marvellous skill and a remarkable burst of speed, but no-one could have imagined that he would still be playing for the same club and at such a high level more than 20 years and 950+ games later.

As a sports fan, I’ve seen many brilliant talents, but it’s rare that they are able to turn that into such an extraordinary career.

I believe that everyone is a 10 at something, but again it’s not often that people turn their phenomenal potential into phenomenal results, so what can we learn from an amazing footballer like Ryan Giggs?

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The Washington Generals are the team of suckers who play against the legendary Harlem Globetrotters.

They never win.

They’re not supposed to win.

They’re the chumps who are the props in the show that the Globetrotters are putting on.

They’re there to be laughed at and no-one pays to see them perform.

I’m sure that some of them are reasonable talented athletes, but the refs are against them, the crowd’s against them and the whole arrangement is that when the final buzzer goes, they are destined to lose again.

So, if you’re the Washington Generals what’s the point in trying?

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Focus- Chris Anstey Australian Boomers

Chris Anstey in his playing days for the Boomers (Photo credit: rosswebsdale)

Former NBA player and current Melbourne Tigers coach, Chris Anstey recently wrote about the day that he played against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

In the introduction to the story he said,

“I’m sick of hearing about teams playing for draft picks, playing for next year, or assuming they will be poor. How about going in to fight with the team you are a part of right here and right now?”

Anstey’s Dallas Mavericks weren’t given much of a chance to win, and they fell behind early, but they scrapped, stayed in the game and found a way to win in overtime, with Anstey playing an important role in the second half and OT.

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Brandon Todd is a 5’5″ tall basketballer who had a goal to slam dunk a basketball.

When he first started, he could barely touch the net, so as he says, “I was like, okay, I have a lot of work to do. So I researched all this stuff, I started going to work out, and then slowly but surely over time I got better.”

This was a seemingly impossible task and he went to extreme lengths to achieve his goal.

He put himself on a training regime that was inspired by Russian powerlifters and after three years of intense exercise routines, he added 85 pounds of muscle before finally reaching his goal.

What would push someone for three years just to dunk a basketball?

As Brandon himself said, “I was willing to put myself through all this pain and anguish for that one moment to say: ‘I can do it.’”

I have two questions for you today.

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After the captain of the Gold Coast Suns, Gary Ablett, won his second Brownlow medal as the best and fairest player in the AFL, his coach, Guy McKenna made the comment, “To be a champion you’ve got to mimic one and I think they’ve got one amongst them.”

The Suns are a very young team and their coach understands that by having one of the all-time greats training and playing with this squad has massive benefits.  Talent doesn’t rub off, but work ethic and attitude does, and this is why Ablett adds value far beyond his extraordinary performances on the field.

I know that it’s important to pave your own way, but one of the keys to success is to find a role model to follow.

I know that for me personally, I’ve learned a lot about public speaking from watching and listening to some of the best.  I’m been able to glean a few ideas from them about stage presence, story telling and speaking without notes that have added significant value to my speaking.

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