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Sacrifice Decision11-time world champion cyclist Emma Meares recently told the story of when former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh was the mentor for the Australian Olympic team at the London Olympics.

He told them that athletes make decisions, not sacrifices to be successful.

In Emma’s words, “If you think that having a healthy diet is a sacrifice then you’re wrong, yes moving away from family and spending time on your own is hard, but it’s a decision and you can choose not to do it.”

It struck me that I use the word sacrifice too much.

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I-do-believe-in-praisingBasketball and sport in general lost one of its great doyens this week with the passing of North Carolina head coach legend Dean Smith at the age of 83.

Coach Smith was a universally respected figure who nurtured the college careers of over 50 future NBA players, including superstars Michael Jordan and James Worthy.

He was a great teacher and leader who led his teams to 2 NCAA Championships and when he retired, had won more games than any other basketball coach in Division 1 college history.

But one of his most influential teachings was the introduction of pointing to the passer, whereby any player who scored a basket would acknowledge the team-mate who gave them the ball.  It’s a habit that is now seen after almost every score on almost every court across the world and is even utilised in other sports as well.

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Your-body-is-an-idiot-One of the books that I’m reading at the moment is inspirational athlete Kurt Fearnley’s autobiography.  He tells a range of stories including the philosophy of legendary rugby league coach Phil Gould.

According to Fearnley, Gould believed that all athletes had a voice in the back of their minds that told them it was acceptable to take short cuts.  To not run when they were fatigued; to stay down and feign injury so that they could have a little rest; to not dive or get their body in line for a tackle because they might cop a knock.

But winners didn’t listen to that little voice. Read the rest of this entry »

Theres-no-point-inA good friend (thanks Simon) recently shared with me a story about legendary (and slightly eccentric) Hall-of-Fame baseballer Rickey Henderson.

It seems as though Rickey had always wanted to be a millionaire, so when he received a bonus cheque for a million dollars from the Oakland A’s, instead of cashing it, he had it framed and put on his wall to display for all to see.

It wasn’t until he received a phone call from the slightly flustered A’s finance department, who suggested that he display a photocopy, that he went to the bank and cashed the cheque.

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Richmond Players

Tigers players celebrating their amazing win on the weekend

After their first foray into the AFL finals in many years in 2013, the Richmond Football Club had big, bold plans for 2014.

The team had improved every year under coach Damien Hardwick and were ready to launch themselves at the top of the ladder in his fifth season at the helm.

But the start of the year didn’t go according to plan, with key injuries, poor performances and confidence dropping by the week, resulting in a 3-10 start to the season.  This placed the Tigers equal bottom of the ladder with nine games to go.

They were written off by everyone else, as finals seemed a mathematical impossibility.  No team had ever recovered from such a shambolic start and the underachieving Tigers didn’t seem like the kind of club that could beat the odds.

But they dared to dream.

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One of the books that I’m reading at the moment is “The Hoops Whisperer” by Idan Ravin.  In it, I found this fantastic quote.

“Life boils down to a series of jump shots:

Some you make, some you miss, some you wish you’d taken, some you wish you hadn’t.

Great players move on, looking forward to the next possession.”

I love this reminder that when we live life to the full, some things will work and some won’t.

And I know that there are a lot of things over my journey that I wish I had done, or done sooner, or done differently, or not done at all.

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Steve Way leading the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the one mile mark

Steve Way leading the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the one mile mark

Seven years ago, Steve Way was sitting on his couch at home, smoking 20 cigarettes per day and eating take-away curry every night.

He weighed 16 and a half stone (102 kg), which when combined with his smoking habit, led to breathing issues that kept him awake at night.

So, at the age of 33, Steve got off the couch and started running.  He hasn’t looked back since.

As his stamina improved, he started to enter himself into longer races, eventually running marathons.

He got to a point where at the 2014 London Marathon, he finished 15th and was the third fastest Englishman.  He didn’t realise this at the time, but the London Marathon was the qualifier for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and with the two Englishmen ahead of his running other events, at the age of 40 he was selected to represent his country.

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Life doesn’t always go according to plan.

Just ask Isaiah Austin.

A 7 foot 1 centre from Baylor University, Austin was a talented basketball player who had already overcome a significant eye injury that required a prosthetic eye to produce a remarkable season and place himself in contention to be drafted to the NBA.

However in the days leading up to the draft, a routine physical revealed that he has a rare genetic condition known as Marfan’s syndrome, which placed his heart at risk of rupturing if he was to play professional sport.  This meant that Austin had to retire at the age of 20 before his career even had a chance to start.

It wasn’t his fault.

He had no say in it.

His dreams and everything that he had worked hard to achieve were destroyed just days before they were to be realised.

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World CupJoga bonito is the Portuguese phrase that the Brazilians often use to describe football.

It literally means, “play beautifully” and is a wonderful way of describing their philosophy towards the sport.

To Brazilians, football isn’t just about kicking a ball, it’s about playing with creativity, flair and technical brilliance.

It’s not about 0-0 draws, it’s about flamboyant stars such as Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and their current genius, Neymar.

Even their defenders aren’t best known for their dour tackling, but for their fearless, precocious dribbling, powerful shooting and constant attacking threat.

And it’s not just about winning, it’s about winning beautifully and providing entertainment to their adoring fans.

With the World Cup kicking off today in Brazil, my question is, does joga bonito just apply to football, or can it apply to the rest of our lives as well?

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The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70's

The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70’s

The Richmond Football Club and AFL community lost a legend this week with the sad passing of the seemingly indestructible Tommy Hafey.

“T-shirt” Tommy as he was affectionately known was a remarkably successful coach who was renowned for not only creating better sporting teams, but for positively influencing people on and off the field.

As a coach, he took an interest in every player on his list, from the superstars to the fresh-faced rookies and found a way to inspire them to reach their full potential as athletes and citizens.

He was an amazing leader and one of his greatest legacies is that 18 of his ex-players went on to become senior coaches in their own right.

His personal creed was Desire plus Dedication plus Discipline plus Determination equals your Destination” and he lived this out for his entire life.

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