Work hard and put in the extra hours to reach the top in today’s professional sporting world

2014-04-11 00:00

WE all know what a sport-mad nation we inhabit at the foot of Africa, where our national teams and stars always compete under extreme pressure where nothing less than a win or a gold medal suffices.

Thousands of armchair critics have their say before, during and after an event, throwing out all sorts of ideas and solutions, some ludicrous, others worth contemplating.

Yet, where does it all start?

Jacques Kallis wasn’t some miracle cricketer that landed on Earth, in our country, with a mission to be one of the world’s greatest players. Likewise John Smit when it comes to rugby or Bruce Fordyce in long distance running.

The difference is, they worked hard at their game, putting in the hours, the sacrifice, the extra coaching or run that would make them stand out from the rest of their competitors. They wanted to succeed. They had dreams and goals and they were prepared to take every step up the ladder, one at a time, knowing there was no quick fix or short-cuts to get where they wanted to be.

They had support from family and friends, people wanting them to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport, people prepared to make their own commitment in seeing a talent bloom and become radiant.

Attending practice, getting up early, asking for advice on how to improve and correct faults — these are all vital ingredients in creating the finished, polished product.

Former Protea wicket-keeper Mark Boucher refers to that in his book Bouch. Squash was his major sport before cricket and he would be up at 4 am most days to catch up on his schoolwork so he could play squash and attend tournaments.

Again, he wanted to be good at what he did and his squash record bears testimony to that as he was ranked the South African number one player in his age group many times.

Sadly, many of today’s modern youngsters want to be great sportsmen or -women and expect the accolades to land in their laps. They may have talent, but it needs constant work. Even a Rolls Royce engine needs tuning and maintenance to ensure it runs as it should and likewise when a budding sport talent is recognised.

Chad le Clos is another example. Swimming is one of the most demanding sports, yet he is a world icon because of his approach to what he discovered he was good at. He arrived for every practice, regardless of whether it was early morning or late afternoon.

If he needed to be at the pool twice a day, there he was and if he could fit in some extra lengths, he knew it would benefit him in the long run.

Bruce Fordyce, at the height of his power when he “owned” the Comrades, spent hours working on his strength — running uphill — at Sweethoogte in Auckland Park, knowing that every step and drop of sweat was one ahead of his rivals and was worth the pain and strain. And we all know how it worked for him as his nine Comrades wins is a sports record that will stand for eternity.

There has to be a spark within a youngster that combines with common sense to make him/her realise what it takes to reach the top in today’s professional sporting world. The goods have to be produced as no one is going to just appear out the blue and offer sponsorship or support. Like buying a car, people want to know it will be a solid product that will not let them down.

At schools these days, one of the most nerve-racking activities is physical exercise periods. Most pupils queue up to inform the teacher as to why they cannot participate and it’s not always sickness or injuries that are fallen back on. Feeble excuses such as messing up a hairstyle, getting too hot in the sun, not having the right branded takkies to wear — it can be quite sickening at times. Ask most schoolchildren, at high school level, to run around a field two or three times and it’s pathetic to see the result.

Even if you are not keen on sport, enjoy the moment, the fresh air, the freedom, the fun of it. Appreciate you can run and be physically active. Surely, it beats sitting in a hot classroom trying to figure out formulas or logarithms. Then again, playing on a cellphone or iPad always takes preference.

It’s a sad predicament but it’s true. Show some willpower. Switch off the phone for an hour a day, strap on some comfortable shoes and yes, smell the roses out there. They offer more splendour and food for the soul than any electronic gadget.

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