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Opportunity knocks


IT is an obvious thing to say but we must take whatever opportunity comes our way.

How we do that is a key factor. In taking his opportunities, a sports coach may well put a great deal more focus and significance on considering and communicating tactics though more important should be the way he man-manages his players.

However, before even that happens, the coach needs to get his selection correct and a key question there for him to consider is whether he considers more highly the aptitude or the attitude of the player.

Most coaches would naturally lean towards the aptitude of the player, the player’s ability and, to a lesser degree, fitness, and not his attitude. Is that wise?

At the start of the season this one coach is faced with seven young athletes and the question he is considering is which one will go the furthest in terms of competition. How would we handle them? Let us meet these youngsters and reflect on who we believe would go far.

First up on the track is Luke. Luke has wonderful innate talent, an easy stride and a calm head.

He strolls around the track at a comfortable pace, not pushing himself but slipping in neatly to the pack, allowing others to do the hard work, content to keep out of trouble, but not forcing the pace in any manner.

He does what he is told but no more; after all, the coach knows best. He listens to what is said but does not use his imagination or initiative.

Then there is Peter. He is super-enthusiastic to begin with, all energy, noise, passion, exuberance, power.

He is full of good intentions and promises, volunteering for extra sessions and further input but as the season goes on, as the novelty wears off, as the sessions become tougher,

Peter gradually slips back in the pecking order and joins the pack, even if the following season he will be right up there again with great intensity and intent before his enthusiasm wanes again.

Mark is next. Mark in effect simply goes through the motions, seeing no real progress or improvement, not really sure why he is there in the first place but happy to be there, enjoying the time with friends as well as the exercise.

He recognises it keeps him out of trouble and in shape but is waiting for a day when he can find something else that will inspire him more and involve him less.

We move on to Noah. He has immense talent and ability but can be upset and angered very easily, causing him to sulk and retreat.

When he is asked to do something extra he refuses point blank; when he is instructed to follow a particular course he defiantly says, “No”.

When things do not go his way he does not listen and does not help his fellow athletes.

In contrast to Noah, Will is short on talent but makes up for it with sheer determination and grit. He hangs on to the back of the pack with gritted teeth, lowered head, putting up with pain and pulling himself along with his arms.

He digs deep; he grafts hard to keep up, knowing that if he can hang in there he will be able to finish strong and in contention. He keeps his eyes on the finish line.

In the middle of them all is Iris. As the only girl in the group she has more focus placed on her, greater expectations, harder challenges.

She is ready to put that all on the line, knowing well that she may well trail in last but she is lifted by the opportunity which she knows may not come again.

Finally, there at the back is Hugh. In terms of talent, he is the strongest but is content to bide his time, to tuck in at the back, away from all the attention, quietly going about the task without complaint or celebration, seeing it all in its true p[lace and perspective.

He encourages those around him to keep going; he gives others space to overtake when they want to do so. He remains calm, dependable, showing little emotion but is excited by the efforts of the others.

All these runners start and finish at the same time but have journeyed in different ways. So, whom would we select?

To give them their full names, they are Luke Warm, Peter Out, Mark Time, Noah Wont, Will Power, Hugh Mility and Iris Keverything. This may all sound like some of those terrible ‘Knock Knock’ jokes we heard as youngsters but this is no joke.

When opportunity knocks for our youngsters in the sporting world we need to be able to open the door and release them. Several of these athletes mentioned above will not make it. So, who will go the furthest? Who will we select?

  • Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools Email:

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