How Champions are made

As you know, I’ve retaken to the gym after deciding I’ve put on a few more pounds over winter than I’d like. So I got myself a training plan after spending time with a coach – just to make sure I would be getting the best from every workout, not spending time on things that wouldn’t make a difference to me, and the improvements I wanted to make.

It was a track that came on while working out (the Rocky theme tune in case you’re wondering!) that prompted a memory from 2007 that I want to share with you…

“Are you using that weight?”  At least, I think that’s what the voice said.

I removed one of the headphones from my ear, looked at the source of the voice and said: “Sorry, what was that?”

“Do you mind if I borrow that weight?”

I looked at the weight, shrugged my shoulders and said: “Sure, go ahead, I’m done with it”.

I stuck my headphone back in, turned around and continued staring at the pull-up bar above my head.

“Would you mind helping me with this?”

I sighed and faced the young-looking, tall lad on the machine next to me.  “Sure, what do you need?

“My coach has got me doing these pull-ups, and I need to attach the weight to my feet, but I can’t work out the best way to do it, and he’s disappeared”.

“There’s a strap thingy over there you can use”

“Oh, thanks” and he wandered off.

I turned around and contemplated the bar again.  I jumped, grabbed hold of the bar with an overhand grip and started hauling my frame up until my chin was level with the bar.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,” I muttered under my breath with the Rocky theme tune keeping me company in my ear.

I was feeling pleased with myself.  I was recovering slowly from another back spasm a few weeks earlier and was starting to feel somewhere near normal again.  I was training regularly and was spending a lot of time at the Lawn Tennis Association’s new National Training Centre.  I was part of a team looking at overhauling the school’s competition, and player pathway structure and the LTA were keen that the new facilities were full as much as possible.  So, we met there a couple of times a month.

So, there I was in the gym, making the best use of the equipment, training (I thought) quite hard.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12….”

Never judge a book…

I glanced back at the guy who’d asked for my help.  To be honest, he didn’t look like much (not that we should compare, but we do).  Although tall, he wasn’t a big lad.  Athletic, but you’d expect tennis players to be athletic.  So he was nothing I hadn’t seen thousands of times before; and nothing to set him apart from all the other athletes I’d seen and worked with.

I found myself staring at him intently…  “13, 14, 15.”

He was also doing pull-ups.  The thing is that he was doing pull-ups, one armed with that 15kg plate tied to his ankles to make it harder.  And he was racing through those reps.

It was difficult not to feel a little inadequate when watching him.

It slowly dawned on me who I was working out next to as I continued to watch him lever himself one-armed up to that bar, again and again.

Andrew Barron Murray

You’re more likely to know him as Andy Murray.

Great Britain’s greatest ever tennis player.  That’s not my opinion.  I believe it is a fact.

What an achievement

Andy Murray OBE, who has achieved:

  • World number 1 ranking
  • A four-time Grand Slam champion
  • A six-time Grand Slam runner-up
  • A two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner
  • An Olympic Silver Medal winner (mixed doubles with Laura Robson)
  • ATP World Tour Finalist
  • Winner of the Davis Cup
  • Multi Wimbledon winner
  • US Open winner
  • Three times winner of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year
  • Winner of 43 singles titles
  • Fourth place in the all-time earnings rankings with over 61 Million Dollars in career prize money.

He’s also a prolific campaigner for Women’s Rights.

That moment in the gym during the winter of 2007 is one I remember with fondness and a wry smile.

I wrote earlier that there was nothing to separate him from the thousands of other athletes I’d seen.  That’s not entirely true.  What he had and still has in abundance is a determination and work ethic that I’ve rarely seen.

The papers are (rightly) full of praise and admiration for his skill, ability and mental toughness.  Some of the media seem to delight in taking credit of “our Andy”.  The same papers that wanted to string him up for saying “anyone England play against” when asked in 2006 who he’d be supporting in the World Cup after Scotland failed to qualify.

Tenacity, grit and (LOTS of) Practice…

He’s got grit has Andy Murray.  He’s also got tenacity and an incredible capacity for practice.

Yup, practice.  It’s what sets him apart.

Back in 2007, he was struggling with his diet, and his body kept breaking down.  Earlier in his career, some whispered that he gave up on matches when he was losing.  He wasn’t; he just ran out of fuel.

It was holding him back.  He researched reasons and asked who else might have the same problem, and it was Novak Djokovic who suggested it might be a wheat problem as he’d suffered similarly.

Changing his diet wasn’t enough for him, though.  He brought in a full-time trainer (who’s still with him) and hit the gym.

He’s relentless.

What we see and what the papers celebrate is the result.  We see the arms aloft, the tears when he’s lost, the joy when he’s won.  We’ve cried with him and screamed at him.  We’ve named a hill after him, and yes, in the Tennis playing public, he’s replaced (Tim) Henman as the darling of their affections.  Despite being a bit scruffy and a lot Scottish.

Practice brings results

All he did was practice.

His winning isn’t about beating the seven men in that tournament that are between him and victory.  His winning is about doing what he’s done tens of thousand times already.

The Ace that sears off the line at 128 miles an hour?  He’s hit hundreds a day for 20 years.

That running forehand down the line at full stretch?  I watched him hit one hundred of that one shot in a row while in an elastic harness to pull him in the opposite direction when running for the ball.

I’ve watched him hit eighty-seven cross-court backhands into a hoop the size of a flipchart and throw his racket because he misses at eighty- eight.  And start again.

The drop shot he reaches from several feet outside the baseline.  I’ve seen him throw up into a bucket on the side of a court because he’s done 20 in a row for the 10th time.

The lob he effortlessly caresses over an opponent’s head as they rush in towards the net.  It wasn’t effortless when he was doing those one-arm pull-ups.

Success isn’t just about what you see

You see, his success isn’t about the moments you see and applaud.  His success is about the thousands of moments you don’t see.  The moments away from the cameras.  The moments away from the crowd and the adulation.  It’s the moments that he puts in when no-one is looking.  When it’s him, an empty court and a hundred tennis balls or an empty gym and a pull-up bar.

Your success (whatever that means to you) is built on the same principles.  It’s not luck.  It’s practice.

That contract you win?  You win it because the ones you don’t win are practice.

The email you send that gets no response is practice for the one that will.

The follow-up call that you get hung up on halfway through is practice for the one that gets you that client.

The event you put on where only two people turn up?  Practice.

I know that Andy Murray is a huge Boxing fan.  In fact, much of his training is done using boxing methods.   He’s also a great admirer of Muhammed Ali who once said:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Andy is a champion because he takes his ‘talent’ and he practices.

You can be a champion too.

All it takes is practice.

 

 


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