Sport can stir strong passions and for me, I still remember a number of sporting occasions from when I was 9 or 10 years of age. Getting a colour TV in time for the 1972 Munich Olympics to see Mark Spitz winning all those gold medals – who could not be inspired by that? Or one of the best Wimbledon finals ever where Stan Smith of the U.S. defeated Ilie Năstase of communist Romania in a West versus East contest, the cool and calm one against the temperamental one. What about the 1972/73 Five Nations rugby tournament? Ireland, who had not won the Grand Slam since 1948, won their first two games away to France and England. Wales and Scotland, however, would not travel to Dublin to complete their fixtures due to the Troubles and Ireland were left with unfulfilled dreams. Then in the 1973 tournament, England vowed to travel to Lansdowne Road come “hell or high water”, for which they received a full standing ovation from the 50,000 in the stadium for a full five minutes. The England captain famously remarked, despite what was actually a close game: “We might not be very good but at least we turn up”.
My sport became sailing and this is where I learnt about blood sweat and tears, about winning and losing and playing by the rules. Eventually I spent two years competing and campaigning full time for the 1996 Olympics where I worked with coaches, exercise physiologists and psychologists and read up about all aspects of sports science. I learnt that high aerobic fitness was needed to win in Laser sailing in windy conditions and that fitness did not come from just running at low intensity for an hour (it was 20 years ago !) and training the mind was just as important as the body. It is also where I learnt:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly: who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring, knowing his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” (Theo Roosevelt, 1910)
Many observers of sport don’t appreciate this. Now almost 20 years later, I have just finished a MSc in Sport Performance Analysis, driven by my passion to understand performance at elite level but with children of my mine now, I have an interest “early specialisation” in sport and the pros and cons of talent programmes as well as understanding how to get everyone more interested in sports at a grassroots level. I have taken on a number voluntary roles in sports organisations and am developing an interest in how sport and technology are combining to support and engage athletes, coaches and fans. And this blog is just an outlet for these interests.