“A man’s character is his fate” – Heraclitus
Not every player can be the best, this is a simple statement and we are lead to believe that we all have a chance to be the best whereas in fact this cannot be true.
In Kuala Lumpur recently courtesy of the Seven Continent Challenge, Peter Nicol gave a talk to a group of nascent professionals hopeful of making an impression on the world tour in due time. An informal chat with one of the most successful players of the modern era is potentially far more beneficial to the players than spending the equivalent time on court. If you aspire to be the best then you better be able to listen very well.
The key point Peter made was that to be successful it is imperative to change your mind set to achieve this as you start your journey as a professional as it is much harder – or impossible in some cases – to change when you are older. In his case the motivation was to complete every aspect of his training, even the seemingly insignificant to the best of his ability and in doing so seek to gain even the smallest advantage over his competitors.
I think a lot of people will theoretically appreciate this notion but I would question how many would be able to act upon it day after day especially as a young man.
I believe the character of the athlete is the decisive element in making a change and remaining dedicated over time to it (in this case around 15 years). I do not think this will need to be a conscious thought for the chosen few. The way an athlete acts, feels and thinks is reflective of the overall character which is largely set from birth with some influence from the environment they grew up in.
If the ground is fertile results will be easier to cultivate, if not, resistance in some form will be an ever present obstacle.
This brings me back to the point that not all can be the best because of the diversity of character and how that will either lend or resist itself to the tasks in becoming successful. Most people in reality do not hold the true ambition to become the best and are much more than happy making up the numbers even if sometimes they do not or chose not to know this themselves. This attitude should not be discouraged or ignored it is simply reflective of the many layers of life itself.
It is interesting how this calling can sometimes be ambiguous too and it is not unusual to see a successful younger athlete excelling in professional sport early in a career when guided by an experienced coach but when taking more responsibility for their profession have mysteriously faltered. In some cases the foundations of the career are built on fear and other negative emotions and not on the specific attitude of the individual athlete so continued success is simply not repeatable.
Beginning with the necessary attitude and the athletic ability for success in our profession is extremely helpful but it is only bequeathed on a very small group of individuals. With hard work and opportunity advancement is inevitable.
But alas, do not lose heart as there is still much to be achieved in squash even if you are not one of the blessed few and indeed this extends to countless other areas in life – some good and some bad – and each person has their special role to play in the natural order of things. So, let’s get to it.