My father used to always tell me that Malayalees are supposed to be experts in swimming. And so I was forced to learn swimming at an early age. After joining college, I realized that not many malayalees know how to swim. Infact, in my class there were hardly two to three guys who knew how to swim. When I had started, I did not like swimming much, as I used to drink a lot of water. The water in a swimming pool is generally very dirty. I remember in the early days when I was learning to swim, I once heard two boys in the pool talk about the pleasure they get by peeing in the pool. I almost puked at the thought that I was drinking the same water. Anyway, that sure did help me learn swimming quick. By the end of it, I was quite good and used to compete at various tournaments. I used to really love swimming. Just being in the water gave an immense pleasure to me. Just me and my thoughts in the water. I used to swim a 1000 meters in the morning and a 1000 meters in the evening everyday.
Besides the fun part of swimming, I learnt a lot of principles that I still believe and follow in my life. I’ll share some now. Generally, sportsmen are the best people to learn management from. They are all very focused, positive and spirited people. All sportsmen learn that both winning and loosing is part of the game. The important thing is to participate in the first place. Also, it is important to practice, procrastination does not help. You have to practice and then give your best. The noted Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle has even started a TV show called “Masterstrokes” where he gets famous sports and management personalities together to talk. I quote Harsha Bhogle, “It was fascinating to see how business leaders, people in control of careers, of major financial conditions, thought about issues that I had seen in the world of sport… especially leadership and team building. We need more of such convergence in society because inherently the values that drive people are the same.” In one of the ads of the program there was a very interesting quote from the Indian Cricket captain Sourav Ganguly. He says that “Leaders are expected to either lead from the front or support the team from the back. But I say, a leader should move with the team”.
Here are a few good lessons I learnt in my life through sports
Never say die till the last stroke. The game is never over till the end. So we must give our very best. There are many times in our regular lives when we start to think that this would not work out and give up. In sports the first rule is never give up. Go on till the end. We can either win or loose. But for that, first we have complete the race. This takes us to the next important lesson which is learn to complete every task we undertake. Most of us are very enthusiastic about starting things. But we generally get restless and leave things before it is completed. It is better not to start than to start and leave in-between. It takes a lot of time to get successful and only those can execute and those who have patience win in the end. So we must always remain focused.
Accept that winning and loosing are part of the game. There is no great sportsman who has not lost. We must learn to loose and win gracefully. One of the best examples I can think of is the former Swedish Tennis star Mats Wilander. He always smiled after a game. It did not matter if he won or lost. He took everything like a true gentleman.
Always be focused. When playing one needs the utmost concentration. A lapse of concentration for a few seconds could mean a defeat for the player.
One important aspect to remember here is to remain focused in the game. As they say “Never take the eye of the ball” and “Never play with the eye on the scoreboard”. One needs to focus on the game. I quote from the Gita – “Karam kar phal ke partisksha na kar”
Every sportsman also learns the importance of time. For a sprinter every millisecond counts. This generally makes every sportsman respect time.
Power of visualization – Our swimming coach used to always tell us to visualize an event. He would say learn to relax before the tournament. It goes like this – I feel light and energetic. The weather is great for swimming. I am going to get the best place. My start is perfect. I have a perfect dive in the water. The water is not too hot neither is it too cool. It is just right for me. My breathing is perfect and my strokes are perfect and coordinated. I am the winner… I still visualize before any important event in my life. It really helps.
We must also be physiologically very positive in life. The mind plays a very important role when we execute tasks. In cricket, for example, the fast bowlers always try to scare the batsmen. They always have a killer instinct. In this mind game if you are positive and can be equally aggressive then the opponent cannot really scare you.
Kill before it dies – Another very important aspect that our coach used to tell was to kill the spirit before it dies. As I mentioned earlier I used to swim a thousand meters in each session. Some days I would ask him if I can do 2 more laps. For which he would say no. One day I asked him why. He said if you do the 2 laps you would have happy when you go. You’ll feel satisfied. This would finish your desire to come back. Therefore you should kill this spirit inside you before it dies. This way you’ll come with the same spirit everyday and kill it everyday before it dies.
I do firmly believe that this holds true for everything in life. I see some kids in my office, who are so excited when they start that they sit for real long hours. Slowly, we can see the enthusiasm die and in no time they are “burnt out”. I believe that if we really kill that enthusiasm everyday. We would surely look forward to coming back everyday. The hunger would remain forever. It is this desire which helps a person get successful in life. Never ever overdo. Always enjoy and keep the spirit alive forever.
The best way to summarize on what the world of sports can teach us, would be with the Olympic motto – “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” These three Latin words mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”