There are a few “true greats” in any sport. The ones often remembered as being unflinching in the face of the toughest situations. I’m thinking world cup final penalty shoot out, or sudden death in a gold medal hockey game. Mere mortals, even talented ones, just can’t seem to bring the magic when everything’s on the line. The skills are there, but the belief seems to evaporate. All of a sudden attacking players start playing it safe, thoughtful strategy gives way to hit and hope and you look on with a sympathetic but understanding shake of the head.

It’s hard to say what the difference is between a good player and a great player, but one idea might be focus. You are what you do every day. When you’re faced with a difficult situation, a single minded desire to win may result in your pushing principles to one side without even realizing it. These are the same principles that define your game; they characterize you. The solution is simple but hard to do, focusing on being the best at winning must become secondary to a focus on being the best at playing your game, according to your principles.

Last words:

  • I originally came up with the idea for this post after watching Rafael Nadal come one step closer to figuring out what it will take to beat Novak Djokovic. Rafael is a player with great potential and great character (go Rafa!)
  • The title of this post is a quote by John Wooden (1910 – 2010), a prolific UCLA basketball coach