Ever since I was five years old, when my grandfather took me to the famous Headingley Cricket Ground to watch our local rugby league team, Leeds Rhinos, I have been a huge fan. From that tender age of five, I have supported the Rhinos through thick and thin. From the frustrating years of the mid to late eighties, through the nearly years of the nineties and now the all-conquering years we have been enjoying since 2004. The Rhinos have been one of the few constant parts of my life. I feel they are part of my identity.
Through those many years, I have learnt a lot from the team. I remember visiting the players dressing room in the early nineties and seeing on the dressing room wall the quote “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. This quote gave me so much inspiration. It made me realise that I should never settle for second best, and should always strive to be the best at everything I do. I know that is an unrealistic expectation, but as a goal in life, to make winning the goal, it has always pushed me to achieve things I never thought possible. To train harder than anyone else, to learn as much as possible about teaching adults so I would always have the best student retention rates when I was working in the language institute I taught at for nine years. It helped me to learn what a student wanted and to help students achieve their own goals when it came to communicating in English because that is how I could become the best teacher.
In recent years, the Rhinos have taught me the importance of sticking to the game plan. To play to my strengths and to accept things will go wrong from time to time and mistakes will happen but by sticking to the game plan, adjusting when necessary and having a belief that what I am doing is the right thing, I will be on the winning side. Discipline, professionalism and taking responsibility for my actions when things do go wrong. All have been reinforced by supporting and watching the Rhinos.
One quote from a former head coach, though, has become a philosophy in my life. This came from an interview with the Rhino’s former head coach, Brian McClennan. Brian McClennan, in an interview, said: “to be a champion on the field, you need to be a champion off the field”. Meaning, that everything you do, whether it is on the field of play or off, determines the success you will have in life. If you want to succeed, you need to be professional in everything you do. In terms of sport, a champion needs to train hard every day, they need to eat right, not drink or smoke and always have a professional attitude. In our normal, everyday professional lives it means we go to bed at a reasonable time the night before work. We keep ourselves healthy so we can perform at our best every day and it means we are constantly seeking new ways to improve the quality of our work. We read, we learn and we think like a champion.
Throughout my life, I have always been inspired by true champions. Ellery Hanley, a former Wigan and Leeds Rhinos player has always been a huge inspiration to me. Ellery Hanley was the consummate champion. His playing career was in the mid to late eighties and he was one of the few rugby league players to not drink (at that time), to train every day and to learn everything he could about the game. Kevin Sinfield, the captain of Leeds Rhinos during their most successful years, took professionalism to a whole new level. He practised and practised his kicking skills over and over again until he got as near perfect as he could. We knew that when the pressure was on and Kevin had to kick a high-pressure goal for Leeds to win, he would do it. He had trained himself to be a winner.
And for us, mere mortals in the game of life, our attitude and our professionalism will always determine the levels of success we achieve. If we think like a loser, we will be a loser. But if we think, train and behave like a champion, we too, can be champions at whatever it is we do. It’s not good enough to prepare for a presentation by drinking a bottle of wine with our friends the night before we deliver the presentation. Champions say no to the wine and take themselves to a quiet room to practice their presentation. It’s not good enough to sit up on a Sunday night binge watching episodes of Nacos on Netflix until 2 AM in the morning. Champions go to bed early so they perform at their best at work the next day.
To be a champion at the game of life, you need to live like a champion in life. No excuses. You work on your skills, so when you need to perform at your best, your best will make you a winner. If you find you have weaknesses in your professional life, you need to turn those weaknesses into strengths by learning, studying and practising. That is how champions become champions. They are no different from you and me. They just have a professional attitude and they strive to be champions by living like champions. Something we can all do.
So, if you want to be a champion at whatever you do, then you need to think and behave like a champion every day. Show professionalism in everything you do, and never settle for second best. From now on, only the best will do for you.
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