By Jamie Watts.
I read a book recently by Ben Bergeron called Chasing Excellence. It’s a phenomenal breakdown of athletic focus and grit. A playbook of the mental approach to training and life, not to necessarily overcome inevitable obstacles, but to turn them into one’s advantage. Ben is a CrossFit coaching legend, but his anecdotes are relatable to all genres of sport and life and how character plays it's part. I highly recommend it to any athlete, coach or parent.
It made me think about “character” and “being a character” in today’s sports. What’s the difference between a trash talking Conor McGregor or a mild-mannered killer like Tom Brady? Maybe I should be asking, what is the similarity between the two? Does one have more “character” than the other? We teach our kids to be humble and controlled, but short of rude and insulting behavior, is a little chatter with opponents and teammates all that bad? This day in age it’s certainly become part of the game. Elite players get the job done within their own personality, brash and bravado or calm and calculating or something in between. But the best athletes don’t operate to satisfy someone else’s expectation. They work within themselves.
The spectacular element of playing sports is that it’s a microcosm of the reality of life, there is no place to hide, you can’t fake it, you must put in the time. Ben laments; “Greatness is not for the elite few; winning is a result, not a goal; and character, not talent, is what makes a true champion”.
Character comes from the willingness to work to one’s maximum potential, overcome, have a sustained ethic, be confident, grind fundamentals. Some will “be a character” to get that done, some will be cerebral and in their head. But there’s one thing we learn as we meander through the labyrinth of life, if you put in the work you can do it how it fits you best and maybe earn your place on the podium. Do it not, and you will be exposed regardless of a little chatter.