It’s easy to be overjoyed on the great days when victory is tasted and a trophy is held aloft. Equally, it’s easy to justify despair when you fall short and leave with nothing but regrets and questions. But true class and quality in sport is how measured you are regardless of the result. Sporting legend Roger Federer springs to mind.
Following a loss he speaks with respect towards his opponent, showing his appreciation and understanding of what it takes to play well on the day of days.
Yet, you are left with little doubt he will reflect on his loss to ensure that something positive can be taken away from the effort of his performance.
The constancy of the process in elite sport means there are lessons to be learned in every situation you encounter. Ironically, the more painful the experience, the more there is to learn. If you can park your ego at the door and look for answers within yourself before looking elsewhere, the process will be all the more rewarding.
There is nothing weak about taking responsibility for your role in a loss or a losing season. In fact, and not surprisingly, it can be a hugely powerful message to those around you to also take ownership of their own stake in the process. Incidentally, if the head coach is slow to shoulder the responsibility of defeat, choosing to deflect towards incalculable and immeasurable items such as lucky scores and poor officials, the road to recovery will be painful for all.
However, Sunday’s All- Ireland hurling final between Tipperary and Kilkenny, played in front of 83,000 privileged spectators, was a treat to behold. The game is in good hands when there are managers who epitomise the process mentioned here.
Never once in the lead up to the game did the Kilkenny manager Brian Cody accommodate questions about the loss of one of his star players to injury. He wouldn’t dream of disrespecting the process nor his remaining players to insinuate that one player was the winning or losing of the impending final.
The Tipperary manager Michael Ryan, also chose the route of respect and forthright thought while addressing the media. Choosing to emphasise the effort and commitment of his players and staff that had ensured their rightful place in the final.
Like all world-class sporting occasions there is very little between the opponents. No doubt, Tipperary were better on the day and are deserving champions.
But the manner in which both managers conducted themselves afterwards gives you real insight into what you can expect from them next season, already. Brian Cody choosing to accept defeat on the chin by praising every aspect of what Tipperary did.
He was quick to mention their resilience, effort and cohesiveness in the face of adversity.
Making sure never to stoop to list excuses for the loss no matter how often he was prompted. A man clearly well versed in the process. The wheels of a meaningful recovery are already in motion.
Michael Ryan appeared to speak more about Kilkenny in his post-match interview than his own set-up. Choosing to pay his respects to the greatest team in history and recognising their role in setting the bar so high for everyone else to reach, with little or no fanfare. He also showed great respect to those who have gone before him without success, recognising they also had a part to play in this victory. You can’t help thinking in his six years with Tipperary, before taking the helm this year, that he realised to beat Kilkenny you have to be more like them than not. Sure enough, he’ll enjoy this victory, but to repeat the feat in 2017, he’ll know the process just sleeps rather than shuts down entirely.
Experts tell us the ‘process’ is accessible to all, though it is not something we have an innate sense for. Yet, we are constantly encouraged to engage in it. So how do we? What experiences are we to be on the lookout for to help us on our way? Which individuals are worthy of study?
For instance, who did Brian Cody learn it from and who is learning from him, to one day take the mantle when he eventually steps aside?
What elements of the process did Michael Ryan learn from Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea? Two very different yet very capable operators in their own right.
These are very difficult questions to answer. The ‘process’ to be becoming a success is not for the faint-hearted. It is an all-encompassing, all- consuming concept that requires a humility to learn from others. Not just from those you can access and shadow as they work but from those who have shared their experiences and expertise in book form. There is an array of books that speak to the ‘process’ in one way or another.
Often times choosing ‘the culture of winning’ as an alternative phrase. Apart from the academic resources that are theory-laden with little or no relatable analogy to hook the reader in, the accounts of others is a rich place to start becoming a process-oriented practitioner and the all-conquering All-Blacks is a safe bet.
John Kerr’s book Legacy, is the result of his time with the New-Zealand team. It is a succinct step-by-step account of how to become engaged in the ‘process’ within a results-driven environment.
Yet, if you’re talking about fufilling your potential as well as those around you, Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is a must-read.
A book that encapsulates the findings of a career spent identifying the mechanisms and strategies that result in people consistently achieving their potential.
However, if you can stretch to only one book, then Toughness by Jay Bilas ticks all the boxes. He redefines what toughness actually looks like in a highly engaging read.
As we sign off on another season of hurling, the process may sleep for now, but for those who’ll be back next September, it won’t be long before they must rise to go again.
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