A shooting star – lessons from an elite athlete

A shooting star – lessons from an elite athlete

Those of you who were closely following the Commonwealth Games will have spotted that 60 year-old Michael Gault won a bronze in the 10 metre Air Pistol event. This was his 18th medal at the Commonwealths, which makes him the Games’ joint-highest medal winner.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with Michael (and several other pistol shooters in the England and GB teams) since 2011 on the mental side of the sport. Without breaching client confidentiality, it’s fair to say that he has overcome many challenges and shown a steely determination to reach his goal, showing an inner strength when some others around him doubted him. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/commonwealth-games/28500831. And Michael himself acknowledges the impact of the work we did together.

Doing just enough in the qualifiers to reach the final, he used his mental strength to overcome the intense pressure of the finals to reach his goal.

So what can we learn from Michael and other champion athletes that we can apply in sport, work or life generally?

1          You’re never too old.

Michael ‘retired’ from sport in 2010, and came out of retirement a year later at around 57 years old. At that age, most people would be meandering meaninglessly towards their pension, yet Michael had other ideas. And there are numerous other people who achieved great things late in life. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/youre-never-old-people-who-4050987

2          If you want something badly enough, you’ll do it (it’s better to give it 100% and not succeed than to play it safe and regret)

Motivation creates action. The hours of practice that Michael (and all the other athletes at the Games) have put in gives them the chance to achieve their goals. And although not everyone can win a medal or be the champion, everyone can be a champion; a champion for themselves and the people close to them. The disappointment of not achieving what you set out to do is dwarfed by the ultimate disappointment and regret of not even making the effort. In my 15 years’ experience as a coach and NLP Trainer I have seen many people who watch life, rather like spectators watching a sporting event; the real heroes are on the court/pitch. So whether in your sport, career and your life, play 100%.

3          Prepare fully

When researching my first book, Ahead of the Game, I read that before every major sporting event Steve Backley (the former champion javelin thrower), used to make a list of everything that could go wrong, and have a plan to deal with it. This approach was evident in many of the athletes on show at the Commonwealth Games. So in your life and work, be prepared for things not going well, and have a plan to deal with it.

4          Stay focussed

In the 20-shot final Michael shot one score of 7.2, which is considered a poor shot at this level (10.9 is the maximum, and around 9.8 is an acceptable average). Many people would have let that adversely affect them, yet his subsequent scores were seemingly unaffected. This shows how he used his mental strength, plus his preparation (see point 3 above), to stay focussed.

No doubt you can think of other lessons from Michael and the other athletes. Feel free to comment, or contact us with your thoughts.

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