Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Sport and Leisure

Lessons from The Friendly Games

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”

– Dan Gable

With the 21st Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast well and truly behind us, I’ve been reflecting on this wonderful event.  I, like many others, was enthralled with the spectacle, energy and passion, which kept me glued to the visual Valium (TV) to catch the highlights whenever possible.  Follow this link to revisit some of the best moments: https://www.gc2018.com/article/best-moments-gold-coast-2018-commonwealth-games

It’s always been my favourite sports event and I was fortunate to support Badminton Wales as a Team Manager at Glasgow 2014.  It seems to live up to its title of the ‘friendly Games,’ and this year seems to have been no exception.  However, friendly, didn’t mean any less competitive.  Competition was fierce, records broken and personal bests achieved, as athletes from 71 nations across the Commonwealth came together to battle for sporting honours.  It had everything…nail biting finishes, unexpected wins and edge of the seat competitive action.  There were tears of joy and pain, displays of grit and determination and a wonderful sense of comradery that crossed sports and nations.  I was immensely impressed with the way athletes from all disciplines, performed and conducted themselves throughout the event on and off the field of play. 

All home countries excelled, with England coming 2nd in the medal table, Wales in 7th, Scotland in 8th and Northern Ireland 20th.  Wales celebrated their most successful Games to date, edging ahead of Scotland in the medals table with 10 Golds to Scotland’s 9. Proud to be Welsh!  Well of course I am; and these events tweak your patriotism a little more. 

It takes years of dedication, practice and sacrifice to be successful in any endeavour.  I believe there’s a lot we can learn from sports and those involved. Tenacity, resilience, agility, dedication, commitment, teamwork, leadership…the list goes on.  Elite athletes epitomise these skills in their pursuit of glory, self-actualisation and personal fulfilment.

Let’s not forget the many people who are part of the team that support, encourage and dedicate their time, resources and energy to enabling them to be their best selves and showcase their talents. The parents, coaches, trainers, team managers, technical staff, officials, organisers, therapists etc.  These individuals work tirelessly to create the right environment and conditions that allow athletes to focus their attention on improving their performance.  Regardless of the sport, it’s a real team effort.  Planned, executed and reviewed continuously towards a clear, well-formed outcome.

So what lessons are there for you?  Here are just a few questions to consider about your own business:

  • Do you have a clear vision of the future and a well-defined strategic plan?
  • Do you and your team have the competencies required to take the action needed to make your business a success? 
  • Do you have access to good support networks?
  • Do you know your competition strengths and shortcomings?
  • Do you view your failures as feedback, or allow inevitable set backs to throw you off course?
  • When things don’t go quite to plan, do you find ways to recover quickly?

If the answer is YES, that’s fabulous.  Keep up the good work.  If, however the answer is NO, or you’re not sure, perhaps it’s time to improve your game plan.



Ready, Set, Goal

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

'People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target.'

Well here we are again…another year over, a new one just beginning.  ‘Tis the season for resolving to do something different.  To set yourself something, which often, even with the very best intentions will be forgotten, or left for dead before the year has had chance to really get going.  So how can you carry your resolve with you into 2016 and ensure those new year’s promises are not left by the wayside? How do you keep on track and achieve those things you really want to be, do or have and make this year your most successful to date?

Here are my top 7 tips to help you on the road to success:

1.  Make it as easy as 1, 2, 3

Never mind top 10, choose a maximum of 3.  Too many goals can be overwhelming and may result in none being achieved.  Consider those things you really, really want, because any goal worth having will mean some sacrifice on your part.  They can be big audacious ones, or small significant ones, just as long as they’re meaningful for you.


2.  Take a commitment check

Ask yourself, ’Why do I want this?’  and ‘Why is that important to me?’ Align your goals to your values (i.e. those things that are really important to you) and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.  

Now rate your commitment and importance on a scale of 1-10 (1 = I’m not that bothered; 10 = just try to stop me).  Ask yourself, ‘what does achieving this goal really mean to me?’ and ‘How committed am I to doing what it takes to achieve it?’

If you’re not scoring at least 8 on that scale, you may want to set another more meaningful goal, or ask yourself, ‘What would need to happen to make it an 8, 9, 10?’  If you can address that, do it, if not, think again.


3.  Make them SMARTER

Each of your goals should be:

Specific – unambiguous and expressed precisely, in sufficient detail to mean something to you.

Measurable – set yourself some milestones along your journey and include a mechanism whereby you will know when you’ve reached your chosen destination.

Achievable – make them big, by all means, just make sure you have the skills and wherewithal to make it happen, or have a plan on how you’ll get what you need.

Relevant – the have to be meaningful, appropriate and significant for you to want to spend the time, energy and resources it will take to achieve them.

Timed – set yourself a deadline or timescale, so you can keep track of your progress.

Exciting – uninspiring goals can be boring, demotivating and left unfinished.  Choose goals that challenge, inspire and excite you.

Recorded – Write them down and share them with others.  This makes them more real and adds a little extra commitment.


4.  Use the 3 P’s

Make your goals:

Personal – something you really want and is within your control

Present tense – as your brain can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, you might as well tell it you’re already there by expressing it as if you’ve already achieved it, then give it a timeline e.g. I am 10 stone in September 2016

Positive – write down what you want, not what you don’t want


5.  Use the right tools

There are many goal setting tools out there, 2 of my particular favourites are the GROW model and Brian Maynes’ Goal Mapping.  You can use these on your own, or get a coach to work with you for maximum impact.


6.  Make marginal gains

Small things done consistently achieve big results.  Even those seemingly insignificant actions can create compound interest and before you know it you’re there.  Equally, failing to take daily action can set you back to square one.  If you are what you consistently do, then it makes sense to decide who that is, then do what it takes every day, to be that person.


7.  Start Now

There’s no time like the present, so do something, however small, straight away…and keep going.


There you have it!  Well, what are you waiting for?  What WILL you do NOW and NEXT to get you closer to making 2016 your best year yet?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2016, whatever you resolve to do.

Managing meetings to maximise results

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”

  • Do you think meetings are a waste of time and money? 

  • Have you been asked to attend a meeting and wondered why you’re there?

  • Perhaps you have to chair them and feel you’re not making the best use of everyone’s time?

Meetings are a vital tool for management and communication.  If run properly they save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings can provide a forum for generating new ideas and initiatives, tackling challenges and achieving buy-in from colleagues and clients.  They diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot and allow the meaning and feeling of the situation to be conveyed through facial expression and non-verbal signals. Effective meetings can help you manage your team and achieve your objectives quicker, easier and at less cost. However, badly run meetings waste time, money, resources, and are worse than having no meetings at all.

Here are my top 5 tips to help you run more productive meetings:

1. People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target

Make sure you identify your outcome.  Decide the purpose of the meeting.  If you don’t have an outcome, what’s the point in holding a meeting?  If you have a reason for holding one, first decide the issues for inclusion and their relative priority, importance and urgency.  Every meeting and every item must have a purpose.

2. Prior planning prevents particularly poor performance

Whenever possible, especially with meetings which occur on a regular basis, agree dates for the whole year at the first meeting so everyone can commit them to their diaries; then circulate and publish the dates as soon as possible.  It isn’t easy to gather people for meetings, particularly if they’re from different departments or organisations, or in the case of volunteers, have other priorities. So before setting meeting dates remember to consider other people’s commitments and planned events so you can select dates that cause minimum disruption for all concerned.

3. Decide who needs to be there

Remember the more people you invite the longer the meeting is likely to take; and decisions may be more difficult to achieve.  Only invite those who genuinely need to be there. Bring in ‘experts’ only when needed and ensure they leave when they have made their contribution.

4. Be confident, comfortable and in control

A skilled facilitator or Chairperson will remain objective about the issues discussed and will ensure all ideas are heard and properly considered, whilst keeping the meeting on track.  The key to your success as a chairperson is keeping control. Stick to the agenda, manage the relationships and personalities, and focus on the outcomes and you won’t go far wrong.    Remind yourself and the group of the required outcomes and steer the proceedings towards making progress.

5. Right place, right time

Venue choice can be critical for certain sensitive meetings and far less so for routine, in-house gatherings. It is your responsibility to check the environment suits your meeting’s needs.  Never leave it to chance; be clear about your requirements and double check your booking in advance, a few days before the meeting and before you start.  Remember if anything goes wrong your credibility will be in question. 

And here’s an additional one for luck…

Follow the basic rules:

  • use an agenda as a planning tool

  • circulate the agenda in advance

  • during the meeting - keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes

  • produce and circulate minutes promptly

  • follow up agreed actions and responsibilities


If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running Managing meetings to maximise results workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

10 November  2015     Wolverhampton

02 December 2015       Bedford

Whether you’re involved in attending or arranging meetings, this 1 day workshop identifies the best and worst aspects of meetings and explores how you can maximise your results and get the most from them. Using practical tools, models and learning activities you’ll discover how to make meetings more productive and enjoyable, explore how to manage challenging behaviour in order to get the best from everyone who attends and develop a strategy to ensure you achieve the best return on your investment.

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.


A Winning Edge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

In my last Blog I asked “…when there's often very little to separate athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?”

You’ve probably witnessed it.  A clash of sporting titans, seemingly equally matched in terms of physical prowess, technical expertise and preparation.  Yet, one comes out on top and the other ends up being the also ran.  So, what is the difference?  What does it take to have that winning edge?  Having been fortunate to observe and work with elite performers in business and sport, here are my top 10 winning ways; behaviours and beliefs that all ‘champions’ access and utilise to great effect.


1. Self-belief – “You know I need that cockiness, the self-belief, arrogance, swagger, whatever you want to call it, I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.” 

~ Rory McIlroy

Champions have a healthy dose of self-belief, even if, like Rory McIlroy, you only display it when you’re ‘on shift’.  That’s not to say you won’t have the occasional doubt or hiccup; just don’t allow yourself to get shifted too far off course by them. You have to believe to achieve!  Winners, expect to win.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you want to win, you firstly have to have high expectations; a real belief that you can and will succeed. 


2. Team support – “As long as I have that support from my team, and I have that confidence in myself that I train really hard, I think there's no one out there who can defeat me in my weight class.” 

~ Nonito Donaire

Behind every successful performer, there’s usually a group of people working consistently and tirelessly towards the same goal.  Your support team might consist of family, friends, peers, or technical professionals.  Coach, mentor, or key stakeholder; their role and importance depends on the business or game you’re in.  It’s unlikely you’ll achieve all you want without them.

Make sure your ‘team’ are full of ‘Radiators’…positive, like minded, motivated people with similar values, beliefs and goals. Stay away from the ‘Drains’…people who drag you down and soak up your energy. 


3. Consistency –“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” 

~ Roger Staubach

Whether you’re managing a work team, playing a sport or delivering customer service, you’ll be more successful if you can consistently produce the goods time after time.  Most people in teams like consistency; you know where you are, what’s expected of you and what you need to do next.  It’s also much easier and more fulfilling to work with someone if their values and beliefs are consistent with yours and they behave in a manner that’s congruent with these.


4. Tenacity – “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

~ Babe Ruth

To be a top performer you have to possess the drive, determination and persistence to succeed.  To stick with it when the going gets tough and never give up, no matter how bad things may seem. That can often mean, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over, with a change of approach and renewed enthusiasm when things don’t go according to plan.


5. Adaptation – “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” 

~ James P. Lewis

If you want to be a winner you have to be able to think on your feet and make the changes needed to get the best out of any situation.  Whether that’s adapting to a new system, process or environment, or getting ahead of the competition, the quicker you adapt to the new normal, the more likely you’ll be able to accept the change, discover alternative options and find a new strategy to get you closer to your goal.


6. Technical expertise – “The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're definitely not an expert.” 

~ Brendon Burchard

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess those exceptional skills, knowledge and competencies required to be the best?  It takes time, effort and commitment to become an expert, but the rewards are worth it.  You’ll notice experts in any field can invariably demand more for their input; whether that’s on the field of play,  in the boardroom or on the shop floor.  

To be good at anything, you have to practice every day until skills are honed and successful behaviours become habitual; practice until you can’t get it wrong…not just any old practice, ‘perfect practice’…the type where you’re completely absorbed, doing it for real and playing full on.  Practice it physically, mentally and emotionally until it becomes second nature and you can reproduce it at any time, in any given situation, against any competition.  


7.Mental toughness – “I’ve been in a poor physical shape many times in my career and I’ve had some of my best results. My best performances happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body.” 

~ Kelly Slater

Can you handle difficult situations?  Can you step up to the plate when the going gets tough; when you’re tired, things aren’t going as planned and people start to doubt you?  It takes a huge dose of mental toughness to maintain a high level of performance through the inevitable disappointments, challenges and setbacks that life throws your way.  Your success depends on your attitude; how you perceive the situation (challenge or problem?) and what you’re willing to do to make it work.


8. Passion – “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” 

Do you love what you do?  Or as my friend Brian Mayne put’s it…Are you doing the thing that makes your heart sing?  Successful people are invariably absolutely passionate about what they do and their ‘why’ (motive/reason) is completely aligned to their values.  Your passion provides momentum and keeps you on task when things are tough.  If you pursuing something you love, you’re more likely to be good at it.  You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, so shouldn’t it be doing something that turns you on?


9. Outcome oriented – “Staying focussed on your goal is a lifestyle not a weekend plan.” 

Are you completely focused on your goal and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it? It’s easy to get distracted by irrelevancies, pulled off track, or sidelined into doing something else.  After all, there are so many distractions these days…technological gadgets creating constant interruptions, conflicting demands on your personal resources and people insisting you do more with less.  It can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize and continue to move consistently towards your goal, particularly if you’ve set yourself some big, audacious ones. 

Ensure you have a plan that includes your goal and the milestones you want to pass en route.  Set yourself some journey goals to help keep you on track, gather momentum and act as review and reward stations along your route. 


10. Being Present – “The secret of health for both the mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles…but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

~ Buddha 

Do you live in the moment, or are you constantly planning and reviewing without really being present?  I’m not suggesting high performers, don’t plan…far from it.  Most will keep records of their plans, track their performance and review their next steps, making the necessary changes and adaptations to continually improve.  However, you have to be present at each stage of the process.  Be absorbed in the task; be in the moment, be focused on the job in hand.  

Athletes are aware of the potential distractions that can take them off track.  They consider the ‘what ifs’ and practice how they’ll deal with them when they arise.  This allows them to be in the moment when they play; to quickly shake off the disappointment of a bad call, a poor shot, or an opponent’s comment and stay present, goal focused and ready for the next move.

 So all things considered...what's your next move to getting that winning edge?


The Team Works

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

Congratulations to all athletes representing the home teams at Glasgow 2014.  So many notable and inspiring performances from the Commonwealth’s sporting elite.  I had the privilege of supporting Badminton Wales at The Games.  My responsibility as a team manager was to take care of everything off court so our players and coach can concentrate on their game.

It was truly fascinating to witness the competitiveness, camaraderie and commitment; the highs and lows, the desire and passion, the energy and drive there on display in one event.

It was a wonderful, albeit surreal and exhausting experience.  Team Wales were keen to promote the concept of ‘togetherness,’ one team working together to achieve more, supported by statements such as “We are all part of something bigger, something special, no-one of us is greater than the whole.”

It reminded me of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far go together.”

Working together to achieve a common goal.  Home nations being lifted by enthusiastic supporters, to exceed expectations and medal targets because of all involved.

Of course you only get to see the few fleeting seconds or minutes it takes to compete, not the months of long, hard, demanding preparation it takes to get there.  Even athletes competing in individual events have an extensive support team to help them go far…and fast.  Coaches, managers, physiotherapists, medics, nutritionists, physiologists, psychologists, officials, administrators…not to mention family and friends.

For some this event was a milestone on their journey to the next big event, World championships, Olympics etc. For others it may have been a wakeup call and the realisation that there is still so much more to do…more sacrifices to make, more miles to run, more skills to hone.

So when there's often very little to separate each athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?

Of course talent plays a big part - an innate ability to perform is a great starting point, but there are a lot of talented people out there that never achieve their full potential.  Perhaps they don’t have the single minded determination, perseverance or the right support to achieve their very best.

If you want to go far, as well as fast it may be worth asking yourself:

“Who are the important players in my support team, in my business and life?”

“How can I ensure I get the best from myself and my team?”


If at first you don’t succeed…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying.”

Michael Jordan

I’m with MJ on this one!  Failure is a natural part of the learning process.  It’s healthy; it provides an opportunity for improvement if you dare to reflect on its lessons and decide how to do things differently.  The only real failure is not to try at all, or quit the first time you get knocked down.  So…are you playing full on, or are you too quick to throw in the towel just because you’ve encountered a tough adversary?

If you watched this year’s men’s Wimbledon tennis final you will have witnessed a great example of what trying really looks like.  Andy Murray, desperate to win the Wimbledon trophy after coming so close last year; and the past champion and world number one Novak Djokovic, in a thrilling head to head.  Two men at the top of their game, in peak physical and mental condition, giving their all and doing their damndest to emerge as the victor.  Who’d have wanted to be Djokovic that day?  It must have seemed like the whole of the country was rooting for Murray.  Did he give up?  Hell no!  He made Murray dig deep as he saved three championship points resulting in the most exciting display of tennis, mental control and nerves of steel from both men.  

I was incredibly impressed with both players’ attitudes, behaviour and mental toughness as well as their sporting prowess.  I also admired the way Djokovic handled defeat.  He’d thrown everything he had at Murray and although clearly devastated to have lost, he was modest, generous and gracious during the post match interview. 

There are certain occasions when giving up is just not an option, or you’d never have learned the complicated, but fundamental skill of walking.  Did you wake up one day and just walk across the room?  I doubt it…you had to try…and fail…and try…and fail…and try…you get the idea.  You were encouraged, supported even cajoled into sticking with it. The truth is you can’t win all the time; you will fail at something, at least once and maybe more.  The trick is to use the experience as feedback not failure. 

Parents should beware the pitfalls of letting your children win all the time.  Learning to fail is as important as learning to win; they’re two sides of the same coin.  People react differently to winners and losers and you need to experience both and discover ways of dealing with the feelings each provoke.  Kipling expressed this so eloquently as “if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”  For your own sanity you would be wise not to let success go to your head, or failures go to your heart.   

So…If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again or in the immortal lyrics of Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping…“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”

Are you response able?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  ~ Victor Frankl1

How many times have you heard that whining phrase “…it’s not my fault.” or “they made me do it…” or at least a statement expressing a similar sentiment?  Think about what it actually means.  In essence the individual expressing it has surrendered all control.  They no longer have possession of their faculties, or the ability to choose how to respond or react to the stimulus, event or person in question.  What a disempowering place to be!

Yet, you’ll hear this sort of language expressed on a daily basis.  It allows the person saying it to relinquish responsibility for their actions; to pass the buck onto someone else, to shirk accountability.  They’ve become Pavlov’s dog!  Stimulus-response; with no space in between for choice, or thought about responsible action.

Whilst at the European Junior Badminton Championships recently I got into a discussion with one of the players.  They had just come off court after a close match and I overheard one of them say “The umpire’s decision cost us 4 points.”  My immediate response was “Who cost you those 4 points?”  I had to ask it twice and reframe it to “What was the reason you didn’t win those next points?” before it had the desired impact and they admitted the most likely reason was they’d allowed themselves to become distracted by a dubious line call. 

One of the reasons for the loss of focus was they headed straight into stimulus-response.  The umpire’s decision was ‘wrong’ and ‘unfair’, therefore they should have won the point.  When they didn’t, it was only a small step to blaming their loss of the next few points on the umpire too.  Not logical I know, however at the time, in the heat of the moment it made perfect sense.  The real concern here is if you insist on blaming someone else for your lot, you stand little chance of doing anything positive to influence what’s happening in your life. 

If you’re in a leadership role it’s even more important to be response able.  The best leaders not only take responsibility for their actions; they’re also accountable for the behaviour and performance of their team.  They applaud their team’s successes in public and coach out their developmental issues in private.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.”  Sometimes that “space” may diminish because of hectic lifestyles, leadership styles and personality traits, however it’s still there.  You have the power of choice…if you want to experience continual growth and personal freedom, choose wisely.

1Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.  Author of ‘Man’s search for meaning,’ an incredibly powerful, moving and inspiring book about his personal experiences and observations of life in a Nazi concentration camp.

When the going gets tough…

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

“When the world says ‘give up’, hope whispers, ‘try it one more time’”

Elite sportspeople are selfish!  That’s not a criticism, ask any of them and they’ll confirm how single minded, driven, even obsessive you have to be to become the best.  We generally only witness the final 5%, i.e. the performance, the event, the competitive arena, where they showcase, the culmination of all the hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears.  It’s easy to forget how much time, effort and perseverance goes into the other 95%.  I was therefore pleased to see the BBC concentrating on the athlete’s journeys, giving us an insight into the human stories of our sporting heroes.

What we’ve learned is their road to success is often a long one, with twists, turns and dead ends.  Rarely is it as simple as getting from A-B…sport, like life often throws you a curve ball and the most successful individuals are those who are tenacious, perseverant and resilient enough to pick themselves up and start their journey again.

So what is it that enables our best athletes to bounce back even after an injury, defeat or failure?

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient.  These include:

  • a positive attitude
  • a sense of optimism
  • an ability to regulate and manage emotions
  • an ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”  http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience

This outlook can make the toughest times seem challenging, rather than insurmountable, allowing individuals to alter their journey plan and continue along the road to success. 

Here are a few of our successful Olympians who have beat the odds…

Dame Kelly Holmes, who battled her way through a series of injuries to reach the pinnacle of her athletic career with her double gold medal achievement in Athens in 2004.

Sir Steve Redgrave, diagnosed with diabetes in 1997 and still continued his rowing career to win 5 gold medals in 5 consecutive games.  He said “I decided very early on that diabetes was going to live with me, not me with diabetes.”

Equestrian legend Nick Skelton who, in the build-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, fell off his horse and broke his neck in two places.  He was told by surgeons that another fall could prove fatal and was forced to retire from the sport, but he battled back to return to competition in 2002 and was part of the team that delivered GB’s first show jumping gold medal in 60 years at London 2012.

And then there’s our Paralympic athletes who may have been born, or acquired their disability through illness or injury.  Many of whom are in constant discomfort or pain due to the nature of their disability.  Yet they still endure punishing physical and mentally demanding training regimes to challenge themselves further.  Attitude plays a huge part as I discovered following a conversation with a disabled athlete years ago who assured me he wasn’t disabled, just differently-abled.

I’m going to leave you with a couple more thoughts…firstly here’s my take on resilience…

“When you hit a brick wall, fall into a hole or lose your way on life’s journey, resilience is the ability to re-orientate, select a new path and begin again with a fresh perspective.”

…and finally one of my favourite poems…

Don’t Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When the funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit, 
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, 
As every one of us sometimes learns, 
And many a failure turns about, 
When he might have won had he stuck it out; 
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than, 
It seems to a faint and faltering man, 
Often the struggler has given up, 
When he might have captured the victor's cup, 
And he learned too late when the night slipped down, 
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out 
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, 
And you never can tell how close you are, 
It may be near when it seems so far, 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit 
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown


More people, More Active, More Often?

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

The London 2012 Olympic Legacy of Inspire a Generation is a powerful, admirable and worthwhile mission.  How can anyone (even the least sports minded person) fail to have been motivated, inspired or wowed by the performances, personal journeys and sheer spectacle of this Olympic Games?  Sport can be such a powerful catalyst for good.  I invariably find young sports people will have enhanced team working, communication and leadership skills than their non-participative peers.  I appreciate not everyone can aspire to be the next Bradley Wiggins, Steve Redgrave or Tanni Grey-Thompson, but there are lifelong benefits for everyone who gets involved in active physical recreation. 

Our body’s are designed to be physically active…we function physiologically, psychologically and emotionally better if we do it  so I’m all for inspiring more people to be more active more often.  I was first introduced to the statement I’ve used as the title for this blog back in 1990 when the importance of participating in regular physical activity was high on the agenda courtesy of the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey.  It provided a database from which the levels of physical activity and fitness amongst the population could be better understood and identified the relationship between fitness, health and wellbeing.  It was a launch pad for many community based campaigns to get people involved in sport and physical recreation. 

At the time I was working as a Sports Development Officer for LBB on their Active Lifestyles campaign.  If the truth be told I was so passionate about it I would have done it for nothing if I could have afforded to, so the current statistics on obesity levels in the UK sadden me.  Have we actually made any significant progress in getting more people active since then?

60% of the adult population of the UK is overweight or obese

The health risks are now well documented…

High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Type 2 diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease, Liver Disease, some cancers

Joint pain, trouble sleeping and incontinence are also linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.

I recently got back from a holiday in Turkey.  I had a fab time, socialising, resting and exercising, but one thing really disturbed me.  The increased numbers of overweight, or obese young people and their families...more noticeable in a swimming costume environment.

I’m not judging!  I’m merely stating the facts, based on the current statistics and my observations.  I appreciate how difficult it is to maintain a healthy weight when we live in a society where we are encouraged to do less and eat more.  The simple weight management equation of energy in = energy out is easier said than done.  Check out the BOGOF’s and discounted items in your local supermarket…you’ll invariably find they’re likely to be the high fat, high sugar products.

We now spend more time sitting in front of our TV’s, PC’s or other technological gadgets than doing something physically active….and it seems the less we do, the less we want to do!  We live in a society where shopping has become a day out!  I guess walking around the shops counts as physical activity until you add in the obligatory coffee and pastry pit stops.  The statistics confirm the UK is now matching the USA in the percentage of the population classed as above a healthy weight.

I hope watching this year’s Olympics has indeed inspired every generation to become more involved in sport, or physical activity and we continue to support and encourage people of all ages to get up, get out and get active.  

2012 School Games Update

Categories:  Sport and Leisure

Inspirational, aspirational and exhausting!  A thoroughly enjoyable event…click the link below to watch some of the highlights http://www.2012schoolgames.com/tools/multimedia.php?location=mainsite&projguid=1A0567C75D434F24A404F8F4A14A91FF&medid=11867&css=/main.css&lang=ENG

here are some of mine…

  • The Olympic Park.  Unfortunately the badminton wasn’t played there, but we were lucky enough to visit the park and watch the sports that did. 
  • The sporting heroes.  A host of the great and the good in British sport turned out for the event; to speak, present medals and mentor the young athletes.  They provided their unique perspective, inspiration and words of wisdom for the next generation of sporting elite.
  • The Olympic Aquatics Centre – it just goes up and up…and up!  Impressive, albeit a little head spinning if you don’t have a head for heights.  Watch out if you have vertigo!
  • The opening and closing ceremonies.  Always interesting affairs and usually a good balance of protocol, speeches and entertainment…and this year was no exception.  Jonathan Edwards, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Seb Coe were just 3 of the list of sporting celebrities who took the stage this year.
  • Sainsbury’s, the Games main sponsor,  supported by a range of partners including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, Department of Health, ParalympicsGB, Sport Wales, Sport Scotland and Sport Northern Ireland.
  • The news that over £128m of Lottery and Government funding is being invested to support the School Games over the next 3 years.
  • 3 Gold medals for Badminton Wales http://www.badmintonwales.net/
  • Congratulations to Jordan Hart and Ellen Mehenthiralingam.  Jordan took home the girls singles title and then partnered Ellen to girls doubles success.

 Proud to be Welsh!  Well of course I am; and these events tweak your patriotism a little more.  However, I was more proud of our team...Badminton Wales did us proud!  Not just because of the way our young athletes played and the medals won; of course that’s fantastic.  I was just as impressed with the way they conducted themselves throughout the event on and off the court.  Young people come in for their share of criticism these days so I just wanted to highlight how many positive young role models there are out there too.

Looking forward to the next one!

Sainbury's School Games 2012

Categories:  Sport and Leisure

The UK's best young sporting talent take centre stage at this years School Games from 06-09 May.  The event is, very fittingly being held in the Olympic City of London and promises to be more exciting, inspiring and entertaining than previous games.  

Around 1,600 young elite athletes will represent their country in 12 sports from Athletics to Wheelchair basketball at some of London's top sporting and events arenas including, ExCel and the Olympic Park. 

I'm fortunate to have front row seats and access to most areas in my capacity as Team Manager for Badminton Wales.  I'll even get to see some of the other sports this year as our competition finishes a day earlier than some of the others.

If you'd like to watch some fantastic live and very competitive sporting action you can join us by purchasing a ticket online at www.2012schoolgames.com/tickets.php.   

School Games 2012

Categories:  Sport and Leisure

As 2012 is Olympic year, the school games organisers wanted to establish a link.  So this year the games are being held in May in London with three sports based at the Olympic Park and the majority of the others at Excel.  I'm lucky enough to be involved again as team manager for Badminton Wales http://www.badmintonwales.net   After our success in the team event last year we have high hopes of further medals again in 2012.                  

As a team manager my games started today at an orientation session with team staff from other sports.  It's a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and network with new people as well as getting to grips with the games logistics.  Most of the hard work for me happens before the event and behind the scenes.  It's the sort of role that only gets noticed if the proverbial hits the fan...consequently I'm hoping to maintain a low profile!                                                                                              

Making a difference?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

Over the past 7 months I've have had the pleasure of working on an inspirational project with three of the major players in the active leisure sector. Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), DC Leisure, MEND and Lifetime formed a partnership to recruit and train around 150, 18-24 year olds across the country to become Community Activity Leaders.  Successful candidates took part in a six month placement in leisure centers’ across England.

For a variety of reasons many of these young people have found it very difficult to find sustainable employment.   Our aim was to provide them with a job opportunity that would improve their employability by the end of their contract.

Throughout the project, as expected their performance has been mixed; some taking full advantage of the opportunity and other’s falling at the first, second or third hurdles.  It would make a fascinating psychological study into attitude and motivation.

The first batch of ‘graduates’ completed their placement last week.  Prior to their departure they attended an exit session.  This had a dual purpose, firstly it allowed us to evaluate a number of aspects about the project and just as importantly, it was designed to help them reflect on lessons learned and plan their next steps.

For the first exit session I adopted the Forrest Gump philosophy – life is like a box of chocolates…I really didn’t know what I was going to get!  It turned out to be a real joy.  The majority of these young people have gone through such a transformation in the past months; it was like they’d grown up!  They were interested, engaged and participative, genuinely appreciative and positive.  I swear I was witness to an attitude transplant in some cases!  They tackled each activity admirably and demonstrated an ability to self reflect and look to the future with a little more optimism.  I was truly exhausted by the end of the day!

The saddest thing is that some of them will be unemployed again now their contract has ended – their placement was only for 6 months.  My consolation, based on my observations during the session, is the belief that the opportunities they’ve had on this project have made them much more employable.  In fact some of them have already been offered positions at their host centre’s or elsewhere.

Although I’m known for my objectivity this is intended to be a very personal perspective.  I know projects such as these will be evaluated by the funding organisations on hard data.  The attitudinal changes and emotional impact is often excluded which I think is a shame, so in my quest to redress the balance I wanted to include some of the very human elements of the project.  After all it is about people.

There have been times during the project when I wondered whether it was all worthwhile.  My reflections following that first exit session are that if supported by people who care enough to give a damn, a project like this can make a difference.