Whether you are preparing for entrance exams or public examinations, going into them with a winning attitude, a conscious willingness to do your best is so important for motivation and results. Moreover, when you have achieved what you have achieved, how do you keep that winning form to spur you on to other challenges that life has to throw at you? Fortunately, in growing up, parents, teachers and tutors can nurture your interests, talents and spirits to inspire you to go beyond and explore your potential, instilling confidence, ambition and belief.
However, often children will not listen to their parents, or teachers, or tutors. It is therefore also important for children to look for role models around their social circle and in wider society in order to chart their own course in life. I would argue that sport is a great way to engage children to have their own winning mentality and to not just be for class, but to be world-class.
When I was fencing at school, my mentor was my coach Johnny Davis, who was a former pupil of the school, Number One foilist in the UK and Double Olympian, fencing at the Seoul and Barcelona Games. I recognised he was someone I could look up to and learn from and he spurred me on to a high level in competition and beyond, and I try now to pass this Olympic attitude on to my students.
Davis is now Team Manager of the British Olympic Fencing Team for Tokyo 2020. He conducted a celebratory interview recently with Richard Kruse, “arguably one of the greatest fencers Britain has ever had”. Richard is a former World Number 1 and fenced in the last four Olympics. They discussed the role of resilience, recalibration, reflection and renewal in winning. Richard talks about the highs and lows of training and competing, so it is important to take the passion for the sport out of the equation, to avoid getting frustrated with progress.
In terms of what makes him a better player, Roger Federer has said, “I always questioned myself in the best of times. Even when I was World Number 1 for many months in a row. What can I improve? What do I need to change?". Former All-Blacks Captain Sean Fitzpatrick likewise states that when you are at the top, you should always prepare as if you are Number 2 and to never think you are good enough. Former England Football Captain Alan Shearer commenting on the Euro 2020 England v Ukraine Quarter Final, spoke of losing sleep as a striker if he was not scoring goals and how this would also have affected England Captain Harry Kane before the match. Scoring again would give him much more confidence again in his ability. This is also a lesson that educators and students can learn from, that instilling confidence and ambition is so important. It is often sorely lacking in many children today and could be easily remedied if given the opportunity.
Psychology plays a big role in top level sport and this can be transferred to different walks of life and one’s own life journey, as Matthew Syed has demonstrated in You Are Awesome and Dare to be You, his handbooks on resilience for children to develop this winning, growth mindset. The earlier one appreciates these ways to deal with success and failure, the importance of practice and hard work, the better. And once those lessons are learnt, it is up to you. The adventurer Bear Grylls has said, “Don’t expect the world to give anything to you. You’re going to have to work for it yourself.” Go for it!
BA(Hons)(Dunelm), LLM(London), Barrister, FTA