Sporting lessons for life

Australian former World number 1 tennis player Pat Rafter. Photo: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

Today's View

A nation of sports lovers, that is an apt description for Australia’s people. Our television sets are about to be filled with a contest that pits the home country against the upstarts.

The ashes series in cricket will be decided this summer on the sporting fields in the Australian capital cities, we are fortunate to see the best players that two countries can supply, matching skills, tactics, and mental toughness to find who is the better for this year.

Australia’s elite sports people can compete with the best in the world, ours is a small country with a long and strong history of supplying world champions. These champions are still recognised generations later because of their standing not only in their chosen sport but also due to their character as a person.

It is easy to admire the skilful players, the ones that stand out on their chosen playing surface, these sports people seemingly have more during the game to make better decisions, they understand trends in the game building before the other players and even the armchair critics are liable to miss. It appears that they are blessed with a natural talent that is beyond other participants and their stamina and mental strength cannot be broken.

For some the satisfaction in watching the sporting arena is knowing that the underdog has an opportunity to win, the joy is in the understanding that while the underdog is good, they don’t possess the skill, don’t quite have the strength, or ability of their opponent but with a little luck and a stronger will to win they might just triumph in the battle.

The player or team that doesn’t have the best opportunities, the best coaches, support staff or facilities, but have a deep-down burning desire to do their best, to give everything they have to the contest.

Pat Rafter was one of those underdogs, a player that was largely overlooked for most of his junior career missing out on representative honours in his chosen sporting field, but through a desire to succeed, hard work and a great family support structure he was able to reach the pinnacle of men’s world tennis. These are the champions that lead by example in their sporting and personal life.

John (Jack) Gleeson, a former rugby league player who represented Australia on two Kangaroo tours, played for Queensland during the 1960’s and is an inductee into Queensland Sports Hall of Fame, was a successful rugby league coach and mentor to many players in country Queensland. He had influenced a lot of young men in the 1970’s and through to the 80’s and one of his philosophies on sport and life was that “You live your life like you play the game”.

In his day, the game of rugby league was a test of courage as much as a test of skill, walking across the white line to compete against 13 other men who considered a smack in the mouth as much part of the game as the referee. As a coach, he tried to instil in his charges that they could play hard, play fair, do their best and not let your teammate down. All these attributes would help them through the challenges they would encounter throughout their life.