If you look at the best players or professionals in any sport, profession, line of work no matter how diverse they are within their own lifestyles, personalities etc.. they all share many positive qualities; determination, desire, responsibility, maturity, passion, character, individuality etc.. etc.. the list goes on. But in this blog I want to discuss character and individuality within professional sport, although I am certain that everything I speak about in this blog is the same for any profession not just professional sport. I want to look at how they keep their character and own identity whilst being at the very top of their sports, where they have information, opinions and thoughts flying at them left, right and centre. My opinion is that very often they are their own person, make their own decisions and answer to nobody but themselves. This sort of thinking inspires these unique people to drive their own improvements and take whole responsibility for their improvements and development as a player and more importantly a person. This in hand takes away the pressure on a coach to fix a player. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t go around being rude and dismissive of people, and not listening to anyone! Well not all of them anyway ha! These individuals make decisions based on what they want and what they believe they need, nothing gets in the way of whats going to get them to the top. Ultimately you have to be selfish. That then makes every decision they make become so simple and not personal, no matter how hard the decision is. It just has to be made and has to happen as that’s what needs to be done to get them the improvements they need and desire. These decisions determine the difference between being the best and being the best of the rest, making those decisions that other players won’t make.
Being based in England I have been fortunate enough to train alongside the best male and female squash player that England has ever produced in Nick Matthew (x3 world champion and former world #1) and Laura Massaro (world champion and current world #1). I know from working alongside these two that no decision is too difficult when you break it down to will it make me the best player in the world? They will always make that difficult decision and the right decision for them no matter how selfish, regardless of what anyone else says or believes. So they always keep their own individuality and identity as they are always in control of what they do in their lives. Some people don’t always agree or like the decisions they make but to them it really doesn’t matter as in their mind its going to make them better and therefore has to happen. A good quote I heard whilst watching the show Anthony Joshua: behind the ropes was ‘once I decided what i needed to do to go where i wanted to go, the decisions in my life became easy’. It really is as simple as that. The thing I admire about Laura and Nick is how they do their own thing, keeping themselves to themselves, working hard and striving for perfection within the bases that they have built around them. It’s driven purely from them and their decisions. They are the leaders and bosses of their own destiny. I think any young professional can learn from this. I imagine many other world-class athletes are just like these two as going back to my earlier point there are some things that all world class athletes share and this is definitely one of them. The Anthony Joshua quote above proves this. First they decide what they believe they need, then they go search out the best people to help them. This could be people they trust or respect like a coach or it could be an ex player or any other individual who’s on the same world class level of thinking their on. You don’t get average people helping world class people. But after finding the help they will then reconstruct their training to fit their needs going forward. Is this individuality? Is this skill to be an individual something you are born with? I believe not, I feel it’s often a skill you usually learn with age. Almost a form of maturity. But if you understand it why do you need to wait to get old to learn a skill that could help you move forward quicker in your life? I definitely think this is a skill or a way of thinking that can often go unrecognised and I believe it is an important world class quality, that every young athlete should be looking to acquire or at least be aware of.
You are probably wondering who I am by now as I’ve just made some bold statements. But to be individual you have to be bold and open to change. I’m Ashley Davies and i write this blog as a young professional striving to be a world champion and the best I can be within my sport (squash). I’m not saying all my beliefs around this topic are the correct ones, but I’m just exploring the impact of character and individuality through my experiences of professional sport and life. Just like everyone else I am trying to find my way to be the best in the world at what I do. I’m just guessing, but isn’t everyone?! There is no certain formula for success.
How do you make the right decision and be individual all the time? Reality is you can’t make the right decision every time, but you can damn well make sure you don’t make the wrong decision twice. Athletes may not always make these difficult decisions as they don’t want to upset someone or financially its easier to take an other option, but this can hold players back because the decision isn’t made purely on the question of will this decision make me world-class? I know this because just recently I made a similar decision when I decided to become a centralised athlete for the extra funding. By making this decision I think I compromised my ability to be my own man, an individual and more importantly express my great character! I joined a system where I wasn’t fully in control what I did in my training and my life. How crazy is that when you write it down? All just for a little more financial support. But at the time I felt I was making the correct decision even though a couple of people I respect and admire very much advised me maybe it wasn’t the right thing for me. I thought this was maybe the right path to go down because possibly I had strayed away from the one question that should drive all my decision making, will it make me world class? I’m not saying that the system hasn’t helped me, far from it, if anything it’s helped me a tremendous amount and for that I am grateful. However, the games evolving and things are constantly changing as the game, technology and people move forward. I intend to continue to work within the system but in a way that is most effective for my improvements and self development and some people may see that as selfish but that’s how I believe you have to be as a professional world class athlete. My point is that making these correct decisions isn’t easy and to make the right ones is a skill in a way. But the question you could ask is, if I hadn’t decided to centralise myself and had chosen to stay independent, slightly away from the system, would my results of been better. Could I have made the extra money through my results and performances? Possibly yes. Possibly no. Who knows? Nobody does. But I made that choice at the time and now feel like I am learning from it. All we can do is learn and live in the present, day to day and move forward with the experience.
I’m not saying that to be an individual is all about making hard decisions and going against the system or against the norm. Or trying to be someone who you are not. For some people they may be able to be themselves within those environments where somebody is in charge and telling them what to do. That person is not me! But it’s a personal thing of knowing who you are, your identity. Once you know that, then you can decide whats right for you. It just happens that from my experience and my life so far, I believe I can’t express myself fully and be me within those parameters where somebody is making decisions on my behalf. I know now that I have to be the one with the reins in my hand and if it goes wrong or doesn’t work out, it’s all on me! That is who I am and the biggest thing I’ve learnt recently is that knowing who you are and being who you are, aren’t necessarily the same thing. I felt I knew for several months who I was and where I wanted to be and what I was doing was right. But in hindsight my decision making and choices weren’t directly driven by ‘whats going to make me world class’. Not until very recently have I started taking control and making those decisions that make me who I am or want to be! I’m not saying this is the only ingredient for world class success but I think its a crucial ingredient. Life is too short to live without expressing yourself. Live your life as you as there is only one of you in the world, you are an individual after all!