Sports, Personalities, Characters, Intelligences

There was a tremendous amount of interest in this year’s BBC sports review/awards programme last night – “BBC (UK) Sports Personality of the Year” – which was won by the amazing Bradley Wiggins.

Bradley W 2

We’ve written some fulsome praise in a previous post about the qualities needed to become a top competitor in an international event such as the Tour de France:

The physical and psychological fitness of the guys who ride the tour is phenominal. The tactical astuteness needed to win a stage of the Tour – be it a sprint finish or a mountain stage – is remarkable, and the courage and endurance of those guys is unbelievable. They need to excel in every area of fitness and intelligence.

The same qualities were responsible for the achievements of the other candidates in this year’s BBC poll:

Total votes: 1,626,718

1. Bradley Wiggins 492,064 (30.25%)

2. Jessica Ennis 372,765 (22.92%)

3. Andy Murray 230,444 (14.17%)

4. Mo Farah 131,327 (8.07%)

5. David Weir 114,633 (7.05%)

6. Ellie Simmonds 102,894 (6.33%)

7. Sir Chris Hoy 42,961 (2.64%)

8. Nicola Adams 35,560 (2.19%)

9. Ben Ainslie 35,373 (2.17%)

10. Rory McIlroy 29,729 (1.83%)

11. Katherine Grainger 28,626 (1.76%)

12. Sarah Storey 10,342 (0.64%)

Every single one of these athletes, and many more besides, can be incredibly proud of their achievements this past year. Their feats have been extraordinary.

Being the best in your field in any sporting endeavor requires you to have very high degrees of every type of intelligence – physical, social, instinctual, intellectual, spiritual and personal.

It was good to hear the nominees last night paying tribute to their team mates and coaches, for example, and stressing that without their collaboration, cooperation and support their achievements couldn’t have happened.

It’s also true to say that without a fantastically determined spirit, without high degrees of self-knowledge, without physical strength and fitness, without finely-tuned instincts, and without a deep appreciation and understanding of needs, aims and tactics, then success wouldn’t have been achieved.

Every top athlete needs to be in their ‘element’ and has to learn to find ‘flow’ in order to achieve their peak performance. We wrote about this back in May this year, in a post that quoted from a book by W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis:

Finding Your Element Puts You In The Zone

“It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”

Only when the mind is still is one’s peak performance reached.

Listen to how DT Suzuki, the renowned Zen master, describes the effects of the ego-mind on archery in his foreword to ‘Zen in the Art of Archery’:

“As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualise, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes . . . The arrow is off the string but does not fly straight to the target . . . Calculation, which is miscalculation, sets in . . .

Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. ‘Childlikeness’ has to be restored with long years of training in self-forgetfulness.”

It is said that great poetry is born in silence. Great music and art are said to arise from the quiet depths of the unconscious, and true expressions of love are said to come from a source which lies beneath words and thoughts. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake.

Such moments have been called ‘peak experiences’ by the humanistic psychologist Dr Abraham Maslow. Researching the common characteristics of persons having such experiences, he reports the following descriptive phrases: ‘He feels more integrated’, ‘feels at one with the experience’, ‘is relatively egoless’ [quiet mind], ‘feels at the peak of his powers’, ‘fully functioning’, ‘is in the groove’, ‘effortless’, ‘free of blocks, inhibitions, cautions, fears, doubts, controls, reservations, self-criticisms, brakes’, ‘he is spontaneous and more creative’, ‘is more here-now’, ‘is non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing . . . he just is’.

In short, ‘getting it together’ requires slowing the mind. Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realising thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.

Readers of 3D Eye who have been following our last three posts on the observations of Abraham Maslow in relation to maximising human potential may recall these comments that Maslow made about high-achieving individuals who can called be “fully evolved” and “self-actualised”:

  • Fully developed individuals have a kind of humility – the ability to listen carefully to others, to admit that they don’t know everything, and an understanding that other people can teach them something.
  • The self-actualised perception is less distorted by desires, anxieties, fears, hopes and false optimism or pessimism.
  • Self-actualizing people are less inhibited, and therefore more expressive, natural and simple. They are self confident and have self respect. They lack the fear of making mistakes and their flexibility allows them to be able to change as situations change; they are able to break habits, to face indecision and changes without undue stress.
  • These people find happiness in helping others. They enjoy their work, and they enjoy play; their work becomes play.
  • Whereas average humans are motivated by making good the perceived and actual deficiencies in their lives (coping behaviour) – seeking to fulfil basic needs for safety, love, respect and self-esteem – self-actualised individuals are focused mainly on their need to develop their higher potentialities, capacities and intelligences.
  • Maslow believed that the term motivation did not really apply to the most mature individuals. They are spontaneous, they are doing what is natural; they are merely expressing themselves.
  • Their excellent perception of reality enables them to see both the good and bad in each situation, and they enjoy solving problems and bringing order out of chaos.
  • They are seldom mean or petty or inconsiderate of others, and are able to ignore their faults.
  • They enjoy their work and strive to be more efficient, better, neater, simpler and faster.

Coaches, trainers, tutors and teachers within all areas of learning and human development, as well as every individual who seeks to become better within their field – within sports and athletics and also within every other field of human endeavor – will do well to take note of these thoughts and ideas.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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