In this post I look at two sporting stories from my youth to show how quality can make a difference to our lives. The first recalls the influence a coach had on me simply because he insisted on quality. The second story tells of a time when I was inspired to raise my level of performance by the abilities of my opposite number.
At the same time, this post is an appeal to every one of us to put quality further up our list of priorities. All too often I come across its lack, where its abundance is an attainable and attractive alternative.
I had a football coach once, who said very little. I was 14 years old and for a brief period I trained with a professional club. In every session all the coach ever said was, ‘Quality‘. At least, that’s all I ever remember him saying. I can still hear his raspy voice with its northern accent saying over and over again, ‘Quality! Quality!‘ It wasn’t a compliment, it was a demand.
He wanted every pass, every touch, every movement, every thought to be one of quality. Achieve that and you give yourself and your team every chance of success. It was only for a few months but his insistence that everything be of the highest standard made a lasting impression on me. That was nearly 30 years ago and today it is still my goal: to achieve the highest degree of quality in the work I do with and for my clients.
Three years after that experience I played in a regional trial game. We, the trialists, were playing against the youth team of a professional club. They had a player whose first touch was sublime. Everything he did with the ball after that was good too, but his first touch was superb. I was inspired. I remember thinking, ‘I can do that‘.
In football the first touch is important because it’s the foundation for everything else. If it’s good, you are in control and can do what you want with the ball. If it isn’t good, you lose possession. Throughout that match, inspired by what I had seen, my first touch was excellent. The confidence it gave me influenced the rest of my performance; I had a very good game, scored a great goal and was subsequently selected for the county.
How easy it had been to be inspired by someone else. Observing the quality of another player was all it took that night for me to focus on one small aspect of my game. That’s how simple it can be sometimes. Just seeing for ourselves what is possible, brings it within reach. The rest is up to us. Incidentally, that other player went on to play at the top level. But only briefly because his attitude was not right. He was described by many as arrogant and it always ended up dominating his undoubted ability.
Quality has a beauty about it. A beauty we can all create because we are all capable of quality. Whatever we do, however we relate to each other, whoever we decide to be. All of these can be of the highest standard. After all, you never know who might be watching and whom you might inspire. But don’t take that as your motivation; do it because it’s beautiful and do it because you can.