Blog: The Smoke & Mirrors of Success & Performance

England Rugby’s Osteopath, Keith Gladstone, delivered the annual Dunford Lecture to sport scholars and ESS pupils at the start of the 2018 academic year. Whilst sharing his experiences from a vast array of professional working environments, including World’s Strongest Man and ITV’s Love Island, Keith gave an unrivalled insight into the smoke and mirrors of success and performance.

This blog, the continuation of a series relating to athletic development, will pick out a few key takeaways from Keith’s talk, and draw links to the sports programme here at Marlborough College.

More than skin and bone

Keith’s opening remarks included the words ‘I see my role to develop attributes of better people not just better athletes’. This is arguably the fundamental role of the ESS and athletic development program here at Marlborough College. First and foremost, can we nurture and prepare our young adults and give them the tools to succeed in whatever life may throw at them, both physically and academically? In our eyes health precedes performance, and health comes from a long term commitment to move often and eat well. This is no snake oil, and integrated education is at the very core of what we aim to do. ‘People are more than just muscle, skin and bone, they are a complex system of physiological, psychological, anatomical and cultural parts that are equally important if one is to thrive’.

Russian dolls

Successful people are complex, and the importance, or hierarchy, of each characteristic can be visualised like a Russian doll. The smaller the doll the less important the trait; talent is the smallest doll, whilst being at the core of what we do, it is only visible, and can only be exploited if the layers on top are peeled back. Personality, opportunity and luck are next, all increasingly integral to taking advantage of our talent. Luck plays a bigger part than we usually give credit for because it is out of our control. However, as Samuel Goldwyn said, ‘the harder I work the luckier I get’, we truly can make our own luck. The two largest and substantial layers to the doll are focus/drive, and hard work. These are the most visible, and go to form the majority of other people’s impressions of us. These two most significant portions of the doll are the true predictors of achieving ‘success’, whatever that may be.

The greatest takeaway of Keith’s talk is that there is no magic wand. The health and fitness industry is ripe with gurus and gimmicks, but by addressing the qualities mentioned in this blog, we can cut through the smoke and mirrors, and in turn, develop well-rounded young adults with an appreciation and education of long-term health development.

James Davies
Head of Strength and Conditioning

Connor Porter and Richard Lalor
Graduate Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

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