by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

 
“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential.”  
                                                        ~ Bob Nardelli CEO, Home Depot
 
Stars in the skyThroughout the London Olympics, a plethora of emotions were played out – from the agonizing disappointment and discontentment of the vanquished to the acute elation and exuberance of the victors. And long after the curtain had fallen on the epic event on 12 August 2012, the lessons of the Games live on.
 
For many badminton lovers all over the world, the most exciting match had to be the grand finale on 5 August between Datuk Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Lin Dan of China. It was a superb showdown between two of the greatest badminton players, but in the end there was room for only one winner regardless of how excellent both of them were.
 
The million-dollar question that no one asked aloud was: In a situation where the prevalence of skills, experience and commitment was not an issue, what then made the difference between victory and otherwise?
 

S-T-A-R-S in action

Through the right kind of rigorous coaching, the seeds of raw talent are nurtured into a power plant of strength, talent, agility, resilience and stamina (S-T-A-R-S) – both physically and mentally.
 
When push comes to shove and with all other things being equal, the crucial deciding factor would be the ability to withstand the immense pressure of the moment in order to emerge victorious over not only our opponent but also the extenuating circumstances surrounding us. The “moment” we speak about could be a tiny fraction of a second, but it is one that constitutes a pivotal turning point of enormous consequence.
Evidence that mental strength was a critical success factor came at least in part from the admission of China’s badminton head coach Li Yongbo that he had sat by the court while Lin was playing in the hope that his presence would pressurize Malaysia’s Lee. (Reference: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/2012olympics/2012-08/06/content_15645846.htm) The use of such an off-court psychological tactic is an explicit acknowledgement of how important it is to possess strong mental prowess.
 
From a young age, Lin had been subjected to his nation’s extremely rigorous training regime. It was highly demanding, challenging and pressurizing, but as the saying goes, “Those who don’t die from it will come out stronger”. Lin was a true-blue graduate of such a system.
 
When Lin butted his own head in a moment of frustration during the match, many thought he had lost his cool. On the contrary, he emerged more focused and more determined than before! It seemed as if the self-deprecating gesture was a wake-up call to draw deep from his innermost recesses of strength to persevere in the last decisive mile.
 
We are not endorsing the same kind of training that Lin had undergone for the rest of us. Neither are we implying that their training is superior to ours or other types of training. Instead, the key message here is that coaching is important in building one’s mental STARS. We cite an example from the Olympics simply because it is a recent and memorable event, and it offers a very clear picture of the direct, tangible impact that mental STARS can have on one’s physical performance.
 

Written in Your STARS

In the corporate world, your mental STARS are very important because you are not only constantly assailed by office politics and business concerns on top of your own personal problems; but you are also at the mercy of the unpredictable economy and other macro factors beyond your control. It’s easy to lose focus and lose heart; that’s why your coach is an important ally in your journey of personal and professional development.
 
Remember – your success is written in your STARS.

[Image courtesy of Bulldogza]