I don’t go in for hero-worship, but if I did a definite contender would be Nick Matthew, our (the UK’s) latest world number one squash player and it’s not just because he’s number one.
I’ve had a thing for Nick for a few years … no, not like that! I’ve haven’t even met him, although I’ve seen him play many times, both live and on SquashTV.com and to me, he defines the term “sporting hero”. Firstly he plays a real sport. The most gruelling of all racket sports by far in fact (Its been proven many times). A sport where men get sweaty battling on a physical and mental level that few people can even comprehend. Squash isn’t an armchair activity for retired people like curling or darts, nor is it a namby-pamby, designer sport like football (or soccer to any Americans who might be listening). This is a sport that’s played by millions of people all over the world with a genuine passion that isn’t fuelled by the promise of an in-your-dreams payday should they ever reach professional levels.
The training that professional squash players put themselves through is enough to provoke a seizure in any mere mortal who just thinks about it. Peter Nicol, our previous great world number one, described his training regime in terms of inching his body each day past the point where his brain told him he was going to die, just so he could prove to it that it wouldn’t. However, as if that wasn’t enough Nick recently came back from a shoulder injury that would have permanently sidelined many lesser sportsmen, enduring twelve months of surgery and rehabilitation to take the crown that is so rightfully his – Bloody brilliant Nick. Thanks for showing us how its done.
Nothing in this world that’s truly worth having is ever achieved easily. That’s one reason why I have no sympathy for folks who, even when the nation is on its arse, don’t want to put in those extra hours, take that salary cut or change the terms of their contract. As for those who would rather actually withdraw their labour altogether than make a few business-prolonging changes, I’d rather they just leave the country, or better still the planet!
I meet businesses and people all over the world who get to a point of comfort and just sit back. Businesses that are happy to make a profit, people who just want to do the bare minimum, neither being interested in being the best in town or even just the best they can be and it makes me sad. I can’t see the point in getting out of bed each day unless it’s with the mantra “Today I’ll be the best!” and in the new economy even that doesn’t guarantee you’ll even survive because making it to the top of the heap, is by no means “job done!”. For a real winner, it’s just the start of the race to leave your competitors eating your dust.
Because he’s the champion he is, Nick Matthew, I am sure, will be spending the next few off-season weeks, working out to what he has to do to up his game. He’ll know that there are players our there who he has inspired to take him on next season. Equally dedicated, highly skilled players for whom he is now the target.
Meanwhile, if I were David Cameron and Nick Clegg right now, mapping out the Brand Model for Brand Britain, I’d be focussing on people like Nick Matthew as the pillars of the brand promise and trying to work out how the same energy and commitment that has made them the winners they are, can be translated to Britain as a whole. Looking at the check-out queue in Tesco yesterday, its clear that it might be as big a challenge as coming back from the sugeon’s table to become the world’s number one squash player.