|Statue by Louis Laumen at the Melbourne Cricket Ground of Tom Wills umpiring the first recorded match of Australian rules football between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School on 7 August 1858. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
A real champion
There's no doubt about it, you're a real champion' my school teacher and coach, Mr Wilson, would say with conviction. These encouraging words reinforced my belief that I was doing something extra special as captain of the under-nine Seaford State School Australian Rules Football team.
In spite of my size, I knew my strengths. When I got hold of the ball, no one could catch me. Like the wind, I'd run that ball to the goal square in a flash from anywhere on the field. The problem was, I was the world's worst kick and had no way of knowing where the ball might end up once it left my boot. I countered this tendency to 'spray' the ball by striving to kick my goals a foot away from the goal posts - or setting someone else up to kick them for me.
No one seemed to notice this serious shortcoming because I kept getting the scores on the board. In their eyes I was a genuine champion. I fervently shared their belief.
A second-rate player
But with David Stelling on the soccer field, it was a different story. He was resigned to the fact that he was a rotten kick and he knew that everyone else felt the same way about him too. No matter how hard he tried, the ball just never seemed to go where he wanted it to. As a result he could only ever be a second-rate soccer player.
David recalls the day he was sitting on the bench as twelfth man in the inter-club semi-finals with little chance of playing in the match. At the end of a nail-biting second half, both teams were tied with two points each. This called for a penalty shoot-out of an alternate 5 kicks each team. The pressure was such that despite superhuman efforts from both sides, no one could break through.
Forced to turn to the dregs
As a winner must be established in a finals match, the five-kick penalty shoot-out had to be repeated. What's more, the same player can't have two goes in the one sequence so, as David put it, 'They were forced to turn to the dregs.'
It was with a pounding heart that he walked on to the pitch as the team's last-ditch effort. All eyes were on him as he ran in to kick the ball. The thought ran through his head, 'You watch me botch this.' And true to form, his toe dug deep into the turf just as he connected with the ball.
Expecting an explosive attempt to breach his defence, the goalie was already spread- eagled to block it. But the ball had other ideas. It lazily skewered sideways and, to the utter amazement of everybody, dribbled past the desperate clutches of the defender and into the net.
A match-winning hero
The crowd went absolutely beserk and David was chaired off the field as a match-winning hero, his wobbly kicks of the past instantly forgotten. In their eyes, this penalty shot was one for the history books. A master stroke of sheer genius - and they never let him forget it.
David Stelling now had a fine reputation to live up to. He was a champion kick and a semi-finals winner! The following year, not only did he captain the team to success, he also won the club's Best and Fairest award.
David learnt two things from this experience: you don't have to be the best to be a winner, and you most certainly are what you believe you are.
Laurie Smale is an inspirational speaker, author and Master Speech coach. His ideas and inspirations on communicating effectiveness have changed the lives of thousands. Checkout his life-changing self-help products at http://www.panicfreepublicspeaking.com.au The added bonus is that with all his products and coaching you get Laurie as your personal email coach for life!
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