The following is an edited extract from Top Game: Winning, Losing and a New Understanding of Sport, the upcoming book on sports theories and the achieving of sporting excellence by Binoo K. John, published by Speaking Tiger. The excerpt is from Chapter 1: Parenting, Nationalism and the Creation of Champions.
There are many ways to win in sport and many theories to back them. Yet there is no definitive understanding of what exactly makes a champion. Or for that matter, why a much-heralded potential champion eventually never became a topper in his sport. Theories abound, and each coach and many scientists have their own theories of success and failure. Some advocate continuous strenuous practice. Others sit back and prefer to watch genes play their role in moulding a champion. Some others say winning is all in the mind and tutor their wards like Fagin trained pickpockets in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Coaches the world over have produced champions using varying strategies.
There is no single strategy that is convincing enough. That could be because we still do not have any clue why a player who was spotted quite early in life, practised well, was focused and devoted to the sport, and yet burnt out like a flickering candle in the wind. To uncoil this mystery, we perhaps need to first understand the making of a champion. The theories that have been studied in detail in the last three decades are genetic factors, sheer ambition inculcated from childhood, sweat-shop theories, ‘accumulative advantages’, place of birth and growing up, theories of practice and endurance, the study of muscle fibre and lung power and so forth.