Chris Hoy, unofficial captain of Team GB, won the Sports Personality of the Year this week. Didn’t it bring back all the excitement of the Summer? Fourth in the medal table behind the giants China, the US and Russia: I was so proud to be British!
Now I love cycling, though you would never catch me riding in one of those velodromes: it looks far too dangerous! And I’m passionate about teams and what they can achieve that individuals can’t achieve on their own. The concept of a British team for the Olympics is a strange one though, isn’t it? In most of the events isn’t each individual athlete competing for individual glory, trying to beat their personal best? And yet, and yet…it seems team may have been a factor that really made a difference in Beijing in 2008. What could have made Team GB so powerful?
Vision and inspiration
Rebecca Adlington, the double medal winner, a swimmer (not a cyclist), talked after the awards ceremony about how much she had learned from Chris Hoy who’s always referred to as the “unofficial” captain of Team GB. What did she learn, when clearly she already had the talent and the training to win the medals?
We can’t know for sure but we can guess that his single-mindedness without arrogance would be inspiring. I believe Chris Hoy’s vision and his focus on achieving his goals inspired his fellow team members, as did his own passion, dedication and generosity of spirit.
Communication and contribution
There are some sports at the Olympics where it is essential the team functions as a team and that old chestnut “communication” is often central. Clearly team members have to know how to work together, communicate clearly – as an illustration of how not to do it, who can forget the agony of the botched handover in the British men’s relay? However, contribution, or “pulling your weight” is just as important. “To win as part of a team is a totally different feeling from the 1km time trial in Athens,” Chris Hoy said after winning the Team Sprint. “Our friendship has been so dominant in the last few years. As part of a team, you can’t let anyone down.”
Fun and enjoyment
Finally, we take it for granted that Team GB members are all passionate about their sport, but what a bonus if they also enjoy what they do? Chris Hoy has talked about how he couldn’t put in all the work his success demands if he didn’t still enjoy cycling. And on top of the sheer joy of doing something you really enjoy, one final thing that’s important is to remember to have some fun. The evidence is clear that Chris Hoy doesn’t take himself too seriously. After his Olympic success he was asked, “What does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?” To which he replied, “Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse.”
So in my work with teams I shall continue to emphasise fun and clear communication as key staples alongside the importance of establishing a clear vision and going for it!