What it takes to be #1

All my life I have been fascinated by athletics; there was something about the thrill of competition that hooked me at an early age. This probably stems from being brought to the sporting events of my older brother and sister as a child. The struggle to fill the large shoes that they left, combined with the constant attempts to out-perform my twin brother made me very competitive early on.

As I grew older I developed a new appreciation for sports. This came in middle school, where after watching CBS’ 60 Minutes interviews with professional golfer, Tiger Woods and NFL quarterback, Tom Brady, I realized that it is no accident that they are as successful as they are. I learned that it takes more than a good gene pool, good coach and even more than a strong work ethic to be the best. While these traits are certainly helpful, they are not nearly as powerful as the desire to win, and then to maintain that success over and over again. Woods opened his interview with Ed Bradley by saying that if the two were playing cards, he wouldn’t just want to win, he would want to “kick his butt.” It is that need to win that allows him not only to win, but to maintain that level of excellence year after year. In his interview with Steve Kroft, Tom Brady echoes a similar sentiment. The interview was conducted in 2005 when he was fresh off of his third Super Bowl victory, yet he explains to Kroft that there is still more out there to prove. In a 2011 interview with ESPN, Brady explained in more detail what keeps him motivated, saying “I watch myself play and at times I still don’t think I’m very good. I always want to show that I’m the best quarterback for this team. I want to earn it every single day.” Though they may have been gifted with favorable physical traits, the strive for perfection that these two athletes possess is what truly set them apart from the competition.

Though my career in competitive athletics has been put on hold due to injury, I have continued to apply the lessons taught to me by Tiger Woods and Tom Brady. In high school I carried them over to academics, where the condition never to be satisfied with my performance has taken me to where I am now.

Here are the links to the interviews:

Tiger Woods on 60 Minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kotQfs6VpXQ

Tom Brady on 60 Minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHSfiKAtPzk (skip to 0:37. Interview ends at 3:03).

Brady with ESPN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWyV0gcjfPo (the quotes referenced can be seen at 47:00)

Watch these videos and tell me what you think. What does it take to be #1? Are there any other top athletes you know of with similar traits?

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2 Responses to What it takes to be #1

  1. spondy12 says:

    I think you are right on with MJ. When writing that post he was another athlete that immediately came to my mind. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a specific interview that demonstrated his personality so I didn’t include him. It can be argued that he is the greatest competitor of all time. The fact that he has remained close to the game of basketball as an executive a decade after his playing days demonstrates this. He has a tremendous passion for the game wants to win at every level.

    As for Tiger, I definitely see how his personality type could be related to his unfaithfulness. He was, and hopes to remain, a world class athlete, had hundreds of millions of dollars and was married to a supermodel. On the surface he appeared to have everything, but for whatever reason, wasn’t satisfied with his situation and went looking for more.

  2. dampbench says:

    I don’t think another athlete in history has displayed the “will to win” trait more than Michael Jordan. Anyone who’s ever watched a game of basketball probably knows all about his on-court accomplishments, but I personally think his off-the-court reputation defines him more as a winner. Similar to what you mentioned about Tiger, MJ wanted not just to win at everything he did, but to dominate his opponents. When his father died and he lost some of his desire for basketball, he pursued baseball at the professional level. He is also an avid golfer and owner of an NBA team (he frequently practices with the players) and auto racing company. It has been ten years since he last stepped foot on a basketball court, and he’s arguably more competitive than ever.
    While this trait may seem admirable for the most part, I believe this very characteristic could have contributed to many of the personal issues both of these athletes have faced. I think Tiger’s unfaithfulness (to say the least) to his wife and Jordan’s ongoing gambling problems may be a byproduct of this chronic desire to always want more, to never be satisfied. What do you think?

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