Of all the major team sports, football has the most even playing field in every match even when one team is clearly superior to the other. The size of the pitch is one factor. The size of the pitch and the substitution rule mean that conditioning more than raw football talent might make the difference at the end of a match. Finally, the offside rule slows down the most potent offences by keeping them in front of the defence.
This also means that raw talent aside an underachieving team has a path to success in the very nature of the sport. Football rewards conditioning more than it rewards pure talent. So as the Rangers seek a return to Scottish League prominence, the first thing they can develop is the stamina to endure the full ninety minutes of a match.
Physical fitness is available to everyone, not just athletes. Too many people have chosen a life of relative ease over the hard work it takes to be in top physical shape. There is no question that an hour of online slots play is easier than an hour of conditioning work. In truth, for the vast majority of us—neither athletes nor people uninterested in fitness—there is room in our busy days for both slots play and exercise.
The Rangers need to look for players who embody the characteristics of top athletes rather than the physical skills of top footballers. Some of the characteristics of good athletes are obvious whilst others may surprise you.
Once an atmosphere of conditioning and commitment is established, it will be possible to attract better football players. The best players want to play on a team committed to excellence.
Characteristics of Top Athletes
The first characteristic of top athletes is commitment. Commitment requires a measure of sacrifice of every other of life’s pleasures to the benefit of athletics.
Many people think that athletes need to be driven by internal demons to succeed. Whilst drive is surely important, we feel that self-confidence comes directly after commitment. Any team that lacks confidence in itself is soon to be on the losing end of almost any match.
The single greatest element in developing self-confidence is the ability to stay focused. This is why football levels the playing field in favour of weaker teams. It’s very hard for even the best athletes to stay focused toward the end of a match when the body aches and is tired.
A corollary of the above is that top athletes have a large reservoir of resistance to the debilitating effects of pain.
Here are a few characteristics of the best teams and athletes that you may not have thought of at first.
Time is of the Essence
Top athletes and teams manage time better than others. The game is 90 minutes long before extra time. Pacing oneself whilst remaining competitive is a feature of excellence. Even if the Rangers lack the football skills to be amongst the best, they can learn to manage the time of the game better than they have until now.
Time management also relates to the work for conditioning. It applies to getting proper sleep, scheduling meals correctly, and making time for quiet contemplation. Athletes don’t just run and jump; they exercise the mind and the spirit as well.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Self-awareness is another overlooked characteristic of great athletes and teams. We need to know where we need to improve. This is one of the most difficult areas for anyone who wants to achieve greatness. We tend to think that we can do so easily; but it is that extra measure of self-awareness that often sends an athlete over the top.
Support Each Other
Having a support system is also vitally important. A team that is divided against itself may succeed but far more often it fails. The cohesiveness and camaraderie of close-knit teams is invaluable. In 2016, in the final game of the American baseball championship series, the Chicago Cubs lost a lead essentially at the last moment. Baseball has no game clock so the team had time to regroup. As luck would have it, rain delayed the continuation of the game by twenty minutes. In that short period of time, a veteran player called the players around and rallied them by emphasizing that they are a team. They went on to win the championship immediately after!
Achieve Inner Calm
Finally, finding and making the time to quiet the mind and spirit is a sign of emotional maturity. This is one of the least understood qualities of top teams and athletes. We tend to think about athletes as raw talents who don’t need emotional maturity to succeed.
Maybe that’s true of the best of the best, sadly. For the rest of the rest, we need to find repose even as we strive with all our might and intestinal fortitude to achieve greatness.
Here we can look at the greatest musical soloists. As much as they work at their craft in search of excellence, at their performances we can also see the calm beneath the surface of flying hands and fingers. Anyone who has ever seen Khatia Buniatishvili in concert or on YouTube can attest to the truth of this point.
So, the Rangers have a lot of work cut out for them in their desire to return to greatness. They must keep in mind that football greatness is not just about physical ability; it is at least as much connected to intangibles that go far beyond the mere physical.