Learn to take risks and accept challenges and don’t be afraid to fall over a few times on the way to success, gold medallist Sarah Winckless told the CIPS Annual Conference in London yesterday.
Winckless, who was this year awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for ‘services to sport and young people’, won Olympic bronze in 2004 and World Championship gold medals in 2005 and 2006 for rowing.
Now head of coaching services at 'Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?' she opened the event at the UK capital’s The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel with an inspirational presentation drawing on her years in the high-performance sport.
She said she knew she was incredibly competitive from a very young age but despite her achievements had suffered setbacks that made her question if she was good enough and even pushed her to break a rib.
Winckless said on two significant occasions in training she had to learn to take a completely different approach and change her mindset to improve her performance and that of her teammates.
“The question ‘am I good enough?’ drove me but comparing myself to everyone else every day was working in some ways but was draining me. I had to train and think in a different way. The questions then became ‘am I the best I can be?’ and ‘how do I perform at my best?’”
The final stage was for her and her teammates to give feedback to one another that risked improving a peer’s performance at the expense of their own place in the competition. “There were six of us but only four places in the boat. The risk was you would make them better than you, but I was selected.”
Winckless advised delegates to show optimism, understand what they want to achieve and set their goals high but to take reaching those aims in stages. “Show resilience,” she added, “I talk about being comfortable being uncomfortable; you have to find the resilience. Treat change as an opportunity not a threat. And have courage, lots of people talk about doing things differently but to step over the line and see if you can do it, takes courage.”