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Wide World of Sports

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My favorite television program as a boy was ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The show provided a glimpse of unique and often under-publicized sports and athletes. They spanned the globe to show a Russian weight lifter, the Harlem Globetrotters and cliff divers in Mexico. We learned about curling, badminton and professional logging. The most powerful image during the show’s opening video was an Olympic ski jumper named Vinko Bogataj from Yugoslavia who missed his take-off and fell head-over-heels off the side of the ramp. Jim McKay told us that for the next hour we would experience “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. He was right.

The beauty of sports is that the personal triumphs and the painful disappointments are played out in full view for the world to see. Athletic competition reveals perseverance, resilience and the ability to manage adversity. High achievers that reach a level of championship performance in sports share many of the same challenges as individuals in the business world. They must over-come tremendous obstacles and rely heavily on strong leadership from coaches, managers and bosses that provide “Wide World of Sports” caliber leadership to deal with frustrating set-backs. There are three valuable leadership lessons necessary to help your team rebound from the “agony of defeat”.

Enjoy the journey – Pro-caliber leaders are forward thinkers that emphasize the importance of long-term growth and do not be-laboring a short-term failure. Winning teams that experience a temporary road block will bounce-back quickly with a healthy dose of encouragement and positive affirmation. We are blessed with one life and our responsibility is to maximize our gifts, climb to the top of our potential ladder and most important; enjoy the journey along the way.

Learn from set-backs – We will get knocked down and frustrated as we try to accomplish personal, professional and team goals. Failure is part of the game. In basketball, there are constant turnovers, defensive lapses, missed shots and fouls. The best coaches understand that everyone makes mistakes and top performers learn from their miscues and are less likely to repeat them in the future.

Emerge Stronger – Big-time leaders realize a teams greatest growth potential comes after disappointing losses. Painful set-backs can serve as a valuable catalyst to reassess performance and improve on goals, tactics and strategies. Success is good, but failure can provide powerful training tools, lessons and motivation for future growth.

Vinko Bogataj crashed in this third attempt at the international ski-jumping championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in 1970. At the time, his head-over-heels failure on national television was an embarrassing and life-threatening catastrophe. However, he emerged with only a mild concussion and successfully competed in the World Championship the very next year. For 37 years on the Wide World of Sports, Vinko represented the human drama of athletic competition on national television and is remembered by an entire generation of sports enthusiasts as the “agony of defeat ski-jumper”. He overcame his personal defeat and is regarded as an expert in the area of overcoming adversity.

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