Handing out prizes for mediocrity

An interesting email landed in my inbox this morning. Northern Ireland were returning from the euros in France and the email was from the IFA announcing the homecoming celebration to be held at the Titanic Fanzone.

I had to flick back to the UEFA site to check the results again in case I’d missed something. My memory, while fading, isn’t that bad and I was right in thinking Northern Ireland had only won one game at the euros.

northern ireland results

Yes, they had an amazing run to get to the finals,
Yes, no one backed them to qualify, let alone too the group,
Yes, the fans took the competition by storm,
No, they didn’t win it.

Have a look at the results. Four games played, won one, lost three.

We have developed a culture in the UK over a number of years where mediocrity is celebrated in sport. We champion people who win bronze in the Commonwealth Games, celebrate a plucky loser after they been hammered, give every kid a certificate in school sports days and put on welcome home parades for teams who win one game at a tournament.

It’s embarrassing.

The local news has made this the top story and is referring to them as heroes.

Just stop it.

We often to look to the Aussie system and wonder how they produce so much world class talent. Or glance enviously at New Zealand to see how they churn out top rugby players. Or look at the German football crest in amazement at their four stars on the badge, while England have just one.

While there are many factors in the success of these nations, a hard-nosed focus on success is what makes them great. As Michael Canic once said,

“The will to win is not the same as the will to do what it takes to win”

One of our most successful Olympic sports, cycling, got to the top by focusing on winning and nothing else. And while this approach has seen the demise of some top people recently, it’s undoubtedly been a success and brought so many medals since 2000, that there is a dedicated section on the British Cycling website for medals. Can you imagine that in any other sports?

So let’s knock on the head celebrations for finishing third after winning one game and kick off the celebrations for those who start to create a winning mentality.

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