Seriousness26 Dec 2019
I am a huge Arsenal supporter. I started loving the club because they wore a shade of red I liked when I was young. As the years rolled by with Arsene Wenger as coach, I got to like his approach and method of putting the club’s values first, before victories. Arsenal was one of the clubs that could lose beautifully which would leave a conflict of emotions in supporters after a game, yes points would have been lost but you would also recall special, magical moments created on the field which would make you overlook the final result. Since Wenger left though, the club has been in a bit of a tailspin. Unai Emery who took over about 2 years ago failed to win the fans over because of an unattractive style of play and few victories which eventually culminated in his sacking. In his place, Mikel Arterta, a former captain was put at the the helm. While watching his first video as Arsenal coach the idea of this blog post came about. It was refreshing to hear how clear he was about what it takes for Arsenal to get back to greatness. One theme that I took away, is how serious he approaches his work and the level he requires of everyone who will contribute.
…I want to start working with them (the players), I want to start looking in their eyes…
…I know what a winning culture is and should look like, which is for me, the most important thing.
I will not convince the players I have experience, I will convince them that I know certain things that if we do, will bring success and those are non-negotiables.
On being real:
I want to be me , I do not want to be anyone else, it has to be natural, it has to come from inside and if that’s the case the player will trust me and i will be able to convince them what to do.
On culture, again:
.. I think we have to create the right culture around the club where everyone respects each other, a humility and people have to be accountable for what we want to achieve. That’s the basics and then we can grow from there.
On being able to understand and create a bond with players:
You (the coach) are like a heart surgeon, I need to understand the feelings, I need to scratch there and understand how they feel. If i am able to do that and they feel that they can trust me, I will understand the decisions and behaviours much better and then the communication will improve.
Here is the full interview:
To say I was awed would be an understatement. For someone who has not been a manager of a top club, I was impressed by how clear and articulate Arteta communicated his vision and demands.
Now let’s come back to boxing where this concept of being serious has grave consequences (on health and performance), whilst also being easy to judge. As a huge fan of boxing I sift through a lot of tape of boxers practicing for big matches; I love the mental game and I feel warm inside when the hard grit and pushing back of boundaries is rewarded at the end of a tense encounter. On the topic of seriousness though, let me take you through a couple of interesting fights that happened in 2019.
Jarrett “Swift” Hurd Vs Julian Williams
A couple of months before this bout, Jarrett Hurd was looking like a solid champion. He’s a guy that does get touched (hit) though, his defense is not the best but he was a champion who defended his belt a few times and was the favorite going into the fight with Williams. Williams had lost dismally to Jermell Charlo by being brutally knocked out. Everything seemed to be pointing to a Hurd victory (he broke into song at one of the pre-fight press conferences). Willams, the underdog, physcially dominated and dropped Hurd on his way to a clear, unanimous victory. After the match, it became clear how much work Williams had put in to win that fight. This quote after the match sums it all up:
“They told me I was done, that I had no chin,” Williams said. “Jarrett’s such a great fighter and he pushed me. I got so motivated because everybody was doubting me. I turned my Twitter off, I turned my Instagram off. I blocked out all the good stuff, I blocked out all the bad stuff. The boxing world, they make it seem like fighters take a loss and they can’t come back, and I just knew that wasn’t the case. Stop condemning fighters after they take a loss.”
Andy Ruiz Vs Joshua
In June of 2019, there was a shock victory when the defending heavyweight champion got what seemed like a routine cherrypick against the buffy Andy Ruiz. Going into the fight, Joshua was being touted as the next big thing in boxing, he had defeated a couple of decent contenders before big crowds (90K+ fans) in the UK where he comes from. When the time came to face a huge underdog after his mandatory challenger Jarrell Miller was busted for using PEDs, he thought it was going to be a normal night in the little squared ring. What happened instead, was shocking. Andy Ruiz came into the fight without much of a period to psych up and train for Joshua, just 3 weeks as opposed to 8 or 12 weeks. After being dropped to the canvas in the 3rd round, Andy got back up on his feet and delivered a battering to Joshua that shocked the world. In the 7th round he became the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.
Given the result of the fight, and the contract for it having a rematch clause, Joshua decided to activate that right away to earn his titles back in December 2019. Whilst Joshua worked hard to change his style to deal with this new threat, Andy Ruiz was getting used to being champion of the world and having extra cents in his pocket. He went on a splurge that included house purchases and cars, soaking up as much of the spotlight as he could. The day the rematch happened, Andy Ruiz was in horrible shape, overweight and had missed the first few weeks of training. In contrast, Joshua who had had the belts for a good period of his professional career came in lighter and looked more focused albeit with low confidence. He swiftly took his belts back though without much physical resistance from Andy Ruiz.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about this: Andy Ruiz had the whole world at attention after a shock win, with the rematch looming one would think he would put in the hard graft to make the biggest statement of his career once again and remain champion, right? For all the money he had won in the first encounter, winning the rematch would have brought more and cemented his position as an elite level fighter. How could it be he came in in worse shape than the former champion?
Tony Harrison Vs Jermall Charlo
In another surprising match in the middleweight class, the champion Jermall Charlo defended his belt against the little known Tony Harrison. Whilst Jermall is not known for being heavy-handed, he fought to get a knockout during the fight but round by round it proved elusive as Tony Harrison fought a clever fight of boxing and avoiding long exchanges. However, Tony’s performance was just not enough to be convincing for a challenger to be given the title. After the fight went to the scorecards (because there was no knockout), Tony Harrison was declared the victor by all the judges. Many in the boxing community were not impressed so the rematch was hotly anticipated.
During the build up to the rematch Jermall, feeling hard done by the judges the first time, wore his emotions on his sleeve with Harrison as cool as a cucumber; he didn’t take anything said by the former champion seriously. Jermall had a hard time dealing with such a calm head and became quite emotional. After the first bell rang, the fight did not disappoint with Jermall dropping Harrison early in the second round. After getting up however, Harrison boxed intelligently once again and won a good couple of rounds which gave his confidence a major boost as he seemed on his way to another unanimous win. He felt so in control that he started showboating during the middle rounds. On one of those occassions, in the 11th round, he was caught napping and knocked down out of nowhere! Upon getting up without having recovered fully, he was hit with some solid shots again and had to cover up on the ropes which forced the referee to halt the contest.
After the match, a tearful Harrison knew what chance he had let slip. In his own words, he relaxed because he felt his was “coasting”.
These few examples have prompted me to wonder what type of player I am on my team. If someone looks me / you, in the eye do they see the belief you are doing enough to guarantee victory? Have you dedicated yourself enough to your craft to be an A-player? How have you handled early success to guarantee you stay at the top of the game and keep the same hunger?
Some of these problems are very interesting too, it seems they need success to occur first for them to happen. Can one learn budgeting without having had to deal with any resources to manage whatsoever? Is mentorship enough? Without the mentor present later, can one make good decisions without having learnt something the “hard” way?
Any comments please drop them below, this is a conversation I would love to expand on in my future posts.
Thanks a lot for reading!