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NMBS 2014: Sir Clive Woodward explains characteristics of a champion

There are four key characteristics that are needed to become a champion, according to former England Rugby Head Coach Sir Clive Woodward.
Speaking to merchants and suppliers at the NMBS Conference last week in Tenerife, the keynote speaker who led England to World Cup glory back in 2003 said talent, teachability, nature of a warrior and the right attitude are all required to be successful.

“Talent is needed, but talent alone is not enough,” said Woodward, who explained that when he first arrived as England head coach he had a room full of talented players, but as they hadn’t won anything of significance, the team needed more than just talent.

Champions need to be students too, added Woodward, and need to have the ability to learn and take on knowledge.

“You’re either a sponge or a rock, we need sponges, people with a thirst for knowledge but people who can change,” he said. “Often the longer people are in companies or teams the more rock like they become. It’s not about intellect it’s about passion for knowledge.”

Woodward took the unusual step of handing out laptops to all the England rugby players when he first took charge. Ridiculed by sections of the media at first, it allowed the players to use a data application called ‘Prozone’, which enabled them to have access to a vast amount of data and understand how they and the team played throughout matches.

He believes that whoever wins in IT tends to win, and that providing them with their own data enhanced their skills: “The data we had gave us facts and figures, and after every game the players had to go away and analyse their performance, then come back and present to me. It made a huge difference, they really started to think about the game and take ownership of what they were doing.”

The third characteristic of a champion, the warrior, is someone who performs at their best under pressure, described Woodward. He explained the theory of TCUP: thinking correctly under pressure, as the best model to use. “Winners perform at their best when the pressure is at its greatest,” Woodward told the audience.

One prime example used by the keynote speaker of athletes failing to perform under pressure was at the Olympic Games in Greece 2004. At the Men’s synchronized diving final, a bizarre sequence of events occurred when a spectator jumped into the pool, which put off several divers including the Chinese, Russians and Americans who all scored incredibly low scores in their final dive to leave outsiders Greece taking the gold.

The final step of making a champion is attitude. At this stage, Woodward simply put a photo of Olympic gold medal winner Nicola Adams up onto the big screen. Adams became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title, and Woodward said the Brit had the right attitude to succeed.

He concluded by saying: “Obsession is a fantastic word, if you want o win you have to be obsessed about it. It’s all about attention to detail.”

H+H UK BMJ conference coverage sponsor

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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