Prior to my being introduced to the elements of sports intelligence, I lacked in many of the areas that once exposed to it, led to my success in the fitness industry.
"Before August 2014 I had never trained, let alone maintained a healthy way of eating. I had always played a variety of sports but never took any of it seriously, nor did I focus on living a fit and healthy lifestyle.
In May of 2014 I received an email from my insurer stating that I had been to the gym only 10 times in a year and if I didn’t attend another 26 times in the month to follow, my subsidy would be revoked. I thought this might be the start of a healthy lifestyle but instead I found myself arriving at the gym every day before closing time and quickly swiping my card so that I could keep the contract.
In August 2014 I attended the Miss SA Extreme show in Pretoria as a colleague of mine was conducting a talk. I spent the day watching athlete after athlete grace the stage, listened to stories of the dedication it took to commit to the lifestyle they lived and I saw an opportunity for challenge and change.
Apart from an unhealthy lifestyle, I had always lacked discipline in many areas of my life. I looked to my colleagues and said, “I am going to do this!” I don’t think anyone knew that I truly meant it and they spoke of how it was such an expensive sport. My answer? It’s fine, I’ll get sponsorships (which I eventually did). My mind was made up and there was going to be nothing stopping my new dream of stepping on stage.
Nothing, that is, apart from myself and the focus, resilience and discipline I was short of. Then, with the help of Garrath Rosslee, I started to implement the sports intelligence principles not only into my sport but into my life in general, and it transformed more of me than I thought possible.
My first step was to look for a team. Those who are not in a ‘single athlete sport’ don’t realise that even for us, a team is necessary. An athlete is only as successful as those who are pushing alongside them. For me, this meant first and foremost getting my husband on board, which was not a difficult task, but the most important, as a competitive athletes lifestyle takes a toll on all those around them.
Next was to find a coach that would give me the technical expertise and knowledge I required to reach my goals as an athlete. He prepared my diet and training schedule and I had consultations with him fortnightly to measure my progress and make whatever adjustments were necessary. I had twelve weeks to transform, and it was a stretch, but we believed I could do it. And so the wheel was set in motion and I began my twelve-week journey to step onto the stage.
This first step resulted in me becoming Miss Body Beautiful runner-up in my very first competition. Twelve weeks was short enough that I could remain entirely focused and push myself to capacity, and long enough to make it an attainable goal. I knew it would take physical preparation, but what I didn’t know beforehand was the mental, emotional and spiritual input that it takes. With the help of sports intelligence, I developed habits and tools to deal with all of these aspects.
There were days at the gym when I thought I couldn’t push any more, when I closed my eyes and envisioned my name being called up in that top ten placing, when with each repetition I would add a letter, “W... B... F... F... 2... 0... 1... 5”. I found the mental imagery and verbal affirmations worked best for my self-motivation.
I learnt that I am very much externally motivated and require the support and encouragement of others to keep myself going. I also came to terms with the fact that needing to be held accountable by someone is not a weakness, and so I gave up trying to do everything myself and leaned on the support of my coach and the rest of my support system.
I also knew that I had to establish my own ‘brand’ if I wanted to achieve any recognition in the industry. I began to put myself out there, sending out sponsorship motivation letters to anyone I thought might be able to support me. I also did this because there are many financial hurdles in the sport and I needed the support to get me through.
I heard the word ‘no’ more times than I thought I could handle, but the most valuable lesson I learnt from sports intelligence was that resilience is key. So with that single lesson in mind, I kept knocking until doors were opened.
I am now a three times placed, fully sponsored, fitness athlete. Without having been exposed to and then implementing the sports intelligence principles to my life and sport, I am not sure I would have made it to that first night on stage."
"The sports intelligence team originally began working with the 1st XV Rugby side at the college where I was working at the time. Being a coach who is constantly looking to improve and do things differently, ideally better, I was intrigued by what Garrath was doing.
I quizzed a number of the players he was working with, as well as the coaches and parents, and all seemed genuinely happy with the contribution he was making. I was then introduced to Garrath by the Head of Sport and after sitting with him over a coffee, which ended up being a two-hour discussion on how we could improve all facets of sport, I knew I could work with Garrath. From that moment on working alongside him has been one of the biggest blessings in my coaching career to date.
All coaches have a vision, an end goal, whereby they see their team or athlete functioning at their absolute prime. Yet frustratingly, most coaches will go their entire careers without achieving that vision. Garrath helped me, my management team and our player group perform at a level that we all knew we could function at, that absolute prime, and at times it was even better than I had ever envisioned!
This was achieved not by mishap nor accident but rather by implementing a well thought-out and broad-based plan that resulted in all players and coaches becoming engaged and aligned. Garrath guided both the management and the players along the journey whereby we decided as a collective what we wished to achieve, what would be required of us to achieve our stated goals and what we held dear to ourselves – as individuals and as a collective.
This, along with a host of other pieces to the plan, resulted in each individual knowing and understanding their role – which ultimately meant everyone had a sense of purpose and belonging while contributing to the collective. This also ensured that there were strong relationships across the board. Importantly, however, this achieved unity in the team environment while still accommodating and fostering the individual, which is incredibly important when you’re working with teenage athletes, and all too often overlooked.
Garrath’s insight into communication was incredibly beneficial to myself as a coach and mentor, as he helped me become a far more efficient and effective communicator. He also ensured that our messaging was all aligned, concise and accurate which ultimately led to consistent performances both at trainings and during game time.
His help and inputs also allowed me to spend more actual time coaching and less time worrying about other worries or unnecessary distractions. He also ensured that all players and management adopted life skills such as reflective accountability and journaling – which in the long run have helped us all immensely.
All of this together created the ideal environment where we all had belief in ourselves and our abilities while constantly trying to improve ourselves and our performances, and all while remaining passionate about what we were doing.
This meant that the initial vision was achieved."
"TOver the past year I, much like evangelical Christians who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” in difﬁcult situations, have lived my sporting life under the mantra: “What would Garrath do?” It makes life simple on the tennis court.
When I walk onto a tennis court and I’m ‘not feeling it’, the sound coming off my string is dead and dull, my feet won’t move and my arm won’t swing. When I’ve totally lost my sense of humour and am five-love down against someone I should be beating 6/0 6/0. My energy drink tastes like vinegar and I want to throw my racquet. That’s when I ask, “What would Garrath do?” This is good, I am still on speaking terms with myself, I’m trying to make myself laugh. I am aware of the fact that other people have been in this position and managed to get out. I’m looking for inspiration.
The most important thing, when you are on the Dark Court, is to be aware of how you are talking to yourself. What is this voice in your head? Who is it? Who is running the internal monologue? Are you still echoing things your parents said to you, or someone at school, or a cruel lover? Are the things other people said to you – years ago, decades ago – still butting in on your conversation with you?
A good way to tell if the voice in your head isn’t one hundred percent you: are you polite to yourself? Are you kind? Give yourself ﬁve compliments for every “you’re useless,” or “you idiot”.
And what I have learnt is that you must not treat yourself any less courteously than you would a loved one, or a teammate. You cannot spend days bitching at yourself, saying, “you are worthless”, “you can’t hit a ball”, “you always make these same mistakes”.
You would not keep quiet if you saw someone being so repeatedly vile to someone else – if someone spoke to your brother or sister like this. You would ﬁght them. You would ride into battle on a horse against them. And yet, look at all the things you are saying to yourself — the unkind whispers as you walk onto the court, between points, between games: you are so rude to yourself. No wonder you have ended up here, alone, on this tennis court – at an impasse with yourself once again.
So, what would Garrath do? Here’s how you get off the Dark Court and play in the sun. You must treat yourself as a loved one, or team- mate. Understand that all parts are connected. You cannot be happy if those close to you are sad. You cannot play well if your coach is putting you down. If you are not ﬁt, you can’t expect to run all day.
If you are alone, the court is an even lonelier place: politics, friendships, relationships all spill onto the court. Understand this. It doesn’t matter if the engine is working: if the gearbox is broken the car still won’t go. Work with what you have – accept your circumstances, realise that the sun will rise tomorrow, regardless of your score.
Imagine how you would treat a pet: how you talk to it in a gentle voice, make sure it’s warm, delight in giving it treats, or taking it for a walk. Become your own pet. Choose what you would be. It’s a delightful hobby to have – being your own pet.
For now, I am a beautiful, strong white horse called M. I love M. I can be unabashed in my love of M – her strength, her grace. Oh, I treat M so well! I make sure I take M out every day, for I have found she gets morose if she’s cooped up. She needs an hour of fresh air, regardless of the weather — she needs to look up at the sky, and have her heart race when birds ﬂy overhead. She needs to gallop around a bit – which I disguise as jogging, and going “Ahhhh!” at the top of steep hills. She needs regular meals and a good night’s sleep and to be stroked, curled up on the sofa, watching Masterchef.
M loves beautiful clothes — everything has to match when she walks onto the court. And whenever M gets fraught and thinks she’s having a nervous breakdown, I give her a glass of red wine and she almost invariably feels happier. It is amazing, how many times you will confuse ‘having a nervous breakdown’ with ‘just needing a glass of wine’. So I always have wine – for M. And because I am kind to M, we do not fear visits to the Dark Courts anymore when I lose – which is frequently, although so much less frequently than I used to, before we were together. When we’re on the court together, we never stop talking to each other – reminding each other that we have been here before and there is always a moment where the door, which we could not ﬁnd before, opens up and we can walk out again, into the sunshine. And we do not fear that we’ll go there again, because the Dark Court is not all bad.
We learnt to trust each other on the Dark Court. We bonded on that hard green surface. We’ve had some quality time there. And we also know why we end up there now. As I explained to M, we feel more of the world than most people. We feel more of the world than most people. That’s amazing. That is why we end up on the Dark Court, to escape what we feel we can’t just quit and walk away. Sport is such an integral part of us, but we no longer let the results deﬁne us. We don’t play to win, we play because we are the game!"