There is good and best, and the difference between the two lies in simple personal decisions and lifestyle choices. Let us look at sex, food and alcohol in relation to sports people and life in general.
I admire Paul Tergat for the same reason I have respect for John Baraza of Sofapaka and Julius Owino awilo Mwaha formerly of Rangers FC. In Africa I will take Maria Mutola, Haile Gabre Sellasie and Kanu Nwankwo. Across the Atlantic I give it to Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs and the athletics duo of Marlen Ottey and Paula Radcliff.
The sportsmen mentioned above ruled (some still do to date) for a long time than their peers. Many athletes- every sports person is an athlete- came in after them, shone and faded out then disappeared from the limelight leaving them at the top of their game.
The other end of the stick has many examples locally and internationally. I don’t have to dwell so much on it, I know you already have examples of sportsmen akin to one-hit-wonders in the world of music.
Success and failure in sports has been subject to scientific research for a long time now. I will not go into the details of genetic, nurture, nutrition and other parameters that have formed the basis for the inference of many sports outcome.
Talent is God given, but not every person with sporting talent pursues it, even those who pursue it not all succeed in it. If we apply the law of natural selection – another word for the law of the jungle then survival in sports will be a matter of fitness. The best of the pool go to the highest level, while the weaklings fall off when the going gets tough.
The assumption that the vigour and grind of sports will produce its best by separating the wheat from the chuff is only half true. In a world of options and varying social environments, and the fact that competitive sports is only for the youthful season of life, success has more than talent in it .
Then again, not everyone with talent makes it in sports and not everyone who makes it to the highest level is exceptionally gifted as well. The social environment and lifestyle choices have direct effect on how and for how long a player performs.
We are what we eat
Food is a basic need to everybody but to athletes, it is more than basic. Peak performance requires the body to burn calories just like a car burns fuel. The calories required are obtained from good food.
This is not about quantity but quality- what you can get from a kilogram of maize meal may be gotten from half that amount of spaghetti.
What we eat is subject to the culture we live in while the quantity is determined by metabolic rate. Sportspeople must be willing to eat ‘out of the box’ sometimes. It is prudent to consult a nutrition expert for advice so as to get maximum returns from our culinary engagements.
Looking at KPL players’ physical size, one is left to wonder if our clubs or national team can stand up to West Africans. Endurance and performance are directly proportional to the quality and quantity of food an athlete eats, hence the seriousness it deserves.
Quality is not subject to price, I believe someone can eat well on minimum cash. Fruits and vegetables and starch are basic and affordable. The problem is the human appetite will lean towards unhealthy foods which happen to be expensive as well.
Sex has become so common that if you apply the laws of demand and supply, then it has lost its value. Success in the sports arena leads to celebrity status which definitely attracts the opposite sex and possibly lots of casual sex opportunities. Physical exercise also leads to high testosterone levels in the blood which also makes sportspeople to have a high sex drive.
Sex is good but like everything else in life, it requires moderation and control. Former Italy football captain Fabio Canavaro once said that sex gives him the energy to perform on the pitch. To others it could be the opposite but they will not admit it.
Sex experts will tell you the stress relieving effects of good sex- note the action word good. The problem is too much of it is not good, especially with many partners.
As much as good sex has its benefits, the resources and time involved in seeking and executing (for the singles) it may affect the time required and energy levels for practice sessions. If sex is a stress reliever, casual and unprotected sex has risks that make it counterproductive.
It is prudent that a player looks at the advantage of delayed gratification in relation to sex. It is good if an athlete understands himself well so as to have a good balance especially the married ones. Sex has brought down kings and many sportsmen as well.
The s-tipple chase
Trust Kenyans to coin creative words- I had never heard of s-tipple chase before the 2012 London Olympics. We are known the world over as the seven laps-jump over barrier- and water champions. Our alcohol consumption is also higher compared to many developing countries. The s-tipple chase description is definitely a home truth.
Alcohol needs moderation, if you can’t control it the only option is to quit. A friend once told me that running with gumboots is not prohibited in the Olympics. Which means you can go to the sprint blocks in gumboots, run and finish the race- but at what cost?
So it is with alcohol, as much as it is not prohibited, it comes with unnecessary baggage. Smoking and chewing miraa (khat) just complicates the equation. The effects of khat, a mild stimulant, may not be evident immediately but the compounded effects are negative; loss of sleep and appetite are bad for an athlete.
Conventional wisdom has taught me that discipline in life is what separates good from best. In social matters go for moderation, to talent add skills. Talent in itself is not a guarantee of success; lifestyle must be planned around talent to harness it. Our athletes must exercise discipline, wisdom and moderation if they are to play and win for long.