I love sport. I loved playing it when I was younger, and I love watching and coaching it now that my body has told me to cop on and slow down. In particular, I love team sports, particularly rugby. All four of my children have been involved in sport from a very young age, which any parents in a similar position will know means a never-ending stream of drop offs, collections, coach journeys across the country and mornings spent on windswept sidelines.
Like his siblings, my youngest son wants to be involved in everything. He plays rugby, basketball, Gaelic football and hurling. Unfortunately for him, he is following in our family tradition of being a late developer in terms of growth spurts. As a result, when he walks onto the pitch, he is generally doing so beside boys of a similar age but let’s just say, of a different physical stature. Unluckily for him he isn’t blessed with outstanding speed either, at least not yet.
So, he’s small, and not particularly nippy. You may not think that there is any great hope for him as a rugby player, especially given that his club has a lot of boys competing for positions on the same team. And certainly during the first few months of the season, his role on the team was generally quite minor. He would fill in here or there, maybe come on as a substitute for the last 15 minutes.
But here’s the surprising thing. Last week, not only did he start on the team, he was also the captain. And the reason for this is that every time he came on in previous games, even if his team was 30 points behind (which in those early games was quite possible), he gave absolutely everything he had. He didn’t shirk his responsibility, did his best to tackle boys weighing 30 kilos more than him and played to the very last minute. Interestingly, it was often the other smaller boys on his team who were doing the same.
And this is the thing I think that sport in particular can teach us. It doesn’t matter what hand we have been dealt in life. Whether we are born into privilege or poverty; whether we manage a team of 1000 or do unpaid voluntary work once a week; whether we are professional athletes or dealing with severe disability. Regardless of what we have and where we are, we can all aim to ring the last drop out of what we have been given. We can all aim to make a difference. Sometimes that difference will be major and at other times it may be only a matter of our example showing others that they too can push for more.
We don’t have to be the biggest, fastest or strongest to lead. We just need to do the best we can with what we have. And perhaps be an example to others to do the same.
The people David describes in his diary are the focus of the LIFT Irish Leadership Awards. The everyday leaders in Irish society who, regardless of position, give their all and believe in helping others to reach their potential.Join us at the online ceremony below.