When Chantal was in primary school, she had a best friend whose deepest desire was to be a famous pop star. Not that she could, or did, sing much, but this was her dream. Everyone wants to be famous, don’t they? The glitz and glamour of that life that sparkles and shines at us when we are young has the lure of a siren.
If social media is anything to go by it seems that anyone can be an overnight TikTok, YouTube or Instagram star. Thousands if not millions of followers hungrily gobbling up every reel, move and pronouncement that falls like manna from the newest, hippest, twentysomething-ist with a clever byline.
It seems so easy. It seems so glamorous. It seems so thrilling, with fancy yachts and fancy cars and fancy jewels. A bank account bulging, champagne quaffing, gold encrusted life of pleasure and fame with little effort and less thought
Who would want to be famous?
Take a closer look at this thing called fame, the 24/7 spotlight, glaring flashlights, lack of privacy, life exposed to the world and people writing about you like they own you and you owe them. Who would want to be famous?
Sports people become celebrities where “overnight success” equates to years of disciplined work, countless hours of practice and more losses than wins. While they carry the dreams and desires of entire nations on their shoulders they are expected to show up and perform better than well. Or else.
And so early Sunday evening we settled down on the big white couch to watch the last quarter final World Cup Rugby game of 2023. France vs South Africa in a huge knockout round. Chantal, her crocheting at hand, was ready to hook her way through the tension that was coming.
“Right, let’s get this going,” said Matthew, settling back, remote in hand, the only evidence of his nervousness was… nothing.
Although originally from South America, jacaranda trees are so well-integrated into the local landscapes of places like Australia and South Africa that many people assume they are native species.
The panic set in early
The panic set in early trying to get DSTV to turn on. Its streaming offering has much to not be desired. Deep breaths kept us focused and with a few skillful remote control manoeuvres we got in just in time to see the end of the Nkosi Sikelel’. Hearts pounded as the whistle blew, barely discernible above the almighty roar of the, mainly French, crowd.
For the next two hours we were taken on the ride of our lives. If you witnessed the game you will know exactly what we are talking about. If you did not, we highly recommend you go take a peak. It was monumental.
Chantal crocheted herself into a blanket, while Matthew shouted himself as hoarse as he would allow. The players on the field, in a very partisan Paris stadium, played their guts out. Battered and bruised, blood, grass and mud mixed on bandaged heads and stuck to limbs. To say that no players were harmed in this match is to lie. Every player hurt from exertion, exhaustion, or disappointment. In the end the Springboks slid in with a one point victory. One point. One.
Our relief and joy was tinged with real empathy for a French team who were superb. Someone had to lose, and this time it was them. Close to midnight we collapsed into bed, still buzzing with adrenaline, while there was no rest for the teams at the Stade De France.
October brings with it brighter skies and longer days
The importance of managing state
Coaches and captains had to clean themselves up for the obligatory interviews. Winner and loser both had to show up. After the massive intensity of the game they were expected to look calm, contained and able to concentrate on questions like: “What did you think of the reffing?” and “Was this the best play by the backline you have seen?” or “Will you remain on as coach?”
As emotional fitness coaches, one of our jobs is to ask questions and the questions asked by the media are terrible. They are closed, leading, in some instances goading for a reaction, that sensational bite that will hit the headlines the next day. The rugby teams’ coaches and captains had to be very discerning about what they said and how they said it.
The importance of being able to manage their state, even when exhausted, exhilarated or dejected was clear. Any slip, any grunt about a missed transgression by the ref, or a squeak about the impact of the partisan crowd would have made headlines the next day.
In spite of the professional approach of all involved parties, and the outstanding performance on the field, every man and his dog felt they had the right to armchair wrestle their opinion onto the airwaves and social media feeds.
African honeybees are known to forage up to a remarkable 12 kilometres from their hive in search of food, showcasing their adaptability and resilience
No nationwide hounding
On the upside there hasn’t been a nationwide hounding of any one player, accused of letting the country down by making an error, or a move that they clearly should not have. This happened to a 23 year old David Beckham when he was blamed for England’s loss to Argentina in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Round of 16. As covered in the latest documentary series on Netflix, this event is a pivotal moment in Beckham's career, and one that could have destroyed him.
Think what you will of the fabulously talented and handsome player, his glamorous popstar wife and his star studded career, what happened to him was untenably cruel and downright vicious. The impact of the trauma is still evident. He hides behind a body covered in tattoos and has a compulsive need to clear away and clean up every evening.
There was no talk of mental health, no psychological support in those days, he, like all other sports stars, just had to get on with it. There has been some focus, more recently, on the mental health of current sports stars, but what about those that play and perform at a top level but are not “stars”?
Even at school level high expectations are placed on young talent, by coaches, parents, educators and peers. Do we provide the requisite support for them to absorb the pressure we put them under?
In the arena
Understanding how to manage one’s state for peak performance is crucial for anybody who aims to achieve and perform at a high level. This is so not just to compete on the field but more so to defend against those in the stands - real and metaphorical. Those that alternatively want to bask in the reflected glory of the wins or bay for blood at the losses.
While it has become imperative to build this skill, let us also be reminded of the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Matthew & Chantal
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.
Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.