Sportsmen worth emulating – 5 life lessons from the worlds best.


Becoming a better person by emulating sports people… boy that can be a dangerous thing to do at times. I certainly wouldn’t want my kids following in the footsteps of the Kyrgios types.

However the truth is, for every bad role model there are 50 good role models… if you want to look for them.

To prepare for a series of lessons on ‘Leaving a Legacy’ I am running at Melbourne Grammar, I went searching for some outstanding sportspeople. This is how I came across the New Zealand All Blacks; a team with an 86% winning ratio and a claim to be the most successful national sporting team of all time.

The All Blacks have developed a culture that has not only seen them be incredibly successful, but able to maintain that success over a prolonged period.

From the book Legacy, written by James Kerr, I picked up 5 key points about the All Blacks that are worth sharing.

  1. Humility – a key to their success is never getting ahead of themselves. Whilst the country is going feral over another dominating display against the Wallabies, the players have a broom in hand making sure they leave the change rooms in the state they find them. They understand that you are never too big to do the little things; you never get to the stage where you can rest. Sweeping the rooms keeps them grounded and humble.
  2. Better People equals Better All Blacks – The All Blacks understand that the greatest asset they have are their people. In order to make the organization better they have to make the people better. This isn’t limited to becoming more skillful players but involves every aspect of the person. This ties in very heavily with my first point, as good people are humble people. Unfortunately it is rare for teams (and corporations especially) to spend time ‘making people better’. What a waste of resources.
  3. Kiwi Kaizen – Kaizen loosely means constant and never ending improvement; finding marginal gains and looking for 100 things you can do 1% better. The compound effect of these little improvements over time can be enormous. Importantly it means that you never reach a stage where you cannot improve something at least 1%. It’s the key to staying ahead of the competition. There are no quick fixes; no miracle cures, just getting better each and every day.
  4. Pressure – the expectation on the All Blacks is that they win every single game they play. That pressure must be enormous. Instead of shying away from that, the All Blacks embrace the pressure. They ‘go out to win’ instead of ‘going out not to lose, there’s a subtle but important difference. A saying I like fits them well – No Pressure No Diamonds – meaning without embracing pressure you will never reach your potential, never become a diamond. Of course this takes mental strength, which is another differentiator. They work as hard on building up their minds as they do on building their biceps.
  5. Legacy – the All Black players begin with the end in mind. Thinking about the words they want people to say about them when they finish playing helps determine the actions they need to take now e.g. Legacy – I want to be known as a physically relentless player. Action – I hit the gym like an animal and treat my body like a temple.

Finally there is a commitment that every new player that comes into the team has to make in front of his teammates… he vows to leave the team in better shape than when he arrived.

The end result is a team that despite its dominance is continually restless and relentless in its pursuit of excellence and continued success.

These guys are role models I have no problem highlighting to the impressionable minds at Melbourne Grammar.

Nathan Burke started his career as a schoolteacher before the demands of elite level football with St Kilda F.C. took over. Following a successful corporate career he founded Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers High Performance training and coaching solutions to corporates, schools and sports teams. To find more information on the Leaving a Legacy program please contact us here


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