It’s already been a great summer of sport.
Inevitably separating the winners from the losers.
But winning in sport is so much more than scoring one more goal.
Or claiming game, set and match.
It’s about how you conduct yourself when talking to the media.
How you speak about your rivals.
How you deal with Rudyard Kipling’s “two imposters” of Triumph and Disaster.
And how you predict success in the future while retaining humility.
So far, we’ve been treated to a masterclass.
First from Wimbledon novice Emma Raducanu, followed by England manager Gareth Southgate.
We’ve already seen leading tennis player Naomi Osaka withdraw from the French Open.
That row was over the pressures of talking to the media in post-match press conferences.
So imagine the intense spotlight on an 18-year-old Wimbledon novice from the UK.
Emma Raducanu was Britain’s last representative in the second week at the All England Club.
On the court, that pressure finally told.
Off it, she had handled the media brilliantly to that point.
Asked in a TV interview of her future ambitions, she replied:
“In terms of long-term goals, my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“I think it’s such a special grand slam. It’s my home slam, and the support is just incredible.
“This is my first year here and I’m having such a blast.
“So I think I’m at the beginning of my career and I have many, many more years to come.
“I’m really excited to get out there and start competing and showing what I can do.”
Sports stars and business leaders alike are afraid of predicting success.
In case they fail or appear to be arrogant.
But Emma talks of her “dream” of winning Wimbledon.
Which is smart, as it’s positive visualisation rather than a baseless prediction.
She gives Wimbledon its place as “a special grand slam”.
Which will always go down well with organisers and sponsors alike.
Next she pulls the crowd on to her side by recognising the “incredible “ support.
Finally, she shows appreciation by expressing how she’s “really excited” to get out there.
“Showing what I can do”.
Another ambition without predicting an outcome.
The wonderful thing about that interview was she appeared spontaneous rather than rehearsed.
So I bought into the 18-year-old’s dreams.
Gareth Southgate has previously suffered sporting nightmares.
Like missing the penalty that eliminated England from Euro ‘96 at the semi-final stage
So his interviews come with hardened experience rather than youthful exuberance.
He refused to make predictions throughout the campaign.
Which ended in another cruel penalty-decider defeat on Sunday, this time in the final against Italy.
He focussed on what his team had done, what they were doing, and what they would do.
Exactly as we advise our clients to do in every media training course we run across the world.
As well as in our e-learning media training course.
He’s spent his time in the England hotseat building good relations with journalists.
The media will still carry criticism when the team underperforms.
Columnists, for example, were less than impressed with their 0-0 draw with Scotland.
(While north of the border, we were delighted,)
But the media now knows to trust Southgate as being honest and upfront.
In contrast to previous England managers.
And ultimately, that translates to more positive coverage.
After the narrowest of defeats to Italy in the Sunday night final, the coach was measured, positive and thoughtful.
I believe he would have been the same had England won the competition.
And that’s the key to why many Scots, like myself, support their oldest sporting rival these days.
So well done Gareth Southgate.
You played a blinder by talking to the media.
And well done Emma Raducanu.
I look forward to her showing us what she can do both on and off court for “many more years to come”.
Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications.
You can read more on his profile here.
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