• Nick Bishop

The Talent of Hard Work and How to Instil It in Your Child

Storms Ciara and Dennis have caused havoc to football matches up and down the country over these recent weeks, but there was a silver lining for us at Foot-Tech Academy as we were able to welcome ex-member Jasmine back who came down to a Friday night session.

The reason for her return was that her Leeds United training and match had been cancelled due to the storms and she was desperate to play.

Her mum got in touch to say that she had been playing in the garden, as ever, but was frustrated at not being able to play a match or do any ‘proper’ training.

This will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows Jasmine, she is obsessed with playing football and more specifically improving at football – she wants to do more, she wants to learn new things, she wants to compete.

She wants to be the best.

Her drive and hard work are what have helped Jasmine to develop into such an outstanding footballer and we are all very proud of everything she has achieved.

She has achieved.

Jasmine. Not anybody else.

As coaches we put on sessions and activities carefully designed to aid and accelerate her development, and her parents are incredibly supportive of everything she does, and they no doubt have to make sacrifices to ensure she is able to play.

But this can be said for all the children who play at Foot-Tech. Why is it Jasmine who is captain of Leeds United and not somebody else?

Do you want to know her secret so you too can become the very best?

Hard work.

Sorry to disappoint, it’s the same answer every time isn’t it?

Whenever there is a discussion around success and greatness, in any field not just football, the elite are those who put in the most work and effort. And there are loads of motivational quotes from these successful people on social media.

Although I don’t believe they are all true quotes from the people that they are attributed to.

It’s strange to me that people would make them up, but anyway…

“I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year. It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.” – Lionel Messi (apparently).

“Be the hardest working person you can be. That’s how you separate yourself from the competition.” – Stephen Curry (maybe).

There is a story about Cristiano Ronaldo I have heard a number of times but with the other player (the new signing) involved in the story changed, so again I’m not sure how true it is but I really like the idea:

A player signs for Real Madrid and this is their dream come true, signing for the biggest club in the world and so they want to make the most of this opportunity and impress their new club. On the first day of training they arrive two hours early to go to the gym to put in that extra effort and to impress their new teammates and manager.

When they walk into the gym, they are shocked to find one of the greatest players in the history of the game, a player who has won everything and spent their entire career at the highest level already there training. And he has already been training for an hour. Ladies and gentlemen: Cristiano Ronaldo.

There are many stories like this from players and managers who have worked with him throughout his career and they all credit his attitude and hard work as the main reason he has achieved what he has.

I feel like the purpose of these stories and quotes is to inspire people to do better.

The ability to work hard is there for everyone, isn’t it? It’s a choice.

To the point where after reading about Ronaldo or Steve Jobs or Steph Curry you are left feeling that you too can become like them, all you need to do is work hard.

Great, and I’m sure it does inspire many people to better themselves. And it is certainly true, hard work is the key to success.

I’ve began to look at this from a different perspective though. I think this whole hard work narrative has moved people away from the idea of natural talent or luck as the key to greatness and instead given the credit to hard work (and rightly so).

Yet, there hasn’t been a surge in the number of ‘greats’ since we have all started seeing this endless stream of hard-working anecdotes from anyone and everyone who has achieved success.

Why not?

The secret is out after all.

Why is everybody not incredibly successful all of a sudden if all you need is hard work and not some god given talent?

Everyone has the capacity to work hard!

Why is it still Ronaldo who has set a goalscoring record in Serie A this weekend and not one of his teammates?

Why did Messi score a hat-trick yesterday when he played but no one else in that game did? Have the other players not heard that the harder you work the better you will be?

Something is not quite right.

I think this whole narrative is taking something (no actually I think is taking a lot) away from those people who do consistently work hard and achieve great success. It is almost normalising their behaviour, when I feel their behaviour should be celebrated and applauded and enjoyed by those perhaps a little less hard-working!

Surely it is the Ronaldo’s and Jasmine’s who are unique? The drive and determination to constantly seek to improve must be seen as a talent. Hard work may be available to all, but these people are on another level and their talent at hard work should be commended and applauded.

“Working hard is definitely a talent, believe me.” – Sir Alex Ferguson (There’s a video of him saying these words so we can be certain it’s a genuine quote!)

It is definitely a talent that can be worked on, and improved, but it’s not easy. It’s not a given.

It’s not ‘normal’. So well done to everyone that does work incredibly hard every single day – you are special!

Although, interestingly, I think some people that are like this don’t see it that way, for them it is ‘normal’ and they cannot understand why everyone is not as hard-working as them to the point it offends them.

Kobe Bryant (rest in peace) has said, “I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.”

This is completely understandable, and I think something that everyone agrees with. This piece isn’t about lazy people, but about how some people are more talented at working hard than others.

So, I’m interested to understand what his opinion would be of the level of hard work put in by professional NBA basketballers who did not achieve his level of success. These people have still worked incredibly hard to become NBA players, right?

But why weren’t they as successful as him?

Would he say he worked even harder?

If so, surely, that shows that it is a talent: he was better at working hard than other hard workers.

And, in my view, there are definitely levels to this.

For a professional footballer to win the Champions League and play in a World Cup Final (amongst further honours); to play for Real Madrid and Inter Milan (amongst others), they must have put in an exceptional level of hard work. This is Wesley Sneijder.

“I have to be honest and admit that I could have been mentioned in the same breath as Messi and Ronaldo if I had been 100 percent committed. I know that. But I did not want to do that, and I have no regrets about it. It’s not that I didn’t have it in me, but I simply didn’t want to do it.”

For me, this says, I could’ve been as good as Messi and Ronaldo, but I didn’t work hard enough.

I would prefer him to say, but Messi and Ronaldo worked harder than me – this way the credit goes to those two hard-working phenomenon rather than it coming across as he had a lack of hard work or some kind of weakness or flaw which I think is very unfair to attribute to someone who achieved so much.

The part where he says it’s not that I didn’t have it in me goes back to the point that yes, everyone has the potential to work hard, but those people that actually do it are special.

There is a brilliant clip from BT Sport after a game where Steven Gerrard describes his ‘obsession’ with training and improving – a must watch for young players!

If success comes down to hard work, and his level of hard work was ‘obsession’ then what word do we use to describe Ronaldo’s attitude?

Because he has been a lot more successful (in terms of trophies) than Steven Gerrard which means he must have worked harder than him.


The ability to work hard I truly believe is something everyone is capable of. However, those who actually do it are something else. And those that work even harder than them are more impressive (and talented) still.

We must celebrate hard work as a skill and a talent, and perhaps by doing this more people will do it and go on to achieve greatness. To make it out to be a given, or something everyone should do is to do a massive discredit to people who have succeeded through hard work.

Coaches and ex-players often describe players they knew who were extremely skilful but didn’t work hard enough to make it. This comes across as they were good enough to make it.

No, they weren’t, because they didn’t have the required level of talent at working hard.

Describing someone whose main talent is hard work almost even comes across as negative at times, “He’s not very good he just works hard.”

Things like, he didn’t make it because he was too slow is seen to be out of the players control and acceptable, whereas he didn’t make it because he didn’t work hard enough lays the blame at the individual and suggests that they have some kind of character flaw and have let themselves down.

Is it not just that they are not elite at working hard? Which can be said about the majority of the population as with any other elite trait.

It wouldn’t be an elite trait if everyone could do it.

This is the main point, those who are elite at working hard are amazing, that is why they are elite but because working hard enough to become elite appears within the reach of everyone, people don’t value it as a talent.

Another example is when a manager is picking a team and comparing two players, they might say things like, X is a better player, but Y works harder for the team and so then proceed to pick Y in the team.

This shows that hard work is a value the coach wants in their players therefore surely Y is the better player.

Hard work is a talent. A very desirable talent in any field. Celebrate it, encourage it, value it!

So, how can you develop it in your child?

By praising young players who work hard they can learn the value of hard work, and of course modelling hard work to them yourself will help, but I do think it’s difficult to learn – some people seem to be more naturally inclined to it (here I am talking about the level of hard work and dedication required to become elite).

I don’t know whether this is something genetic, or to do with environmental factors when growing up or most likely a combination but some people do seem to have ‘it’ – again I’m referring to the unbelievable dedication and level of hard work required to be elite and make it to the very top.

So well done to everyone who works hard.

Well done to those who work harder and are more successful.

Well done to those who work the hardest and reach the heights most of us can only dream of: I admire your talents – especially your elite talent of being able to work harder than most.

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