Matthew Syed

To learn secret of success, meet the parents

What is the more remarkable tale: that of Tiger Woods winning 14 major titles in golf or that of his late father making untold sacrifices to bulldoze his son’s path to greatness? What is the more inspirational: the virtuosity of the Williams sisters in tennis or the stoicism of their redoubtable father, a man who endured mockery, insults and threats as he coached his anonymous daughters on bullet-riddled courts in the ganglands of Los Angeles?

What is certain is that if you deconstruct the success of almost any great sportsperson you will glimpse the heroism of a much maligned demographic — parents. You will see love, devotion, compassion, fidelity and passion; you will see a willingness to share in the joy of victory and to alleviate the pain of defeat; most of all, you will see untold quantities of self-sacrifice. Sure, there is something Darwinian about all this parental dedication, but does that make it any less stirring?

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