Sporting lessons


Sport is more than a game: it’s a professor of life.




It’s not until we engage in events that require putting ourselves on the line that we realise that we know so little. Being involved in individual or team sport is good like that. It’s the perfect vehicle for learning about potential personal limitations that reflect and translate to daily choices.


      As adults, we everyone from professional businessmen and women, doctors, tradies, and stay-at-home parents dedicating quality time each week to activities they love. Apart from the fact that sport enhances our mental and physical wellbeing, it’s also great fun!

      The challenges we face with sport teach us valuable lessons that we carry into our everyday life. Sport empowers our resilience and mental tenacity and offers the chance to approach each day with greater awareness, passion, and perseverance. Personally, I believe participating in sport helps me to maintain a more balanced, focused, and happier daily life. Anyone else want to back me up here?



      During years of professional competition, I overcame many hurdles — self doubt, injuries, purpose and personal challenges. Something as simple as choosing the wrong path out through the surf break and being stopped in my tracks by a set of waves or focusing on one aspect of my training and ignoring others translated into decisions I was making in life situations. In this and many other ways, sport is a professor of life.



Eight lessons that sport teaches us

  • Live in the now: Focus only on what’s in front of you — don’t think too far ahead about what you can’t control and miss the opportunity that it presents. I liken this to concentrating on the wave that you’re currently on — not thinking about the one you just had or are going to have. We certainly can’t control others’ actions either, so stop worrying about what someone may or may not be doing and focus on improving yourself.

  • Don’t be aggressive toward others, but let it drive you within: Conflict with others is a drain of useful energies. It forces you to lose focus on what you should be doing. Lift your own game. Actions speak louder than words. Let others carry their own baggage and don’t let it affect your day.

  • Commitment is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary: Some sportspeople may seem like they are born with the right genes or talent. Many people are — but it is the ones who expect more from themselves and take it to the next level who are successful.

  • Responsibility lies within us: If I had a dollar for every time I heard a fellow competitor say, “Oh, I was so unlucky that I missed that wave…” Blaming outside influences doesn’t work. Sure, there are occasions where things don’t go your way, but if you put yourself in the right place within the waves/life choices, they can also bring you a lot of luck! Create your own destiny and don’t rely on others to bring you success.

  • Focus on what you do want: Your mind takes you where you want it to. Pre-visualisation, preparation, and planning has amazing benefits. When you think about what you don’t want to happen — say, a slice in golf — it happens! Fear dictates our outcomes whether it is a job interview, a public speaking gig, or major assessment. Concentrate on what you want and let yourself be drawn toward that energy and outcome.

  • How to deal with emotions: Dealing with emotions is a major part of sport and competitions. Within the space of an hour, you can go from a positive frame of mind to a negative one. If you totally lose focus, it’s helpful to know how to catch yourself in the moment and calm yourself down. It’s how we pick ourselves up and maintain composure that counts in the end. Competitiveness brings out many interesting dynamic changes in humans. Everyone deals with stress differently — some talk and fidget while others overanalyse and talk themselves out of any success before they’ve even started! Sport constantly was and remains to be the perfect vehicle and reminder of how to control my emotions through learnt techniques.

  • Challenge yourself: We all have to start somewhere, and challenging ourselves by entering something we are not familiar with teaches us so much. We learn more from trying and failing than we do from success — only if you own it.

  • Don’t believe everything you read, see, or hear: There is always a new diet or crazy way of training that is going to make you want to sit up and take notice. We’re constantly being hit from all directions, which leads to self-doubt over what we should be doing, and with this comes a lack of consistency. Believe in what you are doing is working for you and stick to your guns. Remain flexible in your way of thinking, but not to the point that you’re swapping and changing direction like a sail in the wind!



The most important thing to remember is that sport teaches us great life lessons, but ultimately it’s not the be all and end all. Taking defeat graciously and learning from mistakes is just as important.


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Karla Gilbert is a two-time world ironwoman champion and nutrition and health coach. For more information on her health coaching packages, healthy habit school workshops, or corporate wellbeing programs, visit