These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What's your back story?

I am constantly amazed at how frequently those who achieve at the highest level have had to overcome the most difficult of challenges.

Watching the London 2012 Olympic Games was no exception. The memorable image of a young "judoko" looking to the heavens and mouthing "I love you Mum" - her mother having succombed to cancer when the girl was 17. The young diver who pressed through to claim a bronze medal after the tragic death of his father. Another young diver who overcame a previous diving accident that resulted in a ruptured spleen to compete at the Olympics. Another young judoko who had been abused by her former coach but summoned up the courage to speak out and with determination and personal integrity stepped up, continued fighting and ultimately won gold. The incredibly inspiring participation of the amputee running alongside the fastest men in the world - the "blade runner" in the men's 400m semi-final. But, its not only tragedy or hardship that has driven people. Others have had to fight for funding to compete. Others have had to battle for recognition against higher profile sports. Others have fled their homelands to be free from tyranny. Many have battled the elements, training, pushing their bodies to the limit of physical and mental endurance. Truly the Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - Faster, Higher, Stronger is as relevant to the back story of so many individuals as it is to their performance in the arena.

The combination of an outstanding performance and knowing something of the back story of a competitor is an inspiring mix of invincibility and vulnerability. It's the powerful composite of competitive prowess and the almost touchable affinity, that allows us to identify with those who have risen, from among us to achieve sporting greatness - the young boy of 8 emulating his hero on a bike (who among us hasn't tried to be our hero) rising to become one of the greats in cycling world, yet at the same time retains and grows his stature as a true gentleman. In the global village that has been created by social media and the personal scrutiny driven by the global media giants, the modern sportsman and sportswoman are the subject of social media posts and worldwide trending tweets, projecting them not only into our living rooms, but in our hands as we interact with each other via our mobile devices. We live in an age of intrusion and personal examination, but equally, it's an age where the power of influence has never been greater.

The motto of the London 2012 Olympics was "Inspiring a Generation" - in retrospect the London games were inspirational. Using a sporting analogy, the true legacy of the games, as with anything of merit or true worth, will be measured in terms of who from among us will take up the baton as this generation moves on. That's a challenge to me as a retired sportsman, now as a coach and mentor to the younger generation. But the thing that makes me optimistic for the future, not just in sport, but in many areas, is the ability and power of someone else's story to be inspiring. What is your back story? In a way, it doesn't matter if we think our story is ordinary or mundane - as what we may consider normal or ordinary, may be just the thing to inspire another who has only ever seen chaos or abnormality.

The bible takes care to note something special about the stories of individual people. In one particularly inspiring section, it lists by name, ordninary people, who through their belief that things could be different when circumstances were saying otherwise, went on to see the realisation of a dream or a goal. The record of these people uses a great word - faith, the priceless quality that believes something is possible when circumstances are yelling out the opposite. The quality that says it can be done when others say its impossible.

The bible makes another poignant note of how ordinary people prevailed through the most difficult times - it records it was the strength of knowing the man's man Jesus Christ and the use of their own back story helped them pressing on to a different kind of victory - the victory that makes them overcomes in life, with all it was throwing at them. 

What is your back story? Don't despise it. Good or bad, it could be the key to unlocking the inspiration that this, our generation is looking for.

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