He was the greatest heavyweight boxer of a generation, and still remains one of the most admired sports people of all time. Muhammad Ali left an indelible print on the world, with his quick wit, boxing prowess and unwavering belief in himself.
Dubbed ‘The Louisville Lip’, Ali used the sport to bridge cultural barriers, always standing up for what he believed to be right. An icon and ambassador for the sport, his quotes remain ever-popular today, testament to his genius.
From core training to sports psychology, there’s so much we can take from the man born Cassius Clay, and use in our daily sport regimes.
Here’s just a few things he taught us:
Never give up
Ali was once quoted as saying: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
A visionary with good reason, Ali was acutely aware that nothing good comes easy and understood how persistence paid off. As an elite athlete, he gave his sport 100% and then some.
Believe in yourself
As any sports coach will tell you, self-belief is one of the most important factors in performance. Whether you’re playing as an individual or in a team, it’s a positive mental attitude that will often get you over the line.
This is something Mohammed Ali strongly believed in, as reflected in many of his quotes. It was almost a mantra he would say to psyche himself up before a match and part of what some might call ‘visualisation’ techniques today.
Be confident in your abilities
Ali was ahead of his time when it came to understanding the power of positive thinking.This is best demonstrated in hismost famous quote of all time; “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
Ali had mastered self-confidence as a tool to motivate and inspire himself, as well as unsettle competitors. Although others have tried to emulate this, it worked for Ali because he truly believed it.
Despite being a proficient boxer, Ali faced a number of setbacks and challenges in life and in the ring. One of the most famous was in 1977 in a match against Earnie Shavers. Badly hurt in the second round, Ali persisted and showed incredible resilience to come back and take the fight.
It was his courage and ability to face fear head-on, time and again, that won over his legion of fans. If we can learn anything from this boxing great, it’s that resilience builds character, and we all have the ability to bounce-back from setbacks.
Ali was never afraid to dream big. But he wasn’t a dreamer, he was a visionary, appreciating that success comes from taking risks, being brave and trying something new. These are important lessons we can adopt into our daily sports regime.
Stand up for your beliefs
Integrity ran through his very being. Muhammed Ali was never afraid to stand up for his beliefs; from refusing to take serve in the Vietnam War, to educating others about the effects of racism. He remained authentic to who he was, acknowledging his wider role in the world.
Live by your principles
A true embodiment of living each day to its potential, Ali famously said: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” Even when faced Parkinson’s disease later in life, he did so with great integrity.
He lived by a set of strong values; never giving up and living life to the full. Lessons we can adopt in both our professional and personal form.
Choose the right option, not the easy one
Like all risk-takers Ali was courageous and brave, and like all risk-takers, sometimes events didn’t unfold as he hoped. But through his non-compromising approach, paired with a positive mindset, Ali remained focused on what he needed to do to achieve success.
Sometimes taking the hardest path is the important, despite the many challenges it presents. It is often the lessons we learn as part of the journey that serve us best.
Make time for others
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”, he once said.
Like all icons, Muhammad Ali was aware of his influence and had a desire to give back. He did this in many ways, including charity work and personal appearances; from UNICEF to the Special Olympics, and the Muhammed Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute. He petitioned for government funding in the field and helped raise awareness and money (reportedly, over $100 million in donations) for the debilitating condition.
Transcending the sport, Ali taught us the importance of humility.
When Ali stepped out to perform in the 1960 Summer Olympics he was just 18. He had followed his love for the sport, training since the early age of 12. His passion for the sport came through with his unmistakable flair and signature style; setting a trend that others could only follow. In 1999, this was recognised when he was honoured with the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Century Award.
Live life to the full
It is no surprise that the man who said: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”, lived that life to its fullest.
He retired from the sport at the age of 39, with a feat of 56 wins, five losses and 27 knockouts under his belt.
Into his retirement, even with Parkinson’s’ disease, Muhammad Ali continued to make every day count. His unflappable positive mindset is something we can all take inspiration from.
Inside and outside of the ring, Ali inspired others with his perseverance, showmanship and originality. His legacy carries on today, as an innovator in his field.
From training programmes to competitions, Ali was the ultimate athlete, never afraid to challenge himself, and others, no matter what the price was.
If we take just one thing from Muhammad Ali it’s that he was the greatest athlete and showed us all that we can be too.
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