If I were Maradona ….

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I remember one football game on the field behind the building where I lived. I was in 3rd grade of elementary school, for example. If any of us would score a goal, he would shout “Maaaaaaraaaadona” or “Ruuuumenigeee.” In those days, the World Cup in Mexico ’86 was played, and we all watched the games and dreamed of being – them. We collected the stickers of those players for our albums. We tried to copy the moves of the best players out there, in a random yard between our buildings, at a quarter called Novo naselje, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia.

We were thousands miles away from Mexico and even that did not stop us from feeling great after scoring a goal and «hearing» the cheer of the crowded stadium. And it seemed that it was easier to score if you previously imagined that you really were Maradona…

Much later, I was on my first preparations for the Volleyball national team of Yugoslavia and coincidentally, at the first lunch I was sat across the way from Žarko Petrović (one of the greatest volleyball player in the region and beyond, with whom I later became a friend and who has unfortunately passed away). Hey! The Žare Petrovic, the one for whom I was collecting the stray balls as a kid, whose poster I had on the wall of my room dreaming that one day I would be like him.  He was sitting right across the way from me! Talking to me! You know that feeling in  your stomach when it quivers with the excitement from which you cannot utter a word.

I soaked up everything like a sponge. I watched him move, eat, talk, and most importantly: his actions during training. How do his hands move, how do legs, where does he look, the position of his elbow… How does he stand while waiting for the serve, which leg forward, how does he approach the first tempo attack, how does he tip, how is he positioned in the defence… Anything I could notice…

When I returned to the club I tried to copy some of his moves. I practiced and experimented with them. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I struggled at first. But after a while I managed to “steal” a couple of great moves of his… pure volleyball art…

Maybe I was not as good as Žarko at them, but I was certainly better than I had been before…

During the next preparations, I observed some other players doing stuff they were good at. In the meantime, I also watched tapes of games of famous clubs and copied their movements, adjusting them so that they would feel right to me, analysing what suits me and what doesn’t. At the end, I was doing these volleyball moves in my own way, a mix of my own moves and the moves of some successful players…

Maybe you know someone who is doing something better than you at this moment?

Have you ever tried to analyze it a bit and see how exactly does he do it? What does he do? If we are talking about sport, we could analyze the moves he makes. Even what does he say and how does he talk, how is he preparing.

Choose someone who is really good and watch him do that thing. Then slowly start copying it. Try it. Play with it. See what works for you and what doesn’t.  Keep something and discard the rest. Adjust it slightly so that it suits you and after a bit of exercise, once you fully adopt it, you will be better at it than you were before.

This can be used for everything, whatever it is that you do. Whether you are an athlete or something else, the principle is the same. Find someone who does your job brilliantly and listen and watch him.

Why do you need to see and hear ? Ideally, you would just ask the person :»How do you do that?», however, most of the people that are doing something in a great way, do this activity unconsciously and automatically. Very few people could explain it in words how do they do something so well.

Usually they would say: I  just know, feel , eeee… My arm itself goes …

I’ve  tried to ask and rarely got useful answers.

Later in life, I’ve learned some really important techniques for modelling successful people. By that time, for me it was too late to use them in sport (as I’ve already stopped playing actively), but they were useful for some other fields and for some other activities.

Great spanish painter Pablo Picasso once said : “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”…

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