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Coaching Tips

The Lessons of Ali-Frazier

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Ali-Frazier I, a classic bout so big that fans recall it with awe to this day.

Muhammad Ali, trying to regain his title, battled Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden with celebrities like Frank Sinatra ringside. Frazier won.

In events of this magnitude, it’s easy to forget the human element. But that’s what makes competition so great — the fact that with people, you never know.

Take the weigh-in before a fight. The boxers stand jaw to jaw, trying to intimidate each other. Everything about them — their posture, their glare — suggests confidence bordering on arrogance.

But that’s on the outside. On the inside, they’re scared! Who wouldn’t be scared to step into a ring with someone who could kill you?

“I’m scared every time I go into the ring, but it’s how you handle it,” said former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. “What you have to do is plant your feet, bite down on your mouthpiece and say, ‘Let’s go.’”

So it turns out that heavyweight fights are just like other life challenges. It’s not what happening to you or around you, but what’s happening inside you.

Or, as someone said, “It’s OK to have butterflies. Just get them to fly in formation.”

And if you’re feeling fear, just do what Ali and Frazier did at the weigh-in: ACT confident.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” go here.


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