Speakers’ Corner – Pick Yourself Up

We all face disappointments. Some setbacks live long in the memory, and some never heal.  This is part of life’s challenges.  It’s a sentiment that is true and never more cogent when applied to the Scottish Cricket team, who lost out to the Netherlands for world cup qualification for the 50-over tournament in India next year. And I was reminded of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers song in the 1936 movie Swing Time.  The music was written by Jerome Kern and the lyrics by the prodigious wordsmith Dorothy Fields.   Her words capture the essence of dealing with failure. Like the adage, if you’re thrown from a horse, you must get straight back on.

            The Scots had performed brilliantly and made their country proud, only failing to qualify on an inferior run rate.  A cruel way to leave the competition.   The players must have been devastated and will relive incidents that they could have done differently that might have turned the result.   We all do it, but it never changes the outcome.  I read a tweet from David Sole, rugby player and the captain of the Grand Slam-winning Scotland team of 1990.  His son Chris Sole was the star fast bowler of the Scottish cricket team.  And when I say fast, I mean fast, 94mph, a speed that would have Steve Smith and David Warner of the Aussies hopping about.  His father, David, wrote a message of support to the team but no doubt with reference to his distraught son.  In essence, he was saying chin up; you were fantastic.

            Dealing with the aftermath of defeat and ensuring that events don’t dictate future outcomes, it is vital to dust yourself down and start all over again.  If you don’t, you’ll shy away from challenges that might result in failure.  And by happenstance, I have a life story that illustrates disappointment related to David Sole.  In March 1980, I was playing for my school Stewart’s Melville, against Glenalmond in the final of the Goldenacre 7s Tournament.  It was the premier competition for U18 schools’ rugby in Scotland.  Glenalmond were favourites, and they had trounced everybody on the way to the final.  I usually played in the backs but had been selected in the forwards for the sevens team.  I’d never considered playing in the forwards but was so pleased to be in the team, as my season had been ruined by a serious knee injury that needed an operation.

Guess who I was to scrum down against?  Yes, David Sole, who, even at that age, was being earmarked for great things in senior rugby.  Our coach, the austere Paul Caton, took me aside and gave me some advice in his Lancastrian drawl.

            ‘When there is a scrum, don’t push against David Sole; just pull him towards you with all your strength.’

            ‘Pull him,’ I said with a quizzical look.

‘Yes, that will allow Julian (our captain and scrumhalf) to get around and ruin their ball.’

‘What do I do when it’s our put-in?’ 

‘Exactly the same; it’ll protect the ball for Julian so he can pass it away.  He sighed and had a resigned air about him.  I knew he was worried that I was the weakness of the team.

            At the first scrum, David’s strong shoulders battered into me.  However, when the ball came in, I pulled him towards me as instructed, and it worked.  Julian robbed the ball, and we regained possession.  There were only a few more scrums in the final, and I managed to survive with the tactic.  We won 12-10; the euphoria and sense of achievement were overwhelming when the final whistle went.  But until that tweet from David about his son and the devastating loss at the cricket, it never occurred to me what David and the rest of the Glenalmond boys might have been feeling.  

However, I know they picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and prepared for a re-match at the Perth Academy 7s the following Tuesday.  Again, we met Glenalmond in the final, and our tactics hadn’t changed, but David’s had.  At the first scrum, we engaged, and this vice grip clamped me. As the ball came in, I tried to pull, but he held me tight, lifted me off my feet, and carried me off.  We were hammered by thirty points, and I think David scored three tries to add to my humiliation.

            You might think, I dusted myself down, blah, blah, blah.  However, I didn’t get the chance, as I was dropped for a proper forward for the final sevens tournament at Edinburgh Accies.  I knew the decision was correct, but it didn’t assuage my disappointment. This would have been my last match for the school, and I had bittersweet feelings when we won the tournament in style.

            Fighting back against the odds and not accepting defeat is a theme that our guests on Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything have demonstrated.  Linda Kitchen, a world-class opera singer, lost her voice and confidence.  But she never let it define her and built a career directing and mentoring young singers.  Similarly, as a sportsman and coach, George Guy had to deal with disappointments and failures, but he used these experiences as learnings to improve next time.  And his fight against cancer for others and himself has been inspirational.  His life story is just another nod to that song, Pick Myself Up.

            Finally, to the Scottish cricketers, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and come back stronger.  To Chris Sole, your dad reached the heights with the Grand Slam victory but had to deal with a bitter loss to the English at Murrayfield in 1991, where Scotland lost out to a place in the World Cup final.  It didn’t define him. Make sure you are back bowling at 96mph next time Scotland plays in a match.

Pick Yourself Up

Pick yourself up
Take a deep breath
Dust yourself off
And start all over again
Nothing’s impossible, I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up
Dust myself off
And start all over again

Don’t lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up
Dust yourself off
And start over again

Work like a soul inspired
Until the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired
But you’ll be a man, my son
Will you remember the famous men
Who had to fall to rise again
So take a deep breath
Pick yourself up
Dust yourself off
And start over again
Dorothy Field