Why Strategy Counts – the Nipper Ninja

IMG_2936We recently took a break in an apartment overlooking the beach on the Gold Coast. Early on the Saturday morning we were woken by an overly enthusiastic (and loud!) commentator of a Nippers comp. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian beach culture, Nippers are the younger members of our surf life saving community. Deciding I couldn’t ignore the proceedings, I grabbed my breakfast and made my way to the balcony.

The first race I watched was a girls one. After a seemingly unnecessary amount of chatter by the commentator the starting gun sounded. To my surprise, whilst all the others ran straight into the water, one girl turned and raced straight up the beach along the water line. After about 20 metres (during which I’m guessing many of us wondered if she was panicking or crazy!), she made a sharp turn and charged into the water.

She obviously knew what she was doing. In ten strides through ankle deep water, she was as far from shore as the rest of her competition. Three paddles later she was 15 metres in front of them all. She rounded the second buoy as most of the others reached the first and, expertly catching the waves, only extended her lead coming back in to shore.

Four things made her a winner that day. Firstly, she had skills and talent, which you could see from the way she paddled. She knew what she was doing. Secondly there was her determination. Although there wasn’t another competitor in sight, as she reached the sand she scooped up her board and sprinted to the finish line. Thirdly, she used her head and had a strategy. Whether she figured it out herself or was set up by a coach, there was thinking behind the winning. And finally, she used the conditions she was in at the time to her benefit. Ankle deep water is far easier to move through than knee deep water. And that annoying sweep in the right direction was a help not a hindrance!

Too many of us want to win relying on a single element alone. Maybe we’ve got an amazing skill, or a brilliant idea but we wait for circumstances or chance to ‘happen’ it along. Sometimes we ditch out because we’re not tough enough to stay the course. Some of us don’t think things out first. Or perhaps we’re good at analysing but paralysed from acting. Since the conditions aren’t quite right we never ask how we can use them to our advantage. Real winners work from multiple bases, including strategy. How can we do that in our living today?

PS My Nipper Ninja was also a change bringer. Within a few races, half of every group were racing up the beach to the right before hitting the water The strategy clearly worked!