Blog post: ‘Sports Legends: 50 Inspiring People to Help You Reach the Top of Your Game,’ by Rick Broadbent, illustrated by James Davies.

With lots of top level sport to enjoy over the summer, children might be looking for a little extra inspiration to help them reach their peak performance level. Award-winning journalist Rick Broadbent has interviewed some of the biggest names in sport and shares some of their inspiring stories in this brilliant book.

Make sure you read his special blog piece about the importance of mindset when it comes to being a winner.

“Get inspired to reach the top of your game with 50 incredible true stories of sporting legends.

Award-winning journalist Rick Broadbent has interviewed some of the greatest sporting legends of our time. In this gripping collection of 50 true stories, he shares the most exciting and jaw-dropping accounts of success, failure, injury and bravery in sport, which will in turn inspire kids to find the confidence and resilience they need to reach the top of their game. An ideal book for any young sports fan who enjoys reading about their favourite heroes, such as Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams.”

SPORTS LEGENDS by Rick Broadbent

I love sport because it can get you in your heart and in the pit of your stomach. It can make you feel on top of the world or at the bottom of the pile. People think it’s all about being physically brilliant, but that’s just part of it. The best thing about sport is how it makes you FEEL.

Working as a journalist I have been fortunate to watch and interview some of the top sports stars. I have learnt a lot from their stories and wanted to pass this on to children. It’s not all about the glory at the end; it’s about failing, facing fears and being mocked, abused and written off. I thought if children could see what went into the things that they see on TV they might realise everyone can be a legend in their own way.

The result is Sports Legends – 50 inspiring people to help you reach the top of your game. I restricted the stories in the book to people I have met or interviewed or at least seen do their stuff live. Not all are megastars so as well as Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Lionel Messi, Jonny Wilkinson, Simone Biles and Anthony Joshua, I tell the stories of female jockey who battled gender stereotypes, the teenage racing driver who defied a 171mph backwards crash, and the refugee who stowed away on a ship to Argentina and became a professional footballer.  

A common factor is that they all had a winning mindset. Take Adam Peaty, one of the greatest swimmers of all time. He is both a world record holder and an Olympic champion. He is likely to be one of the stars of the Tokyo Olympics if they go ahead this summer. I once sat down with Adam and he explained how it had not been easy to get to the top. For a start he used to be afraid of water. He didn’t even like having a shower. Nobody would have guessed he would become a swimmer at that point, but his mother kept taking him to the local pool, slowly exposing him to his fears.  

But how did he manage to banish the fear of failure that every sports star – and, indeed, every person – experiences at some point? Minutes after he won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics he met a few journalists in a back room at the Rio aquatics centre and said he had told himself to  


The odd phrase came from history. Before a raid to seize treasure in Mexico, the Spanish general, Hernan Cortes, told his men to burn their boats. He did this because he knew some of his men wanted to go home. Once their means of travel had gone, they had no choice but to stay and fight. They had to commit. Cortes may have been a brutal leader, but Adam knew he had to banish any doubts himself. Before each race he would tell himself to burn the boats. He said:

“You can’t just train your body and not your mind.” 

Knowing that failure is a good thing can also provide the confidence to plunge into a challenge. Michael Jordan, the great NBA basketball player, estimated he had missed a staggering 9000 shots in his career. In effect, he had failed 9000 times. Yet he is one of the most famous sportsmen that ever lived because he also scored 32,292 points. He said:  

“I’ve failed over and over in my life which is why I succeed.”    

The top sports stars realise you can’t give up and that you need to work on confidence. They don’t want to fail but they embrace it when it comes and see what they can learn from it. They gain confidence by reminding themselves of their successes, however small, and by putting in the hours. Jonny Wilkinson made kicking goals look easy when he played rugby for England, but that was only because some days he would spend seven hours kicking in training without looking at his watch. He made it become routine so that when it counted – as it did in the last minute of the extra-time of the 2003 World Cup Final – he was ready.  

The main thing I want to get across by telling some brilliant real-life stories is that the sports legends have faced similar fears, disappointments and crises as the rest of us. You don’t have to be famous or play in the World Cup Final to be a legend. You just need to do what they did and be the best that you can be.

I love the empowering message in this book that success comes off the back of hard-work, dedication, resilience, and failure. Such an important message in a time when so many children aspire to becoming premier league footballers or YouTubers. They need to see the hours of practise and failed shots which have come before mega-stardom.

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Walker Books for sending me this title to review*

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