As Geraint Thomas closes in on Tour de France glory, his former teacher has a clear recipe for success.
Gwyn Morris is the head of PE at Whitchurch High in Cardiff, a school where former pupils include the likely Tour de France champion Thomas, British Lions captain Sam Warburton and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.
Warburton and Bale, both 29, were in the same year group.
Thomas, 32, who is on the verge of becoming the first Welshman to win the Tour, is a natural role model for youngsters at the school with ambitions of being professional athletes.
‘‘Everyone’s got the right to have their own mindset and attitude, nobody can do anything about it,’’ said Morris, speaking from South Africa where he was on a school sports tour.
‘‘But to me, life is competitive. Pupils at schools have to learn quickly that life is competitive – be that work, business or sports.’’
The head of PE drives standards among top performers with an old-school attitude of having no excuses when things go wrong.
Morris, who was shown the ropes himself early in his career by Welsh sprint champion Iola Davies, said: ‘‘Sometimes you can empty the tank, work the hardest you’ve ever worked and you still lose - and there’s nothing you can do.
‘‘You learn a lot more when you lose than when you win, so developing a personality that never gives up and is prepared to work harder than anyone else – that’s the mentality I try to develop.
‘‘You develop a young athlete and then if they show that mentality, you push them again.’’
One example of this was Morris’ insistence that Bale, now among the world’s greatest players, only use his weaker right foot during lessons.
The proof is there at Whitchurch High, with a steady stream of international sportsmen and women flowing out the door. Others include cricketer Tom Maynard, who died in 2012, rugby league’s Elliot Kear and gymnast Latalia Bevan. What set them apart from the rest of the young talent, Morris believes, was mindset and limitless ambition. ‘‘There’s two attitudes you need to blend – the need to avoid failure and the need to achieve. There is no secret – it’s just hard work. You try to get every child to reach the absolute peak performance that they are capable of.’’
On Saturday night, Morris was planning to settle into a night under the stars on safari, glued to Twitter to make sure another of his former pupils writes himself into sporting history. No excuses.
The Telegraph, London