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In Search of Greatness

“The people who achieve real greatness don’t fit the formula at all. They break the mold.” 

Sir Ken Robinson

Playing it safe is stifling. So is being too structured and rigid in your training. For those athletes who’ve climbed to the top of their sport, the key to success has come from several factors that they could and could not control. 

Gabe Polsky’s documentary In Search of Greatness analyzes the psychology behind sports greatest athletes. In-depth interviews with Wayne Gretzky, Pele and Jerry Rice as well as an examination of other champions from a variety of sports, reveals what it takes to make it. You might be surprised what you learn.

Some of the fascinating revelations in this documentary come from the advancements in technology and training that claim to offer a way to weed out the weak have the potential to miss the best of the best. 

What makes an athlete a champion? These are individuals who have passion, vision and talent. Journalist David Epstein says they require both rage and the ability to learn quickly. They cannot have one without the other. These athletes are perfectionists who obsess over small details and want to fine tune their craft to a greater extent where others would have given up or were satisfied with less. They use doubt as motivation, are highly competitive and benefit from the guidance of mentors but also follow their own path.

Interview subjects

  • Wayne Gretzky – hockey
  • Pele – soccer
  • Jerry Rice – football
  • David Epstein – journalist
  • Sir Ken Robinson – education and creativity expert

Other athletes discussed at length

  • Venus and Serena Williams – tennis
  • John McEnroe – tennis
  • Muhammad Ali – boxing 
  • Tony Hawk – skateboarding
  • Michael Jordan – basketball
  • Tom Brady – football
  • Rocky Marciano – Boxing
Wayne Gretzky
Jerry Rice

“Our society encourages formulaic approaches to chasing dreams. These icons’ trajectories prove that mastery cannot be manufactured.”

Gabe Polsky

Every helicopter parent out there who seeks greatness for their sports kid and puts them in a rigid program that leaves them overtrained and hating life needs to watch this film. I trained at an athletic center for over 3 years and I would watch these parents yell at their kids for making simple mistakes. If their kid was truly passionate about the sport and a professional career was a possibility, they were doing everything to make it not happen. If they watch In Search of Greatness, they’d learn a thing or two about their harmful behavior.

In Search of Greatness is a fascinating documentary with a ground-breaking message. This is a necessary viewing for anyone interested in sports psychology. Even if you’re not a sports person, the message about passion and the key to success is inspiring for anyone pursuing a career. 

My only complaint about the film is that the subjects in the film are overwhelmingly male, with Serena Williams as a notable exception. I’d love to see a follow-up documentary with a focus on female athletes.

In Search of Greatness will be available on iTunes in April. Visit the official website for more information on how you can host a screening.

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