What is potential and when do we know we have it? This
profound question came to me while watching the movie
Boy on Christmas Day, after overindulging on festive
food yet again.
In the movie, Boy's teacher mentions that he is just like his
father and full of potential, a word Boy is unfamiliar with
and keen to understand. His teacher remains vague on its
meaning, and he consults a dictionary, which suggests
potential is when something is ''capable of being but not yet
in existence''. In other words, it only exists when it is a
possibility rather than an actuality.
In the sporting world, who had potential in 2012? In rugby,
Aaron Smith was seen as a halfback with heaps of potential.
Despite having a strong season with the Highlanders and the
All Blacks, his last test suggested he is still at the
potential stage and is yet to peak.
Another player in the rugby code that had potential was Sonny
Bill Williams. Like Michael Buble, who likes to leave his
fans wanting more by not touring that often so not
overexposing them to his syrupy melodies, SBW has left his
rugby fans wanting more, because his potential was not
exhausted in rugby union.
The Waikato River has plenty of potential power, which rubbed
off on the Chiefs and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic teams this
With strong team performances under their belts in 2012, both
Dave Rennie and Noeline Taurua show potential for higher
coaching roles, so watch this space for 2013.
Lydia Ko, the youngest winner of a professional women's golf
tournament as an amateur, has had her potential officially
recognised by High Performance Sport New Zealand with a
sizeable individual grant for 2013.
Lisa Carrington. with her gold medal performance to match her
golden smile, has shown she has possibilities yet to be
realised as a powerful and photogenic athlete.
But potential also has a downside, because when you reach it,
it no longer exists as potential.
Many of our New Zealand athletes have reached their potential
and we start to take their success for granted and wait like
vultures for the potential to dissipate before our very eyes.
Mahe Drysdale should be commended for continuing to show his
potential year after year, despite the injuries and physical
ailments he has to endure to achieve his amazing feats of
endurance on the water, and he has recently signalled his
desire to peak for the next Olympics.
For athletes who are feeling fatigued, flat or generally
''over it'', a change is as good as a holiday, and Eric
Murray's foray into the boxing ring may have been just what
he needed to recharge his batteries.
Perhaps Drysdale could follow Murray's example here and sign
up for a charity boxing bout in the next four years, or he
could take a sabbatical like Richie McCaw.
Alternatively, potential can be like a disappointing
Christmas present, because what was anticipated never
eventuates. Athletes who are told they have potential may
never turn that possibility into a reality.
Ross Taylor, for instance, has been short-changed on reaching
his potential as a captain for the Black Caps, and many
athletes did not deliver their potential at the Olympics this
year. Such is the nature of the ''potential'' beast.
In Taika Waititi's movie of a father and son's battle to
understand their potential, Boy is the one who finally
realises he is nothing like his father and doesn't have any
potential, because he'd rather live in the here and now and
get real, while his father continually exists in a dream
world full of potential.
The new year is full of potential for New Zealand athletes
and teams. Like Boy, they must convince others of their
potential, strive towards it, reach it and then come to
accept that reality may not be as exciting as possibility,
but nonetheless desirable and satisfying.