SUCCESS ISN’T something you can fluke; it is something you strive for,” says former top basketball player Andrew Gaze.
Gaze is arguably Australia’s greatest basketball player, having won the National Basketball League (NBL) scoring title a record 10 times as well as received the NBL’s Most Valuable player award seven times.
Standing confidently at 6’7’’, Gaze is also a five-times Olympian and was both flag bearer and team captain of the Australian team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Moreover, he is the first Australian to play professional basketball in Europe, having joined the Italian club side Udine in 1991.
Over one six-month stint, Gaze averaged more than 30 points a game; that same year, he became the first NBL player to shoot more than 1,000 points in a season.
To say Gaze is successful would be an understatement, but what’s really behind his achievements? Is it his height, or the fact that his father was also an exceptional Australian basketball player and coach?
No doubt genetics has played a role, but Gaze would be the first to admit that neither DNA nor his father’s competitive spirit were the only drivers.
There are three main keys to success, he believes – keys that apply to any and every successful person.
“Throughout my career I have met a lot of successful people, most of whom are athletes,” he says, “and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are some common denominators involved.
THE FIRST IS COMMITMENT
“At the end of the day, your background really has nothing to do with your overall success,” says Gaze. “While in some cases it is a contributing factor, in other cases it is not a factor at all.
“During my Olympics career, I have met hundreds if not thousands of incredibly talented and successful sportspeople. While some of them came from unbelievable wealth, others came from unbelievable hardship.
“It wasn’t their background that made them successful; it was their commitment.
“Never do you hear an athlete say, ‘I fluked that’ or, ‘I won by accident’. Successful people know what they want to achieve and they are committed to achieving it. They do not stop until they have reached their goal.”
Gaze cites Lauren Jackson as a perfect example of how commitment can eventually lead to success.
Jackson, who is now considered to be the world’s greatest female basketball player, started out with nothing more than a dream and the commitment to make that dream a reality.
“When I first saw Lauren, she was a nine year-old, lanky, terribly uncoordinated girl living in Albury-Wodonga,” he recalls. “I could see that she didn’t have the natural talent to be a great basketball player, but even back then that is what she wanted to be.
“Almost two decades on, she is now the greatest player in the world. But her determination and commitment is not unique. All successful people can tell you what they want to achieve and then achieve it.
“They strive for greatness through absurd levels of commitment, and they never waver in their fight until they reach their goal. Even then, they set new goals and push themselves harder to achieve these goals.”
THE SECOND ONE IS ENVIRONMENT
According to Gaze, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things when they put themselves in an environment characterised by greatness.
“For athletes, that environment is the Olympic Games,” he says. “There is no greater atmosphere.”
People who surround themselves with quality professionals from the area in which they work can push themselves towards greatness.
KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE
The third key to success, according to Gaze, is perspective.
“All successful people love what they do and they have fun doing it, but most importantly, they keep the challenges in perspective,” he says.
To highlight this point, Gaze fondly recalls one of his more exciting basketball games. The year was 1988 and Gaze and his Australian basketball team were playing Spain in the quarter finals at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Not only had Australia never beaten Spain, an Australian team had never played off for a medal at the Olympics. Win this game and they would achieve both.
“So, as you can imagine, the stakes were pretty high,” Gaze laughs. “The team was stressed because we all knew this was the most important game of our careers.”
“One minute before the end of the game we were up by one point. One of our guys shot and missed, forcing everybody nearby to jump for the rebound,” he says.
“Phil Smyth snapped the rebound and fell to the ground. When the area cleared away, Phil was still on the ground, writhing in pain. He was clutching his mid-section and we all knew something was wrong.
“Straight away, our sports doctor was on the court investigating the problem. Seeing as Phil was clutching his mid-section, she thought there had to be a problem with his stomach muscles or hamstring.
“Gently, she put her hands on Phil’s hamstring and ran her fingers up his leg, all the while asking if that felt OK.
“Phil replied, with a wink, ‘That feels great, but I think I have broken my thumb’. Everyone laughed.
“Despite the fact that this was the most important game we would play, Phil had retained his sense of humour.”
Keeping things in perspective is critical to performing at your absolute best, says Gaze, and those who worry unnecessarily about everything in life will never truly succeed.
“My dad once told me that there are only two times in life when winning is important – in war and in surgery,” he says.
“It is a motto I continue to live by. If you want to be successful, be committed, surround yourself with like-minded, successful people, have fun and keep the challenges in perspective.”