Marlon Devonish’s Elite Performance A-Z: A for Ambitious

By Marlon Devonish, December 3, 2019

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This article originally appeared on our sister website, Urban Family Shanghai.


As part of our Education Blog series, Olympic gold medalist Marlon Devonish shares tips from his career as a professional athlete, business coach and Elite Performance Coach at British International School Shanghai Puxi (BISS Puxi), exploring different elements of elite performance and how they can be applied.

As a professional athlete, I was fortunate to have access to many amazing coaches who mentored me and pushed me to be the best I could be. The gold medal we won in the 2004 Olympics is a success that is shared with many great people who encouraged me, helped me through difficult moments and challenged me to push the boundaries of what I thought I could do.

To be clear, it also took a lot of personal hard work, dedication and focus. However, when you see a sprinter line up on the start line he is the sole representative of a group of very dedicated people, all striving for gold. Without doubt, success in athletics is a collective not an individual effort.

Why Now?

So why this blog, why elite performance and why now?  Most of you will know me from my time in sport. I spent over 20 years as a professional athlete, learnt my trade, gained experience and had my fair share of both successes and failures.

I learnt so much about myself physically, mentally and socially, and I leant heavily at times on the support of those around me. Now it’s time to give something back.

After officially retiring from athletics in 2013, the natural progression was into coaching. As a ‘speed consultant’ I was able to coach some of the finest sportsmen and women in Premier League football, rugby and athletics. As a business coach I gained access to CEOs, senior executives and outstanding performers from many different disciplines.

As you spend time with elite performers in sport and in business, you spot trends. You see patterns and those individuals face similar challenges. Opportunities present themselves for you to help people of all ages and backgrounds break through their own personal limitations, and guide them on a path to greatness. Everyone needs someone to give them a little push.

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To Those Who See the Light in Others

For me, two P.E. teachers – Miss Ryan and Mr Coleman at Caludon Castle School in Coventry – stand out in my mind. Without their crucial intervention, their faith in me and their gentle but assertive guidance, perhaps all that has happened and all that I am would never have been. ‘A path not seen is a path not followed’. When you look at athletes on the podium, so caught up in the magic of that moment, you rarely think of the humble teachers and coaches that tirelessly invest themselves in the success of others – they are the people who sow the seed of success.

Elite performance in the context of education means helping young people reach their potential. It’s about giving everyone an opportunity to be the best that they can be physically, emotionally and academically. I believe there is an inert talent in all adults and all children. They will not all be gold medalists, but they can, with support, exceed even their own expectations in their chosen path.

This blog is an alphabetical journey plotting the path to elite performance. I will share insights of elite performance and personal stories of the highs and lows of a career in athletics, business and education. I hope there is something for everyone to learn from, to laugh at and to love as we go on the journey.

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From Coventry to Shanghai - Where Am I Now?

I have travelled a lot in my career but both Coventry and Shanghai have a special place in my heart for many reasons – they are two great cities!

I joined the British International School Shanghai Puxi (BISS Puxi) because their ‘Be Ambitious’ philosophy is aligned with my goals as an elite performance coach. There is no silver bullet answer to being an elite performer in sport, business or life. In fact, many of the challenges we face consciously or subconsciously, we learn at a very early age.

Just as our fingerprints are different, our pathways to elite performance are unique. As a coach, my goal is to access and influence those pathways to allow BISS Puxi students to be the best they can be.

At the school, I work with all students and at all levels. I work with a dedicated team of experienced sports educators to unlock the limiting beliefs within our students and help them to strive for their own personal version of greatness. ‘Be Ambitious’ is about understanding what elite performance means for each individual, breaking though boundaries and helping students raise the bar both in sports and academically. That is ‘Being Ambitious’.

Having worked as a coach with outstanding individuals in sport, business and with students at BISS Puxi, there are common themes that run though what makes and what inhibits elite performance.

In this blog, we will explore different elements of elite performance and how they can be applied. Next week, we explore B – Belief. See you there!

To read more of Marlon Devonish's blogs, click here. To read more education blogs, click here.


This article was originally published by our sister magazine Urban Family Shanghai. For more articles like this, visit the Urban Family website, or follow the Urban Family WeChat account (ID: urbanfamilyshanghai) or by scanning the QR code below.

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[Images courtesy of BISS Puxi]


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