Since becoming an apprentice jockey, Lyle Hewitson, has literally rewritten the record books! On the eve of him being crowned Champion Jockey at the Equus Awards, we caught up with Lyle and posed a question to him, what makes a Champion?
Lyle’s answer is spontaneous, intuitive and unpretentious, saying “I fell in love with horses and then fell in love with the sport!” He explains, that he was brought up around horses and stable yards and developed a love for horses that led him to horse sport, first in the form of polocrosse and then horse racing. For Lyle, this is a fundamental for all Champions, if you don’t love what you do then you will never become a Champion!
However, passion and love are not enough! Lyle intimates that all Champions have an innate desire to achieve the best results possible! Being competitive is not enough, it’s a desire to be the best you can be! Lyle further explains that this desire to be the best is not self-centred at all, but rather is often motivated to make other people happy, be it family, friends or team mates, a Champion wins to share the glory. For Lyle, Horse Racing is the ultimate team sport and when he and other Champion Jockeys win, they share the glory with the grooms, assistant trainers, trainers, owners, fans and punters! Whether it’s a maiden plate victory or a Grade 1 winning ride, when a Champion wins everybody associated with the horse wins!
Once you have the love, passion and desire to succeed, according to Lyle, a Champion is only half way there, you also need all the skills required, not only to win, but to be able to replicate winning on a regular basis. The skills being referred to, are not riding skills, but rather soft skills that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. As Lyle clarifies, to be a Champion, natural ability and prowess are a given, but it’s the soft skills that not only allow you to succeed but to flourish! Soft skills and the personal attributes that are developed through them, create an environment that is conducive to success and winning! Attitude, communication, creativity, work ethic, teamwork, networking, decision making, positivity, time management, motivation, flexibility, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution are some of the skills that Lyle feels every Champion needs.
Lastly for Lyle, a Champion must be philanthropic as, it’s not only about you succeeding but helping others succeed as well. For Lyle, this means being supportive and helping all the other apprentice jockeys improve and succeed. As he says, a Champion loves to see other people do well! Helping others is also key to maintaining good relationships, which Lyle feels is critical in horse racing, especially for a Champion!
Lyle’s championship formula is not unique, and its elements are often echoed by many champions in various sporting codes around the world, it is both simple and complex and harks back to Muhammad Ali’s famous quote “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”