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Pupil report: English Department welcomes author Dr Cath Bishop

On Friday we welcomed Dr Cath Bishop, Olympic rower, diplomat and bestselling author of ‘The Long Win: The Search for a Better Way to Succeed’ to talk virtually to A3 pupils and staff, examining our widespread obsession with winning.

Best-selling author Dr Cath Bishop

Dr Cath Bishop told us how she started off her rowing career, reluctant to take part in the novice 8 boat. She had doubts because she thought she would look ridiculous, but soon fell in love with the sport and the camaraderie that she shared with her teammates.

In rowing, she was always told how tough she needed to be and asked whether she had the mindset to win. She did hours of extra training but still wasn’t reaching her full potential. She soon learned performance is more than physical strength; it’s about your mindset and how you connect with other people. You should focus on your individual performance and imagine a progress graph and how there will be highs and lows but eventually you will see an overall increase. The most important thing is to put energy into your mindset not just your body. The main points that resonated were the following:

  • quality over quantity
  • focus on specific goals
  • take it day by day – maximising your improvements today and moving towards tomorrow
  • become world class at improving
  • maximise performance process
  • make sure you’re recovering
  • research every avenue that will help your performance and then focus on that.

Cath also talked about her career as a conflict diplomat and the invaluable lessons she learned along the way. Having studied languages at university, she noted that learning a language exposes you to new cultures and provides an international perspective. She said that Foreign Office was fascinating because it was ‘human nature on an international scale’ and spoke about learning how she could connect with a wide range of people and the challenge of finding a new way forward for a country or government.

Cath brought her background in rowing to working under pressure and in a team environment. She spoke about the three most important things she learned about communication while in Bosnia:

  • discover who they are beyond the job title – what motivates them?
  • listen more than you speak
  • find what you have in common and build on it.

Cath also talked to us about her charity, Loverowing, which aims to create inclusive and accessible rowing programmes to communities who are currently underrepresented in the sport, and answered our questions about her amazing career.

Dr Cath Bishop competed as a rower at three Olympic Games and became the first British woman to win the World Championships and a silver medal in the coxless pairs event at Athens in 2004. Having studied Russian and German at Cambridge University, she also worked for the Foreign Office as a diplomat; her first posting was to Sarajevo, specializing in stabilisation policy and negotiation. Cath has had a third career working as a coach and consultant in leadership development, and also teaches on the Executive Education Faculty at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University and is Chair of the British Rowing Charity, LoveRowing.

We enjoyed Cath’s talk very much, and we hope to welcome her to Bryanston in person in the not-too-distant future.

By A3 pupil Nathalia J