Last updated on June 2nd, 2023 at 07:35 am
Being a Ghanaian and a millennial at that, aware of the basic history of my country, thinking about the name Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, naturally, will carry an air of reverence with it. I never met him but his legacy and vision abide, as at the time of this writing. His name is synonymous with Greatness, not only for his fight for the independence of Ghana but also because of the dearth of development projects he envisioned and implemented. If he were alive today, I won’t be surprised to be stupefied in his presence.
There is another man I have held such reverence for, and the reverence is much greater for him from those in the football circles. I first heard of him when I joined Toastmasters. Even, one of the many Toastmasters clubs in Ghana is named after him – Joe Lartey Toastmasters Club. Joe Lartey’s name is synonymous with “Over to You”, a unique signature he used on radio. Just as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a maestro in politics, Joe Lartey was a maestro in sports commentary!
Joe Lartey was a maestro in sports commentary!
He was loved by all. I had the pleasure of meeting the famous Joe Lartey in his home on the 4th of August 2022 during the launch of DigiSeniors. I grabbed the opportunity to get acquainted with him.
DigiSeniors, is a project founded by then Toastmaster Evans Adu-Gyamfi, now Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). DigiSeniors aims at supporting the elderly in society to connect and be active in the digital space. DigiSeniors principally offers a platform for individuals and institutions to provide the Seniors with a constant provision of airtime and internet data packages for their mobile devices.
You can find out more about DigiSeniors by contacting DTM Evans Adu-Gyamfi.
On this very day 4th August, 2022, I had the privilege of assisting 95-year-old Joe Lartey, the special guest on the launch of DigiSeniors to set up for the virtual event. As we sat waiting for the virtual event to commence, I engaged Joe Lartey about his days as a commentator, listening in admiration.
Soon the meeting began cutting our conversation. I had just asked Joe Lartey why he was so famous and loved by all.
I couldn’t wait for the meeting to be over so I could wrap up my conversation with Joe Lartey.
After about 90 minutes on the virtual meeting, I turned to Joe Lartey and continued our conversation.
In order to grasp fully where our conversation continued from and the genesis of my question to Joe Lartey – as to why he was that good at his craft, let’s perform a quick thought experiment!
Imagine every human being on this Earth were equal. Equal in term of skills, talent, intelligence and ability. That is to say imagine all footballers were Cristiano Ronaldo. Or all athletes were Usain Bolt. You have already seen the problem. Who is going to be rated the best, if we are all the ‘best’? The question is, what is going to set us apart if we all had the same abilities, quantity-wise and quality-wise?
I have the answer! And no! This is not one of those seven ways to do this, or ten ways to be that. Well, considering this thought experiment, the answer to our dilemma can’t have in it any iota of skills, talent, intelligence or ability. To paint the picture clearly; we are talking about a football match of twelve Cristiano Ronaldos against twelve Cristiano Ronaldos or eight Usain Bolts competing in a 100-meter dash.
I confirmed the answer in this conversation with Ghana’s Greatest Commentator - Joe Lartey.
Peter: Mr. Joe Lartey back to your submission on the preparation…
Peter: …so you prepared before every single…?
Joe: Yeah, “I took every assignment very seriously. I didn’t take any assignment for granted because you’re facing the whole world. The English language is not our language. There may be one single word that could floor you. So, you should at least have something up here – PREPARATION…
Peter: And what about..
Joe: If you are at a program and let’s say a commentary assignment on Sunday, this coming Sunday, as it is with the Olympics, then you go and drink heavily on Saturday night, you don’t expect to do a very good commentary because alcohol slows you down, it affects your thinking, your brain; so what you do is, even if you like drinks, for that one single night, stay off it, have a good sleep, good rest, go over your notes so that you don’t need to be reading them when you’re on air. I was on a … erh … yh this morning I was on air at erh… erh what do you call it…?
Peter: TV Africa
Joe: erh TV3
Joe: TV Africa. I intend to organize a big conference for commentators.
Joe: …because what they are doing now is not commentary.
Joe: So that the tradition doesn’t die. With television and most people’s phones, if we don’t pay attention to how commentary is done in another three years or so, commentary will be off, nobody will do it.
Peter: But what about the skill itself? Apart from preparing, reading over your notes.
Joe: The skill, …. the preparation will lead you into the skill.
Joe: You see…And what is the skill? When I started doing commentary, especially when I was asked to do what you call ceremonial, say a parade at the Black Star Square. I used to go to the Black Star Square early in the morning and do the commentary off air.
So, when I get into the real thing, I’ve done it before, it’s easy. And people keep wondering, where does he get the words from? I don’t do it by magic.
Peter: And what about for me as a Toastmaster? What I usually notice among my colleagues is sometimes, especially new members who join, is that they say they find it difficult selecting a topic to talk about.
For instance, if they have a speaking project that they have been given that probably give a speech that inspires your audience or educates your audience on a particular topic, the question that I usually receive is, Peter, how do I go about it? What should I talk about?
Joe: Look at life, daily life, what people are doing, what people are doing. You sit in the trotro (public transport), you listen to conversation, what some people are talking about, you go to the shop, to buy, you go to the market, keep listening. And the topics are many – innumerable topics.
So, it’s a question of being attentive. As somebody who is into public speaking, you must always be attentive, always listen to people. You’ll never be at sea. Sometimes on your way to talk, on your way from the house to talk, some, you will hear a remark made by somebody and that will make your talk, if you are adopt it, that will make your talk the greatest talk in history. It’s very interesting, with this man…erh, Abraham Lincoln of America. He was a wonderful public speaker and if you read how he became a wonderful public speaker, you will marvel. Little little little little things, things that people don’t worry about, and brings it into a speech. And everybody will see that. So, developing a skill is practice, practice, practice, practice.
Practice, practice, practice.
Select your topic, prepare notes on it. You know, we have speaking from notes and then we have memorized speeches. You commit to memory and go to deliver. Then you have other forms of presentation. And if they say write a speech on say a speech that will arouse people, you may have listened, you may have heard a similar speech on radio or television. You think of it. It will help you.
We have speeches to stimulate, to make people feel… it’s a very big topic, a very big subject…but you don’t tackle the whole thing in one day. It takes time. It takes time.
Peter: Thank you so much.
Joe: Toastmasters has developed since we started. We now have about thirty clubs.
Peter: Yes! Yes…and we only have two divisions now. Initially, it was just one national branch. We have two national branches.
Peter: We have division G and division M.
Joe: Interesting. There is one named after me.
Peter: Yeah…the club – Joe Lartey, Joe Lartey Toastmasters.
Joe: Practice, practice, practice. The English people say practice makes perfect. Practice, practice. Thorough preparation. Yeah…
I hope you have identified the answer to the question in our thought experiment?
What made Joe Lartey great at his craft was Practice (or preparation). Practice never fails.
Imagine every human being on this Earth were equal. Equal in term of skills, talent, intelligence and ability. That is to say imagine all footballers were Cristiano Ronaldo. Or all athletes were Usain Bolt. You have already seen the problem. Who is going to be rated the best, if we are all the ‘best’? The question is, what is going to set us apart if we were all had the same abilities, quantity-wise and quality-wise?
Now you know the answer to this dilemma! If it is still not clear, here are some quotes about preparation that are worth noting.
You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow. – Harriet Martineau
Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It’s about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result. – Joe Torre
I think more about preparation than numbers. If I’m well prepared, there will be results.” – Ada Hegerberg