How self development and high performance sports go hand in hand

I know that a lot of people have asked me in the last 10 years or so why is self development so important? More specifically why is it important in tennis ? I mean tennis is about forehands and backhands and hitting big serves and moving well on the court right?

Short answer: Wrong

In tennis like in other individual sports, at the elite level, the margins by which someone wins are unbelievably small. There are some really interesting statistics in tennis that show how the greatest players of all time in tennis history : Federer, Nadal, Djokovic won around 55% of all the points they played on the professional circuit. 55% only… about narrow margins right? What this translates into is a very strong mental game by which time after time, winning in average around 10 more points out of 100 than their opponents, they managed to win just about everything in the last 15 years.

This is in part because in tennis not every point has the same importance. A point played at 15-30 at 5-5 in the 3rd set is so much more important than at 1 all and 15 all in the 1st set. The best players in the game manage to win most of these important points. They are able to play their best level of tennis during these points, unlike other more average players which tend to lower their level.

What that requires is huge mental fortitude and the ability to get to that laser like focus state of mind in an instant. There are a lot of definitions for mental fortitude(or resilience) out there and my favorite comes from Nadal – who said “ Being mentally strong means accepting what is in front of you as it and not as you would like it to be. Accepting the truth and looking only forward to act on what you can improve.”

Embracing your reality as it currently is and trying to figure out what you have to accept(because you can not change it) and what you can do to improve that reality is the key to eliminating the inner-tensions most players feel when they are in high presure situations. It creates the possibility for the player to give 100% without being distracted from the present moment by fears, anxieties or different mental scenarios.

The second part of that definition relates to focus. There are three main types of focus: inner, other and outer and the best part is that you can develop all of these by practicing them. It’s something you can work on continuously day after day and constantly improve.

Written by Doru Bolanu

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