Tag: Tennis

Burnout is the reason for boredom in players

Bernard Tomic

I felt bored out there: It’s tough to find motivation– said Bernard Tomic 24, speaking to reporters after his first round loss to Mischa Zverev@ Wimbledon 2017-Times sport- 6th July 17. Bernard, who turned PRO at 15, had a career best ranking of 17 and is considered as one the top players in the circuit.

Thanasi Kokkinakis 21, who is a promising tennis player with a highest career ranking of 69: turned PRO during 2013 @17 years of age: said recently – ‘ I sometimes feel bored in practice sessions and smaller tournaments, but not @ Wimbledon. Is this boredom a mental issue among younger players and a cry for help? Probably yes!

This is not one would expect from these talented youngsters who have a long career ahead of them. Tragedy, that it can be, it could be one of the reasons why the younger lot have not been able to perform consistently at the highest level to trouble the best in business. Staleness and burnout can only be the reasons for this disturbing symptom.

It has been a trend to make the children to start sport as early as 6 or 7 and begin to take part in competitions by age of 9. There are instances of young teens turning PRO by 15 years of age. It does not warrant an expert to say what happens when one turns PRO. It involves intensity with vigorous training, practice, travel and competitions all year round. The pressure to keep winning and meet competitive demands is enormous. It is at this age these young PRO’S go through the grind when their peers are enjoying their life out there. Tomic said he has been on the tour since 17and have played at Wimbledon for 7 years already, as in 2017.

This continuous grind throughout the year takes its toll: though it does not have to be a rule- there have been instances where the younger Pros have burnt-out due to this. The probable symptoms of burnout in Tomic and Kokkinakis could be- 1. Apathy and lack of interest in the activity 2. Lack of desire to practice or contest in terms of achievement 3. Physical and mental exhaustion 4. Lack of enjoyment 5. Feeling jaded and stale with BOREDOM. The probable reasons could be that 1.the players could have given it too much in to less time 2. The sport has been too monotonous without any form of enjoyment & socializing 3. Injuries and mental breakdowns forcing lay- off from competition for a long time 4. Competition too stressful.

This is what could have forced Tomic to say- ‘I know Wimbledon is one of the biggest tournaments but I couldn’t find anything [motivation and momentum].

Having achieved too much in too less time [external motivation] might have forced Tomic to say- ‘I have won titles in my career: I have made finals a lot: I feel holding a trophy doing well doesn’t satisfy me anymore. At some point of time he must have made a conscious decision to continue playing for security, as there was no alternate career and he has identified himself with Tennis. This is called entrapment.  He could be playing professional Tennis to build financial security: drawing inference from his recent press conference- ‘ I am going to play for another 10 years and I know after that in my career, I don’t have to work again.’ This situation has happened many times in Tomic’s career and has also been accused of tanking– as it happened against Zverev, when he gave in too easily.

Burnout involves a psychological, emotional and sometimes physical withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable activity in response to stress or dissatisfaction over time [Smith 1996].

This situation is totally in contrast with players like Roger Federer who at 35 continue to enjoy the game wanting to get better all the time. It is all about intrinsic motivation– which could be the only HOPE for youngster who turn pro early and want to stay in the circuit for long.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Being fearless is the X-Factor in sports

22kvitova-web-master768Petra Kvitova the Czech tennis star was robbed in her home shortly after Christmas and the attacker stabbed her playing hand- leaving her to nurse the injuries. Speaking about the incident in a recent interview to the press [TOI-Reuters 2JULY] she said-` Before I was very nervous before every match, now I see I shouldn’t be. Sometimes I am thinking on the court that I already won the biggest fight and if I fight in the match, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose I will still be happy to play. I see tennis and life from a different angle than before. I am not sure if it is the result of what happened but maybe I feel fearless now of what happened.’

Ramkumar Ramanathan world no 222, from India, recently stunned the whole world by defeating the world no8 Dominic Thiem in the Antalya open-in straight sets. He told TOI shortly after the match-` Beating a Top 10 player makes me fearless now. I am definitely not scared of my next opponent now.’ After reading these responses I asked myself – what were they fearing in the first place: to feel fearless now? My mind said-` hey, it is the same predicament that plagues the entire human race: Fear of failure– fear of defeat or simply- fear of loss.

Fear is one of the four primary emotions- the other three are anger, sadness and joy. Anxiety represented by worry, nervousness and panic is experienced by most performers in general and athletes in particular- before a competition or during it and all of these feelings fall under-FEAR. Pressure and choking are also as a result of –FEAR: the fear of defeat or fear of failing.

Why are the performers terrified of failure?

In this evaluative environment everything is judged on the basis of results: making it a result oriented competitive world. Success [string of victories] will give you pride, name, fame and monetary benefits, scholarships, sponsorships etc. On the contrary – string of losses [wrongly termed as failures] will give you shame, see you slipping in your grades, seeding’s and risk losing your scholarships or sponsorships. So, athletes want to avoid this precarious situation and would like to keep succeeding. In this competitive world children begin to understand from an early age that you have to keep winning and it is a crime to lose. So, defeat/ loss become a dirty word. If losing is attributed to failure: then the seeds of failure are sown and Fear of failure sets in.

Even the elite athletes are exposed to these feelings of stress [anxiety, self-doubt, nervousness & pressure] before or during a competition. They have been in these situation umpteen times and know how to handle them. The ability to handle Fear and the associated feelings like pressure is what sets apart an elite athlete from the ordinary. Elite athletes want to win and hate losing but they are not afraid of losing.

Fear of failure in sports is not the same as facing life threatening situations [ex: Petra Kvitova, Monica Seles], plane crashes, motor accidents, facing a carnivorous animal in the forest. And to top it all: winning is not for ever and setback is just the bend not the end. The athlete will know at some point of time their chosen career is not forever and there is life beyond it. This mind-set will encourage the athletes in to accepting both success and setbacks [so called failures] in the same breath.

It is true Victory gives pride and achievement motivation. But desperate thoughts like- ‘I must win or I shouldn’t lose or what if I lose, will distress you and you end with the result you never aspired for in the first place. Instead ask yourself- ‘what is the worst thing that can happen if I lose the match. Keep telling yourself before an important event – `this is just like any other game: it is just a ……… match, it is not the end of the world if I lose it.’

If you think losing a match is failure then what would you say of Thomas Alva Edison who said-  ‘I am not a failure I have only discovered 999 ways of how not to make a bulb.’  

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Novak Djokovic is accused of tanking

novak-djokovic-2017-french-open
Image from IBT, Australia

The shocking quarter final defeat of Novak Djokovic at the hands of Dominic Thiem of Austria @ The French Open has left the Tennis world in total disbelief. Novak lost 7-6[5] 6-3 6-0. What has baffled everyone is the way in which Novak succumbed meekly to the less fancied Thiem in the last set that lasted just 20 minutes. And now Novak Djokovic has been accused of tanking away the third set to Thiem.  Would you believe it?

The word tank [container] cannot be a Simile with anything associated with sport but tanking as an act is not uncommon in sports. Many teams and individuals have been accused previously for this un-sportive gesture of tanking away a game.

Tanking [courtesy: Sports pundit] is a term used to describe a match lost by a player on purpose. It exposes the deliberate act of colluding, favouring or assisting the opponent in a partisan way.

A team can lose intentionally to another team by not fielding its best players who were available for the contest. It can also mean that a whole team or some of its players can play poorly or collude with the opposition in other ways to see that the opposite team is benefited. In this case it is called match fixing– a scandalous way of surrendering the ethics in favour of money.

It can also be as a result as a part of boredom [staleness] or anger-[for various reasons- injustice, ill- luck, favouritism, racism etc] – when a player deliberately throws in the towel without a whimper.

What could have happened in Novak’s case?

Novak, who has grown in difficult times in a war torn Serbia has seen all the challenges life can throw at you – that has made him humble as anyone can be. He is also known to be a polite, simple and down-to- earth individual. The video below talks of his humility on court – even if it were to be for a ball boy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdbkxXn7L3s

Novak who has risen to the highest echelons of this gruelling unforgiving tennis world wouldn’t fetter away from all that he built- out of sweat, blood and tears- for nothing. For sure he is not the candidate for Tanking, look somewhere. But, this match will throw suspicions at you- that’s for sure.

Then what was the reason?

According to Jim Courier a former French open champion- ` Novak showed no fight and may be it was partly down to the windy conditions. Novak despises playing in the wind. He really seemed to accept the outcome well before it was conclusive.’ [AGENCIES, TOI 08/06/17]. Could that be the reason- probably? Let’s give the expert his due.

Whatever you are seeing is just the tip of the ice berg

All said – we cannot simply pooh-pooh the idea that something greater is bothering this great player. People say he is going through a lot mentally and there is nothing wrong with him physically. For whatever reason, he has changed his coach and is already in to rough weather with his newly appointed on-trial-basis coach Andre Agassi. It could be even with his personal life. The truth should lie somewhere in the closet of Novak’s mind- you never know.

But, all this taking a toll on Novak’s game – a once Federer tamer is now losing to lesser known’s. FATE is known to play cruel games with everyone without discrimination. Huh! Novak of all people is now accused of tanking.

But, for his diehard fan- he is still too good to be lost and is eager to see him back with his winning ways.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Why sportspersons need a sports psychologist early?

Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios, Australian Tennis Player -Image from The Sydney Morning Herald

The life of a sports person is a long hard drawn battle with the inner self. Left to itself the inner self is a competent master capable of delivering lethal blows that would pulverize the enemy in to submission, but when doubted, this master would be reduced to a humble slave to its pseudo master. By referring it to as the pseudo master, I am talking about our conscious thinking mind and the all pervading real master-as the inner self, that which has an infinite capacity beyond human imagination. More often the human being is a victim of the idiosyncrasies of the thinking mind: the pseudo master who jeopardizes the maximization of  learned potential.

This is what most performers go through, especially so with sports persons- with all their innate abilities, effort, sacrifice, dedication and discipline, the ultimate result is not in line with their dreams, desires and expectations. There is something wrong! Ideally your best performance can be had when you are not thinking and you let your inner self [the subconscious] to do the rest. But is this possible in this world of intense competition, professional goals and big dreams?

The athlete is a victim of his own thoughts that would lead to poor self belief, lack of concentration, performance anxiety, pressure, stress and muscular tension. And it has mostly to do with the realm of the unknown and events that are yet to unfold- that lurking fear beneath – the fear of loss.

Even otherwise, the sports person has issues not related to his game [family, career, finances, relationships, injuries etc] that would heckle him constantly. The life of a professional athlete is a roller coaster ride, with highs and lows- threatened by uncertainty and anxiety- facing lots of pressure and expectations from outside and within.

It is sometimes too much for the individual to absorb all the pressure, however strong he appears to be. Remember, the greatest test for a person is when he is challenged by adversity and setbacks. This is when he looks around seeking professional help and it is then the sports psychologist steps in to perform the role of a friend, guide, motivator, counselor, therapist and a mind trainer.

Besides lending emotional support to the individual in various ways, the psychologist teaches the athlete techniques for enhancing performance-like assisting him to develop positive mindset, to be in the present, focusing on the process, and allowing things to happen. The athlete is also taught with breathing techniques, emotional regulation, handling pressure, goal setting, visualizing a positive outcome and mental toughness.

Recently British Tennis player Laura Robson announced that she is working with a sports psychologist Richard Hampson to help revive her injury prone career.

http://www.tennisworldusa.org/news/news/UK_Tennis/39743/laura-robson-discloses-she-is-working-with-a-sports-psychologist/

Formula one racing champion Nico Rosberg recently disclosed that he had worked with a sports psychologist before winning his first ever world championship racing title. Rosberg has said hiring a sports psychologist was one of the key factors for him claiming the world championship.

http://www.foxsportsasia.com/news/rosberg-on-life-after-formula-1/

Nick Kyrgios, the rising Tennis star, has been found guilty of uncontrolled emotions and bad temperament on a few occasions and has now agreed to work with a sports psychologist to overcome these behaviors.

For years sports psychologists have worked with teams and individuals ranging from recreational, amateur, professional and Olympic athletes- helping them to enhance their performance and lending them emotional support.

Sports psychology and psychological skills training is an important cog in the performance wheel that deserves its rightful place.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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