More than a Game - April 26, 2021

federerHow much control do top athletes, or club athletes, actually have over winning? I think the answer may surprise you. The top athletes will brag that they will win the ‘big game’ for their fans. However, few if any, will put their house or their life as collateral. So just how much control do athletes have over winning?

I have pondered this thought long and hard over the past years. The more that I reflect on it the more certain that I am that today’s athletes have much less control over winning than they care to believe. I state this simply based on the vast amount of factors out of their control.

Here is a short list of all the factors that players CANNOT control.

1. How well you are playing today. (No top athlete, coach, sports psychologist, nutritionist or sports scientist understands this totally.)

2. How well your opponent is playing today.

3. How old you are. (The older athlete playing a younger athlete most always has a disadvantage.)

4. How old your opponent is.

5. Your experience as a player in your sport. (The more experience that you have the better your chances.)

6. The experience of your opponent in your sport.

7. Your athletic ability as a player. (The more athletic you are the better your chances.)

8. The athleticism of your opponent.

9.  How well you have been playing recently. (The better that you have been playing recently the more confident that you will be and the better your chances are.)

10. How well your opponent has been playing recently.

11. Any current injuries to you or your opponent.

12. The breaks, good or bad, that you get in the match and when they occur.

13. The surface that you are playing on. (Nadal plays better on clay and Federer plays better on grass.)

14. Is there a divine being? If there is a God, how much does He care if you win? How much control over the outcome does He have?

15. What is happening in your life at the time of the match? (If you got into a traffic jam before the match so that you are late; you had a fight with your parents/spouse. This will affect your ability to focus and play your best.)

16. The character of you and your opponent. (If they will cheat to win or use gamesmanship or intimidation it will affect the match.)

17. The pressure to win and how this affects both players. (Players deal differently with stress and the better that they can handle it the better off they are.)

18. Is this a familiar place that you are playing? (College or high school matches played at home help their chances to play better.)

19. Outside factors like fans or parents or coaches being present. (Having you parents or friends watching can help or hurt your performance.)

20. The ‘need to succeed’ determines pressure and pressure impacts performance in a big way. (The greater the stress the more likely players are to choke.)

21. The weather is a factor. (The wind, heat, cold and rain are all factors; the wind may blow hard as a ball is traveling and a wind gust blows it out.)

22. The intangibles such as money, coaching (good and bad), opportunities, who you know, your personality (work ethic, patience dealing with failure, emotional makeup, determination, how well you deal with adversity), parents, learning from the past and the area where you grew up (ability to play sports and the competition you grew up with) …

There are many factors that impact your performance in a match. Suffice to say we don’t have as much control over winning as we think we do … the more that you understand this, the better for you as an athlete … starting with humility.