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Human Performance Blog

History Made - US Open 2018

In the wake of the US OPEN 2018 Womens Final. There has been much conversation among tennis and sports fans alike about how the whole thing unfolded. As a Performance Consultant though, my point of view and perspective takes a bit of a tangent.

One thing that is certain though is that the match demonstrated aspects of Mental Strength and Competitive Skills approached differently and valiantly by both competitors.

What a Match!!

The OSAKA Challenge – You cannot control the Crowd. With incredible poise, maturity and focus. The 20yr old Naomi Osaka defied the many odds stacked against her and mastered a skill that many young competitors struggle with. She maintained FOCUS! She chose to control her MINDSET. From the first point, there was a laser-like and unwavering focus on the game plan, the strategy and the overall tournament intention. Despite the loud musings, cheering and audible confusions erupting from the crowd.

In the post match interview, Osaka mentioned that she wasn't even aware of what was happening, she was “just getting ready to serve”. And that the goal for the tournament was to go out there, “Not Stress, Have Fun, And Fight for Every Point”. The WILLIAMS Challenge - You cannot control the Umpire. After receiving a Coaching Violation, the Queen of Tennis, Serena Williams perceived the warning as a personal attack on her character.

She maintained her platform of the importance of CHARACTER in sport and to stand up for herself. Undoubtedly a very valuable mental skill, it seems however that Williams became blinded by it and the mental skill of PRESENT MOMENT THINKING eluded her.

She was unable to put that incident (the warning) behind her, even after a relatively civil conversation with the umpire on a changeover where she pleaded her case and Mr. Ramos noted that he knew she was not a cheat. This is where it could have, should have, would have been a beneficial place to reset. And return to the task at hand, the match! In the post match interview, Williams mentioned that she was still working through the Emotions, and prepared to Learn Lessons from the match. Lessons about Staying Humble and Gracious regardless of if things DO or DON’T go your way.

I hope that the many young competitors, coaches and parents watching the match can see beyond the ‘drama’ that unfolded. To understand what it really takes to employ mental skills in pressure situations and that there is in fact not one right or wrong skill. But an umbrella of skills that need to be honed to achieve Mental Strength, Mental Stamina, Mental Flexibility.

Questions to Consider…

  • In what instances can you imagine the single-minded focus of Osaka to be less of a strength but more of a weakness?

  • At what point does a champion take up causes that ripple outside of sport?

  • What other Mental/Competitive skills would you say were apparent in the match?

  • Does character have no place in sport?

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