Why I think Roger Federer is a Role Model for Resilience
So before I get started, a disclaimer – I am a lover of tennis and a massive Roger Federer fan (who, for future reference in this blog will be affectionately known as Fed which is what our family calls him).
I was watching the Hopman Cup final on TV last night and was surprised at what I was seeing in his singles match – Fed was making some uncharacteristic unforced errors in the first set and didn’t seem to be playing with his usual magic and flair (well that’s what I thought as an armchair critic anyway!) and he lost the first set in the tiebreak.
Fed does lose sets (and even matches) on the odd occasion, so last night was not an entirely rare event (we just don’t see it very often!). However, what struck me as I watched Fed lose the first set and then turn the match around very quickly by winning the second set 6-0, and the third set 6-2 to win the match, was his resilience.
After losing the first set some players may have started to give up and lose confidence in themselves, but not Fed. What this demonstrated to me was Fed’s resilience to get back out there after not playing at the top of his game in the first set (according to this armchair critic!), and just getting on with the task at hand. Perhaps his opponent was not playing his best as the match progressed; but in the second and third sets I started to see the Fed magic grace the court again, with some beautifully placed shots; and Fed also changed up his strategy which seemed to put his opponent out of his comfort zone. He was totally back in his game, confident and determined.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, and let’s be honest – while people face much greater challenges in life than losing a set of tennis; after being a long-time spectator of Fed over the years, his mental toughness to outplay his opponents and survive challenging situations on the court throughout his career has earned him his well-deserved status of being one of the greatest sportspeople in our lifetime. Of course, I also attribute his physical brilliance at the game as well to his success, but I am a firm believer that mental fitness plays a huge role in sport – and actually, to all that we do in our lives.
Resilience is a characteristic we all want more of, so how does Fed do it and what can we learn from him?
I think about some of the attributes that make a person resilient – determination, kindness and self-worth. In Fed’s post-match interview, he did comment that while it was unfortunate he lost the first set, he shrugged it off and said to himself that he is feeling good and playing well – which for me is a good indicator of his kindness and self-worth he affords himself. When things aren’t quite going to plan are we always that kind to ourselves? Possibly not.
Resilience is also about having a strong sense of reality, whereby you are prepared for the worst-case scenario so when it does happen you are ready, you don’t get overwhelmed, and you move forward. I believe Fed had indeed prepared for the worst case (i.e. losing the set), as when it happened he was ready, he didn’t get flustered, he just pulled out of his toolkit a different playing strategy for the rest of the match which he knew would challenge his opponent for the subsequent sets to ensure he got the desired outcome.
At 36, an age whereby most tennis players at international level have retired; Fed is still going strong and is dominating players who are much younger than him. He knows that to continue playing his body needs to be in top form, so he has changed his strategy over the years to protect his body by playing less tournaments and also taking a quality over quantity approach to his training. He also wins by using his mental strength – a cool mindset on the court, and being able to adapt his match strategies when needed to overcome his opponents when things do go as planned. Resilience.
I’ll never be able to play tennis like Fed (nor can many others for that matter!), but he certainly is a role model for resilience in my eyes that I think we can all learn from.
Now putting my Fed fan hat back on, I can’t wait to see him play in Melbourne next week and I hope he successfully defends his title! I’ll definitely be watching and cheering! 🙂