For millions of people around the world, sport plays a big part in their lives in one way or another, this might be through its ability to excite and inspire, or because it helps you to separate yourself from the rigors of everyday life. For many though, I feel sport is a channel that people can use to develop themselves...especially youngsters. How many times do we hear critics saying sportsmen and women should conduct themselves better because they are role models to millions of kids around the world, so quite a bit of pressure I think you’ll agree? So as Wimbledon commences and the stars take centre stage (or rather centre court), the world is not only watching…it expects!
In one way or another sport teaches us something, from back in the day when McEnroe famously splurted ‘you have gotta be kidding me’, to the more recent sponsor board attack by Nalbandian that resulted in a piece of it hitting a line judge, cutting his shin! And so that I’m not accused of being sexist, who could forget the US Open final during which Serena Williams verbally abused the umpire calling her ‘a hater’ and ‘unattractive’! Well I suppose this begs the question, what lesson could you possibly learn from this? Well there are a few, starting with passion. Albeit passion should be harnessed and channelled for it to be of use and hitting out with overt aggression and disgust is not the best way to do it. Shouting at the umpire with utter disbelief, anger and resentment also personifies a loss of control. The thing is, McEnroe is regularly regarded as one of the best tennis players of all time, and so for me to assert that he was ‘out of control’ every time he shouted is probably wrong, because it quite simply worked for him…the question is, could he have been even better if he had learned to channel this like Federer or Nadal, would it have made any difference whatsoever?
Passion and a desire to win is an integral attribute of any sportsman or woman, but it isn’t always extrinsically apparent! Federer has been in the top 3 of the ATP rankings for the last decade, and for most of that he has been no.1, he will (and deservedly so) go down in history as the greatest tennis player of all time! The thing with Federer is that he seldom loses his temper and almost never shouts or kicks out; he has a grace and elegance about him which suggests that he is almost too good to do the ‘angry’ thing.
Then onto Nadal, who is simply the best clay court player ever, who has a physique that would grace the cover of Men’s Health, and who at the age of just 27 already has one of the best temperaments in all of sport, as well as exhibiting an honour and dignity you rarely see any where else! Nadal recently became the first man to win the French Open at Roland Garros for an 8th time, and during this time he accepted the praise and plaudits with the humility of a true champion…but what really set the man apart was the contrast he faced yesterday when he crashed out in the first round of Wimbledon. The interviewer gave Nadal all the ammunition he needed to use his recent return from a serious knee injury as an excuse, he was out for approx 7 months and despite winning the French Open on his return, he was clearly struggling (occasionally limping) with his knee on the grass courts of Wimbledon. Despite this, Nadal never once used his knee as an excuse and neither did he attempt to detract from the 135th seeds accomplishments. Nadal then (like Federer, Djokovic and even Murray to an extent) wins with humility and remains magnanimous in defeat. If you want a role model or somebody to aspire to (not imitate, but aspire to), then look no further than this iron armed Spaniard…he truly is an all time great!