Imagine this: you just turned pro. In the first year you win two and lose three matches. OK, fair enough...you’re just getting into things.
In your second year as a pro, you win 12 matches and lose 14. You play two Davis Cup matches and lose both, and then lose in the first round of all seven outdoor tournaments you entered. You also fail to reach the main draw of the U.S. Open and Australian Open due to losses in the qualification rounds. Ok, you think to yourself, this is going to be hard.
Then, in your third year as a pro, you lose in 21 out of 38 first-round matches! Your season ending record is 27 wins and 30 losses. In your first three years as a professional, cumulatively you compile 41 wins and 47 losses. OK, now this is hardly what you expected.
If these results happened to you, how would you feel about your game? What would you think of your prospects in terms of making a living? Would you think reaching the top is possible?
When I share this story and ask my clients how they would feel if their first three years started this way, most say, “Wow...it would be rough!”, others chuckle and say, “I’d look for another job!” Well, thankfully this player didn’t look for another job. This is the story of how Roger Federer began the first three years of his professional tennis career.
Federer clearly knew the journey would be full of obstacles and setbacks. He and his camp must have believed during these three years what others didn’t: that he was “good enough”. They understood the biggest challenge was about trusting his process, playing his game, and staying mentally balanced.
Now clearly, during these initial three years, he was not good enough as a player, otherwise he would have been winning more matches. However, he was good enough as a person. He and his team had the perspective to know it was more about time, experience and staying the course. The rest is history; Federer has notched 20 Slam victories and countless tournament wins and awards.
Similarly, if we look at other great athletes like Stephen Curry and Tom Brady, both of them were not good enough early in their college careers. Curry played mid- level Division I basketball at Davidson College, and Brady was not a full-time starter at University of Michigan. At that time, it would have been impossible to have predicted that they would become the superstars they currently are.
No matter the competition or level, Federer, Curry and Brady placed their focus was on what’s important now and prioritizing the present. Their focus was on being their best and embracing the challenge, and only worrying about what they could control. They didn’t push or force their process trying to be something or someone they weren’t. The real game was about accepting where they were, adapting to the situations, and learning from the experiences. The results did not determine their future and more importantly their worth and value as a person. They stayed the course.
Now I know, you’re not Roger, Stephen or even Tom. However, just like them, you are good enough! Nothing is missing; you don’t have to be perfect. The key is finding that balance to how you can be your best. Letting go of trying to prove, expectations, and what you cannot control. Instead focusing on what you need and what you can do to develop as both a person and an athlete.
You are a Whole Human Athlete; it’s imperative to bring who you are to what you do. No matter whether you win or lose in that competition, match or game, you are good enough as a person, continue to persevere and bring your heart, energy and spirit! Just like Federer, Curry, and Brady did.
They were good enough. So are YOU!
Rob Polishook, MA, CPC is the founder of Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group. As a mental training coach, he works with athletes helping them to unleash their mental edge through mindfulness, somatic psychology and mental training skills. Rob is author of 2 best selling books: Tennis Inside the Zone and Baseball Inside the Zone: Mental Training Workouts for Champions. He can be reached by phone at (973) 723-0314, by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, by visiting insidethezone.com, or following on Instagram @insidethezone.