By Emilio Sánchez Vicario, CEO & Founder at Sánchez-Casal Academy
#18 Your mind has the ability to create, produce, develop, cut and forget anything. Adversity can do the same, but only if you allow it. Don’t allow it.
Our mind is the most powerful tool available to us. It can take us to the top. In fact, at the Academy we know that if our players want to enter the elite tennis world, their mind will be the key factor. They need perfect technique, they need to know how to use their tools tactically, and they need physical strength and fitness they can rely on at all times. But all this becomes useless if the players are not in their ideal mental state to compete. Only the mind will allow them to reach the top of the Elite.
We have many examples of this in the history of tennis. Roger Federer himself explains that his tennis career changed in 2003 due to a very simple factor: he took the conscious decision that he was able to win. And so he did, becoming the first Swiss player to win a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon, on July 6 of the same year.
Rafa Nadal is another perfect example of mental strength, and he describes it using very simple words: “If you cannot control your nerves, it’s much more likely that things will go wrong. You have to train yourself to have more mental strength.” Novak Djokovic also confirms that everything begins even before stepping onto the court: “It begins with what you are doing to prepare yourself mentally for the match, and with being in the right mental state with yourself.”
This really is true. Our mind is our most powerful tool on court, and we see it every day. Tennis is a very demanding sport mentally, requiring strong focus, maximum attention, and motivation for a long period of time. However, it is also a noble and generous sport because it allows you to overcome adverse situations and rectify problems in the middle of a match. If you have the mental strength to recognize what you’re doing wrong and apply positive mental habits, you can turn many situations around.
However, the mind is also our most dangerous tool. There are other sports, for example, that do not provide a second chance. Edurne Pasaban has climbed the 14 highest mountains in the world, all the “eight-thousanders”, and she has experienced this very closely.
The mountain has given her everything, but the mountain has also taken a lot away from her. She has seen three of her friends die by her side: while climbing together, they disappeared into the void. These tragedies, plus a very dangerous episode while descending K2 and other personal issues, took their toll on her in the end. She stopped climbing, and abandoned her passion. The mental struggles she experienced as a result of her difficulties threw her to a deep depression that almost cost her her life.
How can a person who has overcome the most difficult of challenges, who has lived extreme situations and survived, lose her ability to keep on fighting? And how can she get that ability back?
Only Edurne’s determination was able to empower her enough to overcome her “most difficult eight-thousander”. Edurne knows clearly what is needed: firstly, to be aware of the situation you are in. Secondly, decide to overcome it, because, in her own words, “You can overcome situations only because you decide to overcome them”. Thirdly, allow yourself to be helped, and never stop persevering.
Mental strength, tolerance to frustration, emotional control, and self-confidence are crucial qualities for an athlete, whether you may be a mountaineer, a tennis player, a biker, or a triathlete. As Edurne tells us: “You have to be physically prepared, but that’s only 25%. The other 75% is your mind“.
We can and we must work on improving these features, focusing on playing point by point, and persevering, without failing.
It is the mind. It is always the mind. Train your mind; reinforce it. Give it tools to overcome difficulties. Make it a habit to mentally create, produce, develop and overcome the most adverse situations. Only your mental strength will mark the difference between you and others and will lead you to true excellence.
Thank you to Eva Pascual, co-author of this post.
Emilio Sánchez Vicario
CEO & Founder at Sánchez-Casal Academy