A few weeks ago, I remember seeing a sign outside of a fitness studio. The words and message struck me … It read like this: “You recharge your phone once a day, how often do you recharge yourself?”
I thought this was a great message and applies so well to sports. As a mental training coach, in my experience working with athletes at all levels and sports this simple idea of recharging your batteries is so often either forgotten, overlooked or only happens after burnout. Ashleigh Barty, 2019 French Open Women’s Champion, is an extreme, yet good example of this.
In her teenage years, she was a prodigy, won Junior Wimbledon at the age of 15. Everyone had her slated to be the next Australian champion. What they didn’t expect is that she would burn out and voluntarily leave the game of tennis. Then, years later, she came back, recharged, recommitted and refreshed. Anyone can see that her journey was not typical. But like all of us, she is a unique person, with a unique journey and winning the French Open clearly a unique performance. In fact, she had discussed with the media whether she would have won without taking that break. She replied: “Absolutely not … it’s obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one to come back.”
Barty professed to get caught up in the expectations of others. In fact, these expectations soon became her expectations, most likely defining herself solely on her performance. Her results were never good enough to accomplish what she and others had in store for her. Stories indicate that she lost her way, lost her balance and eventually burned out.
Okay, so you might say, I’m a junior player, not even a professional, what does this have to do with me? Or as a parent, how does this relate to my child’s journey? Think back to that sign, “You recharge your phone once a day, how often do you recharge yourself?” Certainly, if electronic phones need recharging in order to perform, wouldn’t the same be true for far more complex humans?
All too often, athletes of all levels charge forward chasing the adulation, victory or trophy instead of taking a step back and strategizing what’s necessary to obtain it. Why? Because we are focused on the end result, not what’s necessary to get there. If we were a car, one key component would be gasoline. It’s impossible to drive a long distance without re-fueling a gas tank.
This idea of making time to re-charge may sound counter-intuitive. In sports, we think the only way forward is to grind and work harder. Now I’m not suggesting you don’t work hard or let go of goals. That would be crazy. However, I am suggesting that you stay energized and balanced, so that when adversity strikes, you have the resources within to be resilient, relentless, rested and recharged. Think of it this way … addition by subtraction!
The next time you find yourself in a slump, irritable, frustrated and impatient, instead of trying to force, push harder or trying to crash through that wall, do what all the great stars from Federer to Barty, to Rafa to Serena do … they reset, reflect, reboot and recharge.
Rob Polishook, MA, CPC is the founder and director of Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group. As a mental training coach, his focus is on the athlete as a person first and recognizes the strength of being “More” than an Athlete. Through this lens, he is able to help athletes be their best version of themselves both on and off the field. His best selling book Tennis Inside the Zone- 32 mental training workouts for champions is sold nationally and internationally. He has spoken at USTA, USPTA, ITA conferences, and has conducted workshops India, Israel and the Omega Institute. His work has been highlighted in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, Sports Illustrated , NY Times and other media. Additionally Polishook is an adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University. He may be reached by phone at (973) 723-0314, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.insidethezone.com.