| By Rob Polishook
Photo Credit: Getty Images


Over the last two years, I have received countless e-mails about my first book, Tennis Inside the Zone: 32 Mental Training Workouts for Champions. I have enjoyed the feedback on how it has helped junior players stay focused, adapt and compete like a champion under the most difficult situation. Many parents and players have expressed to me how the “written workout format” has helped them to reflect and empowered them to develop best practices for competition.

Like yourselves, I’m always trying, experimenting and creating new projects. My latest is the writing of my second book, the working title is: Curing Sports Silent Epidemic: More Than an Athlete. Person First. Every Time.

In a nutshell, the book is about a silent epidemic in the sports world. We are focusing on the athlete first, rather than the person. This epidemic is pervasive and it’s fueling burnout, eroding self-esteem and blocking the athlete from reaching the very potential they crave.

Athletes get anxious, overwhelmed or freeze. Sound familiar? We each have something that gets in our way and prevents us from reaching the next level. But no one likes to talk about it. Why? Because if we do, we fear it makes us weak, imperfect and vulnerable. The good news is: Your greatest asset to your best performance is already within you. This is what I call your “More,” your spirit, your story and your unique self-everything that makes you, you! Paradoxically, this also includes your fears and doubts. In the book, I share how to bring your “More” to life, both on and off the court, so you can be your best version of yourself. When you bring who you are to what you do, “More” happens.

Roger Federer is a quintessential example of an athlete who is “More” than an athlete. He clearly brings so many components of who he is to competition. This enables him to be his best because he is not single dimensional, that is, ONLY a tennis player. Rather, he is multi-dimensional, both a person and a player. His rival, Rafael Nadal spoke about the person-first mentality in his book, Rafa. Nadal says, “Tennis isn’t who I am. It’s what I do.” Through this mentality, not only can the athlete bring their talent, skill and technique, they can also bring their style, spirit, heart and soul … all of the intangibles that make them who they are. Imagine if Roger acted and played like Andre? Or Rafa acted and played like Pete? It wouldn’t work. Each player is their own person with their own spirit.

Roger exemplified this person-first mentality when he graciously gave Alexander Zverev advice after losing 0-6 in the fifth set of the Australian Open Quarterfinals. Zverev said about the outcome, “I have some figuring out to do. What happens to me in the deciding moments in a Grand Slam?” Now, many would call Zverev a “Head Case,” others might say he can never win the big one. However, Roger shared solid advice that illustrates his compassion in helping others. This advice is perfect for all junior players and competitors, no matter the sport. Roger shared, “I just think it’s important to sometimes take a step back and actually see the good things you have done …” he went on, “that’s what I told Sascha [Zverev], be patient about it. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Learn from these mistakes. Whatever happened, happened.”

What do you think about Roger’s advice? How amazing that he genuinely shares with a competitor, knowing full well it will help Zverev. However, this is one of the things that makes Federer. Bringing who he is to what he does. More Than an Athlete. Person First. Every Time.



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 rob@insidethezone.com, by visiting insidethezone.com, or following on Instagram @insidethezone.