It’s true – I saw and heard him say it in a BBC interview yesterday. Roger Federer gets nerves playing tennis. I mean seriously, the winner of seven Wimbledon men’s singles finals Roger Federer gets nervous playing at Wimbledon. He is Mr Cool. A man who never gets flustered. Who knew?
The good news is there is now hope for us all.
I don’t know about you but I get nervous all the time and I now feel a lot better about that. I sometimes forget I am not alone in having nerves before a high-pressure event or a challenging task. If Roger Federer can get nerves and still be good then so can I. The real trick of course is how to get over the nerves and use them to your advantage. Still, finding out nerves are universal is great news.
The things Roger Federer gets nervous about at Wimbledon are likely completely different to the nerves I might get in the same situation. Standing there on centre court in front of all those people, who by the way are expecting a great playing performance from me, I might well be very nervous about the fact that I have absolutely no clue about playing tennis and no demonstrable skill in any hand/eye co-ordination type sports. The walk onto the court would probably leave me winded. Seriously though, my point is that whatever situation or context generates them the nerves are real and universal. We all must accept them, use them and ultimately overcome them to move on. Once overcome they will be replaced with a whole new set of nerves appropriate to the new level. That’s how it works.
Now I’m not normally a big tennis fan but I do like to watch Wimbledon whenever I get the chance. We get great coverage here in the UK with ample time to observe the players reactions to events and their emotional response to those events. Some appear beaten before they arrive on court and others look like winners right from the off.
It’s fair to say I think that the skill difference and fitness level differences between the top players are slight at best. The real differences, which make some players champions and other players runners-up, are in the mindsets, beliefs and mental resilience levels. These combine with the high skill and fitness levels to take them to the very top of their game.
Wimbledon is a wonderful place to observe the emotional highs and lows. If you are looking to improve your emotional intelligence skills then get watching. What does a player’s body language and self-talk tell you about their chances in that match and in the sport generally?
If you can’t see Wimbledon for whatever reason then check out other sports you like but start to look for more than just technical skill – check out the EI and mental resilience too.