US Open, trophies and psychology

The US Open is just around the corner and tennis fans can already feel all the buzz usually associated with the last Grand Slam of the year, the hectic atmosphere of New York, media events and never-ending predictions of who’s going to win the trophies on the men’s and women’s sides of the draws. The excitement is truly catchy. All of us can’t wait to watch the best players on the planet fight for their victories. From spectators’ viewpoint, this is what sport is all about - the thrilling uncertainty of what’s going to happen and this is what brings legions of sports fans to stadiums - the fight and its unpredictability. 

However, for the main performers of this spectacle, the plot is less straightforward. On the one hand, all athletes play to win - this is part of their nature, their competitive spirits and their setting. Yet, every athlete is well aware of the fact that during performance the moment they set their eyes on the prize, this is the beginning of their end. 

Goals help initiate action, but once set off, little conscious control is needed to pursue them efficiently. That is why it is so important that from the early stages of athletes’ sport journeys they need to be trained in the process mentality. Essentially, there is two basic sides to it. The first points to the focus on ongoing improvement instead of on amassing trophies. The reason is very simple - it is the only way to reach the standards which make these achievements at all possible. Instead of concentrating on ‘what’, the emphasis rests on ‘how’, which brings us to the second side of the process mindset - a task orientation. It consists in the total immersion in the here and now, the maintenance of a very narrow focus on things to do during performance, which is one of the most difficult mental skills to master and a project to work on and develop for years.

At our academy process orientation is key. We want our players to understand that the real joy are not the trophies. The real thing is the journey they are on to reach their goals, with its underlying and equally exciting promise of meaning and enrichment resulting from the very process of striving.   The rest of the story is difficult to predict, just as the winners of the oncoming US Open Championships.