Thursday, February 2, 2017

Investing in the Olds

There is something to be said for continuing to invest in talent and experience.  I can think of few fields in which the more experienced masters are pressured to get out to make room for the young.  Sports can be desperately cruel.  Tennis has mastered the art of rejection because of age.

In this tennis is no different from Hollywood.  The movie industry is littered with the career corpses of actors who can no longer pretend to be ingĂ©nues.  Take Jennifer Lawrence, who went from playing 16-year-old Katniss to a 40-year-old mop sales woman.  There is no room in movies for the Olds.  Or maybe just for Meryl Streep.

But Meryl is a fantastic actress not just because of her talent but also because of her tremendous experience. The more you do something—especially when you have a talent for doing it – the better you become, and the more confidently you perform.

Sadly, there have been many tennis careers in which talent was clearly wasted on the young.  When such players retire, I say good riddance.  If you can’t appreciate the talent and opportunities you have been bestowed, I won’t waste my breath applauding you. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Honoring the Olds

This was a beautiful weekend.  Yes, I am pleased with the results.  I couldn’t handle it if Rafa had crushed Fed – never mind Fed’s breezy insistence that getting to the finals was winning enough.  I would however have been fine if Venus had beaten Serena, but only because it was Venus.  But in this Fed happens to be absolutely correct – Venus making it to the finals was winning enough.

This was a beautiful weekend, characterized as it was by a celebration of the Olds.  Long-term readers of this blog will know that I have long argued against the pressure placed on aging players to submit their retirement papers.  Like Marion Bartoli promptly did after finally winning Wimbledon, and who seems to have remained a confused mess ever since. 

Retirement, ideally, should never be rushed.  Yes it’s all well and good to go out on top.  But that does not mean that you should make a mad rush into the decision to give up a career for which you have worked very hard for many years.  Marion’s mad rush to retirement has never made sense to me.  I wonder if she regrets?  Will Ni La regret?  We know that Clijsters did because she came back to the sport after having her first child.  We know that Kimiko Date did because her phenomenal return turned out to be inspirational. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

OCD or self-calming rituals?

In his autobiography, Rafa has denied any engagement in superstitious behavior.  He also denied using his rituals to intentionally waste time by giving himself a breather.  He refuted any notion of engaging in these quirks in order to deliberately irritate and thereby distract his opponents.  Instead, he described his rituals as mechanisms to help him focus on tennis.  His rituals serve the purpose of keeping him mentally balanced and sharp.

What others see as irritating quirks, Rafa described as what I would label efforts at self-calming or self-soothing.  The psychobabble term for this is ‘emotional grounding’.  Grounding rituals are activities that individuals repeat with the exclusive goal of getting themselves in the right mindset in order to perform their best. 

Grounding rituals are useful in many situations, not just performance-related ones.  For example, individuals suffering from bad nightmares associated with combat trauma may use grounding rituals to help them to reduce anxiety and terror.  When awakened by a nightmare, the individual can be instructed to sit up in bed, plant their feet on the floor, and repeat out loud: “I’m sitting on my bed; my feet are on the floor; I’m breathing in and out”, over and over until the anxiety passes and the ghosts of the past release them.  That is a grounding ritual, intended to help manage anxiety.