Saturday, June 3, 2017

Agassi’s role: ‘Mentor’ or ‘Coach’?

The problem with being the best is that it becomes almost impossible not to become utterly narcissistic in the process.  The belief that you are the best in the world may result in you becoming so damn full of yourself that you might just unthinkingly grab the camera out of your wife’s hands to better make kissy-faces to your audience – and forget to thank her for the daily grind of helping you with your mission.

I believe that every extremely successful tennis player risks becoming utterly narcissistic.  Heck, I almost became a narcissist myself after I finally won my first league match!  I lost my head for a moment and started telling our opponents how thrilled I was that I had finally won a match, naively expecting them to actually be happy for me!!  It took a minute for me to realize that they could actually give a crap, especially after having just been informed that they had lost to a typical loser.

Unsurprisingly, an increase in the genuine belief in oneself also naturally follows expert levels of accomplishment.  But, over time, this may be followed by expansive egotism as others keep reminding you of how great you are, as they elevate you to heady levels of regard.  It becomes hard to resist the lure of narcissism as a by-product of stellar success.

(Part 3 of 3)

 And narcissism is not necessarily a bad quality, especially when combined with a modicum of self-awareness – or at least a self-deprecating sense of humor.  People with self-awareness  or those who can take the piss  naturally self-correct any tendency to become extra.  You see this in players like Roger Federer and Andre Agassi. 

The absence of self-awareness, or of a sense of humor, often reflects more malignant and destructive forms of narcissism.  These types of individuals will break you down when you are no longer perceived as serving the purpose of uplifting them.  Understand that this is all a matter of their perception, not necessarily your behavior. 

The experience of being attacked by someone who was formerly in your corner can feel deeply betraying – especially when you do not understand why the malignant narcissist may be feeling threatened in the first place.  Particularly when you do not understand that these are individuals have unbelievably fragile egos and tend to be deeply insecure at core.

Your success does not stand on its’ own – it is only a reflection of their brilliance.  But your failure is all on you, and they may go to lengths to protect their fragile egos by reminding you of how horrible you actually are – because you narcissistically injured them by failing. 

At this stage of his career – as he hits 30 and his body can no longer bend like Gumby as easily as it used to – Djokovic needs more than just a self-congratulatory mirror.  Kudos to him for recognizing this.

But, to answer my initial question, what exactly does Agassi have to offer Djokovic?  Certainly Agassi brings a deep and empathic understanding of what Djokovic may be going through emotionally.  Agassi knows what it is like to be an aging player who performed his best in the later stages of his career.  He also knows what it feels like to be betrayed by a former coach. 

Above all, I believe that Agassi understands that his role is not to be a ‘coach’ to Djokovic (as Becker defined himself), but to mentor and inspire him.  Djokovic doesn't need a coach – he already knows knows the mechanics of his own game, and how to perform at top levels.  But if anyone can help Djokovic re-discover his  love for this sport, along with a renewed motivation to succeed at this stage of his career, Agassi seems to be an inspired starting point.

(Part 3 of 3)


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