What I Hope to Learn this Summer, Part III

In Mental Training by Brock Bourgase

The new Roger Federer – the one who makes mistakes, occasionally fails, and realizes his limitations – is much more interesting than the old one. Last year’s Wimbledon between Federer and Nadal featured superior tennis but this year’s match between Federer and Andy Roddick was equally as tense.

To complete the French Open-Wimbledon double, Federer needed to honestly re-evaluate his game in order to improve it. At Roland Garros, his improved ability to slide on the baseline was paired with a new drop shot; at the All England Club he was forced to serve impeccably and persevere as his best shots were foiled.

Federer defeated Roddick because he knows how to overcome adversity and change. On the bright side, Roddick is finally a threat to win Grand Slams again because he has evolved his game to become more versatile. Increased mental and physical fitness also helps his cause.

The development of Federer and Roddick over recent months signifies that no athlete should ever stop improving. When the opportunity to increase their level of physical skill passes, an athlete can work on the mental side of the game.

Self-actualization demands continuous learning and I endeavour to learn more from other sports over the summer. There are many excellent resources and it is simply a matter of locating them, reflecting, and adapting them to the appropriate sport.

Managing My Life by Alex Ferguson another example of a thoughtful and persistent triumph. The Manchester United manager experienced a mixed bag of success and failure as a player and rose through the coaching ranks steadily. He was almost sacked as manager at Old Traffold a couple of times but persisted and attained the level of elite achievement where he resides currently.

In his mind, one of the integral components of his philosophy is his tendency to deconstruct every failure and learn what could be done better. Another tenant is the belief that no player, manager, or club should be satisfied with less than their best. Ferguson’s coaching career is forty years of learning from masters, treating others how he would want to be treated (sometimes a professional, sometimes a person), and continually moving forwards. He is a role model for all sorts of coaches and managers. Even his offensive strategy for soccer, based on rhythm and ball possession, contains elements that could influence a basketball coach.

Ferguson’s work the most eloquent book about sport that I have read. It shatters the stereotype that jocks must be dumb and challenges other athletes and coaches to do better. There is never any reason not to communicate in a dignified and respectful fashion.

I am also scheduled to read Scotty Bowman: A Life in Hockey, Inner Skiing by W. Timothy Gallwey and Robert Kriegel, and Football Scouting Methods by Steve Belichick because they emphasize sound coaching, mental training, and game preparation respectively. In the month of August, when I work on Task 4: Nutrition and other units at the National Coaching Institute, I hope to base my work on a theme such as “What Basketball Can Learn from Other Sports.”