• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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On Novak Djokovic’s mamba mentality

On Novak Djokovic’s mamba mentality

Everybody wants to be a winner, but many people do not know what it means to win. Winning is simply the end product of hours spent preparing, training, or practising. In sports, athletes have to practise and train for hours in order to get to the finals of any competition. However, on the day of the finals, they have to fight against many factors, including themselves. One might ask why an athlete would or should fight against himself or herself. The simple answer is that self-doubt and low confidence are internal attributes that can make an athlete lose the game before the game.

Fear of losing the game, fear of dealing with a large crowd, and fear of making mistakes are all related to self-doubt. Eventually, the athlete begins to lose the belief that he or she can win. This is the mental battle that athletes must win. However, not all athletes understand the importance of the mental aspect of their game. Some out of ignorance, others out of sheer disregard for the mental abilities that contribute to sports performance. The mental component of performance is vital for both athletes and non-athletes. Making a presentation, negotiating business deals, and dealing with clients and colleagues can all benefit from the mental aspect of performance.

One athlete who has found this important ingredient is Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is a tennis player who has won more Grand Slams than any other tennis player today. The Grand Slam comprises the four major tennis tournaments: Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the US Open, and Roland Garros. In a recent interview, Djokovic talked about his tennis game and how important the mental part is to winning. According to him, although tennis does not involve any physical contact, there are certain cues he is always looking for in the opponent. He talks about the eyes of the opponent, the breathing pattern, how the opponent drinks from his water bottle during breaks, and how much the opponent is sweating. These cues, though physiological, can tell when an opponent is worried, afraid, or concerned about their game and how unsettled they may be.

When athletes are very calm and composed, they sweat, but at a moderate level. Regular sweating is the result of the movement involved in executing the skills for that sport. Proper performance of skills, tactics, and strategies practised before the game is what makes athletes calm and composed. However, when an athlete makes a mistake at the start of the game, they may lose composure and even their cool. Some become aggressive, further aggravating the mistake. This situation is not peculiar to athletes, musical artists, or presenters; students in the exam hall also have experienced losing their composure when they make a mistake early on.

Notwithstanding, a performance that begins with a mistake can be managed. For example, Asa’s rendition of her famous song, There is Fire on the Mountain, had some mix-ups during an event organised by NNPC Limited in 2022. Asa realised that a member of her backup band had started with a tune different from the song she was to perform. Despite this, she remained calm and composed, waiting for the band to tune in with the right instrument. That is a masterclass from a top performer.

Other physiological cues, such as dilated pupils, can tell us if the athlete is confused and can’t concentrate properly. Specifically, when an athlete finds it difficult to focus, they have dilated pupils and pay attention to unnecessary events and areas around them. Such an athlete is bound to make mistakes in skill execution and may even end up with an injury. Confidence can also be seen in the shoulders, head, and neck of the athlete. Athletes who are very confident ensure that their shoulders are straight and high and that they have an erect posture. The head doesn’t assume a drooping posture. On the other hand, an athlete whose confidence is low assumes a languid presentation. The beauty of the mental aspect of performance is that anybody can possess it.

Djokovic has been able to identify the importance of the mental aspect of his performance. He calls them the elements of performance that can affect the game of the tennis player. It is not just enough to be fast, to have muscles, or to be flexible; you must possess the mental tactics, skills, and strategies to be a winner.

Uroh, a sports psychologist, writes from Lagos.