I attended the final match of the International Tennis Championship in Delray Beach, Florida, last sunday, where 18 year old qualifier Kei Nishikori from Japan upset James Blake, the 12th ranked player in the world. Blake gave the crowd a lesson in world class mental toughness, yet the the lesson seemed lost on most. The Palm Beach Post ran the story of the match the next day scolding Blake for not being more emotional. This is another classic example of how the masses don’t understand mental toughness and world class thinking. The message sent to thousands of teenage athletes was getting angry is the answer to high performance. Not only is this ridiculous, it’s irresponsible. This got under my skin so much I had to wait two days to record this post! I’ll look forward to your comments. ( 5:44 )
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.
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4 thoughts on “Professional Tennis Champion James Blake gives the world a lesson in mental toughness the masses don’t understand”
Steve — I totally agree with you. James Blake is a class act. He truly knows the importance of life (since he was near death) and understands that sometimes it is someone else who is ‘in the zone’ and he respects it — no excuses.
He continues to exemplify a ‘great sport’ and understands “the way an athlete thinks about winning and competition” – he rocks!!
Focus and concentration, conserving and accumulating energy to expend in precise movement both mental and physical, requires control. IF emotion can be controlled into focused concentration the effect will be additional power. If emotion cannot be controlled and turned into focused concentration power will be weakened.
When power is weaked intent, accuracy, response time, appropriate execution, are diminished greatly and often to the point of loss of control.
One can be totally passionate and connected to the emotions of passion yet not be adversly effected by those emotions when they are focused and concentrated in disciplined behavior that is body, spirit and mind balanced and dynamically integrated into the whole.
Excellent topic, Steve! Thanks!
no, staying calm under pressure is just one apsect of mental toughness, but it’s critical in a fine motor skill sport like tennis where a tiny bit of extra muscle tension can make the all the difference in the world. You reference John McEnroe as someone who used the emotion of anger to play better, and you’re absolutley correct. It worked for him, and for the great Jimmy Connors. These people are exceptions to the rule. There are very few. James Blake is NOT one of them. He’s worked incredibly hard to discipline and control his emotions, and he’s done a wonderful job. Very few people understand the fire that burns inside a world class athlete. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s what drives them to practice for 15-20 years without any payoff. And as long as that emotional fire is harnessed, it’s a blessing. When it turns to anger, it can destroy an athletes career. I’m honestly not worried about James Blake, because he’s smart enough to ignore the press and the masses who don’t get it. My concern is for the kids coming up and reading nonsense like this in the paper and on the Internet and believing it.
Thanks so much for your comment and question.
I can see why that getting angry would help a sports person to achieve more and I see your point. You could loose because you got angry. Is there nothing James could have tried? McEnroe used anger to distract his opponent and that worked more often than not. Is mental toughness just about staying calm?
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