What Parents Can Learn From Federer's Mental Attributes...

 

 

With Federer serving at 2 sets down, 3-3, 0-40 against Cilic I’d resigned myself to having seen the last of his Grand Slam runs. ‘Father time was finally having its way’ my mind was saying. But of course I should have known better…

After all, perhaps because of his physical genius, Federer’s mental prowess has always seemed undervalued.

That he was able to perform perhaps his greatest, most important escape act, this late in his career, once again serves as a strong reminder of how great a competitor he has been, and still is.

And it got me reflecting on his greatest career mental traits, and what parents can learn from this…

For me, yesterday’s quarter-final match was a snapshot of what I believe are his top 3:

1.) Resilience

In summing up the match, John McEnroe said it well, “Everything was going against him and he figured out a way to win.., It’s one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen”.

And if 1 statistic characterizes his resilience, it is this…

In coming back from 2 sets down for the 10th time, Federer equaled the all-time record shared by Aron Krickstein and Boris Becker.

An amazing achievement…

2.) Performing his Best Under Pressure

Federer has always been clutch...but just how clutch even surprised me.

To consider this I reviewed the open era records of some of the world’s best male players in Grand Slam sets that went past 5-5…

And the results?

Federer, along with Raphael Nadal, hold clearly the best career winning % in close Grand Slam sets at 70%...

Djokovic wins 66%...

And the next best I found was Sampras at 63%...

3.) Consistency/Longevity

In beating Cilic, Federer broke the record for the most Grand Slam victories bypassing Martina Navratilova.

He also became the oldest man to get to the Wimbledon semi-finals since Ken Rosewall in 1974.

And the stat that has always been the most astonishing to me is that he went 9 straight years without missing a Grand Slam quarter-final…

Ridiculous!

What Can Tennis Parents Learn From This?

Federer is obviously one of the most physically gifted players to ever play the sport…

But how has he developed these incredible personal qualities that have allowed such resiliency, clutch play, and consistency over time?

Your first response might be that this is innate, or it has come from his many interactions with great coaches…

And if so, you would be correct in part…

But in my opinion, we can also be sure that the MOST important contributant to his incredible competitive attributes has been the millions of helpful communications that his parents, Robert and Lynette, had with him throughout his developing years, on and off the court…

And therefore, I simply can’t stress enough how important the parental role is in how your players will come to compete as they develop…

Yes…just like Federer’s coaches throughout his career would have made an indelible mark on his development, so you play a vital role in your players' mental development…

But in most cases, you won't be as important in shaping your players' developing competitive habits as their parents…

So my strongest advice to you is that if you hope for your child to develop resilience, composure under pressure, and a long-term love affair with the great game of tennis, model your communications on Robert and Lynette Federer…

So what are some of the key foundations that, from the outside, it appears sure that the Federers would have repeatedly communicated to a young Roger Federer?

As far as I can tell from reading interviews with both Roger and his parents, I would summarize their tennis parenting style as one indicative of what in psychology is called Self-Determination Theory…

In Self-Determination Theory based parenting, there are 3 basic guiding principles…

I like to think of these as what parents can communicate before participation, surrounding participation, and after participation.

Before Participation- Promote Autonomy

First, what is called autonomy is the parenting tendency to allow children to make their own choices and decisions at appropriate developmental stages within appropriate behavioural limits.

In Federer’s case, it is absolutely clear that he decided to play the game and try to excel in it because he loved it (which also would have been encouraged by his parents love of the game).

He was in complete control of his destiny…with his parents providing incredible support along the way.

Surrounding Participation- Promote Competence

Once children have made their participation choices with your support, competence describes the parenting tendency to encourage participation experiences that promote growth and also the tendency to focus on the positives/strengths to do with those experiences.

This tendency encourages children to challenge themselves, to go after the joy that comes with achieving things, and to develop vital self-belief.

Once again, it is clear that Robert and Lynette Federer promoted Roger’s competence superbly…

After Participation- Relatedness

Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose…

It is your reaction to your child’s wins and losses that describes the concept of relatedness.

If over time, your reactions to your child’s losses communicates to him/her that he/she is just as worthy as when he/she loses, you are promoting relatedness.

It is the most powerful parental long-term mental toughness promoter of all because it is the very key that allows children to feel safe enough to put it all on the line and compete their hardest in the already pressure filled world of sports, and know that they can handle the difficult feelings that come with losing.

It is obvious in watching Federer compete that his parents communicated relatedness successfully based on his recent quote when questioned about losing more often than he used to…

Federer responded by saying:

“I’ve heard retirement talk since 2009 when I won the French Open and people were like, well, what else are you playing for? I’m like, what’s wrong with you people? Don’t you understand that playing tennis is great fun? I don’t need to win three slams a year to be content. If the body doesn’t want to do it, if the mind doesn’t want to do it, if my wife doesn’t want me to do it, if my kids don’t like it, I’ll stop tomorrow. Zero problem. But I love tennis in such a big way that I don’t care if I don’t win so much any more. For me that is irrelevant.'

And it is, of course, the very fact that to him winning is not the most important thing, that has allowed him to win so much…

And for that mindset he can thank, in large part, his parents…

Would you like access to our 3C Parenting Formula based on the self-determination framework? If so, You Can Get It Here...

Would you like to know more about the services we offer to help you improve your players'/your child's/your own  mental toughness?

YES PLEASE...