When Melanie Oudin entered the 2009 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York, she took the court with her custom Adidas shoes that simply said “BELIEVE” on each one. The word can be found in every facet of one’s life, and it is a very powerful word indeed. For Melanie, her belief in 2009 pushed her to a career high ranking of #31 in the world on the WTA, taking her to the round of 16 at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open that same year. Carrying the momentum of “BELIEVE” into the following year, Melanie won the 2010 U.S. Open mixed doubles Championship with Jack Sock.
Believing is a phenomenon that happens from within, it’s a driving force originating in the mind and executed with the heart. No matter how talented or how hard and intense the training on and off the court, a player will be unable to sustain and build a champion mindset and winning career or life without belief. Champions train with relentless effort physically on and off the court, mastering patterns of play and perfecting their strengths and weapons. This part of becoming a Champion goes far beyond all that hard work physically, you must train your emotions (body language and self-talk) as well as your mental powers of “BELIEVE”. Belief is not something you can teach, it’s something that must be lived out by the coach in the presence of players. Belief is imparted to a player through a passionate, well-designed creative environment with exceptional character as the engine. With Melanie, putting that 7 letter word on her custom Adidas, it became an outward expression of her heart’s desire, believing became much more than a 7 letter word at that moment – it was the very embodiment of her passion to rise above the odds and seize the moment.
When Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, #1 and #2 in the world, walk out on the court – you can be sure they “BELIEVE”. They believe in their training, they believe in their plan, they believe they can execute and therefore believe in seizing that moment in front of them. Yes, you bet they believe – and that’s why they are still at the top of the ATP.
There is no room for doubt in the mind of a Champion, let’s look at Rafa Nadal so far this year. The #1 thing today that is written about Rafa in the magazines, the newspaper, the internet is “He’s lost his confidence.” Well, that’s a loss in “BELIEVE”. There is no doubt in my mind that Rafa will rebound, and the 2015 French Open is just the place to release his belief on court again. He’s won the French Open a record 9 times! I’m fairly confident to proclaim that Rafa believes he can and will win #10, this year is as good as any. With all his physical struggles the past couple of years, his emotional and mental set backs, Rafa’s time is now – will he rise up and seize his moment of “BELIEVE”? That is the question – it’s not about whether he’s physically capable or whether Rafa possesses the intestinal fortitude to accomplish such a daunting feat. To “BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE”, that truly is the question. I’ll say this, I believe he will do it – we’ll see. Maybe Rafa should think about engraving “BELIEVE” on those Nike shoes, or at the least burn it into his fiery heart – VAMOS!!
“Champions are made, not born” – this is a common phrase repeated among the most elite coaches in the world. An intense, consistent training culture where players have the opportunity to thrive and become these Champions is everything. As Nick Saviano said, “The best way to develop Champions is to have this type of training environment.” I would add to Nick, it’s the only way and must include “BELIEVE” in it’s DNA. I’ve decided after writing this blog on believe, that I’m going to make a banner and hang it on court for all my players to see and experience as they train and compete. The late Vic Braden hung a banner at his tennis training center that read “The Mistake Center” – mainly to drive home the point of making “new” mistakes every time you train because it spurred on learning, discovery, and growth. That 7 letter word of “BELIEVE” inspires the idea of being fully convinced, trusting in the confidence of your ability and even sometimes beyond yourself – a sort of destiny where you are suppose to overcome the odds. This is what Rafa needs again to overcome and regain his confidence, what Melanie should look towards and revisit, as well as what every player needs to thrive as a Champion on and off the court.
Styrling Strother is the Director of USATENNISCOACH, a coaching program designed to assist and inspire tennis coaches around the globe to develop creative intelligent training environments for player development where Champions are made within the culture as they train hard and believe. #ChampionsWorkHarder #Believe