The Secret of Andy Murray’s Magic Year

Sunday 14th July 2013


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Now, what can you learn from Andy Murray’s phenomenal success, and how can you apply it in your life? I was asked to write an article about this question for The Best You magazine. This is the article……

On the 7th July 2013 Andy Murray won the Wimbledon Championships, one of tennis’ four Grand Slams. He was the first British to win this event for 77 years. Even so, this result was not so surprising. After all, he was the number 2 seed.

The surprise was what a change a year can make. The picture one year ago looked completely different. Murray had not won a single Grand Slam, despite being consistently ranked as one of the world’s top four players. He had reached the finals on four occasions, lost each one, and had only won one set from the thirteen played.

Murray was openly regarded as a ‘choker’, a player who went to pieces in the most important matches. You did not need to be a mind coach to know that Murray’s problems were largely in his head. Yet he stubbornly refused to recognise this fact, let alone do anything about it. Or did he?

Murray certainly did do something, because in the last year he has won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, won his first Grand Slam (US Open), and now Wimbledon. So what has changed?

Murray found a new coach, Ivan Lendl, an enigmatic, tough, single-minded former tennis player who won eight grand slams. Interestingly, he too was regarded as a ‘choker’, and lost his first four finals too. Murray is a strategist, picks his team carefully, and has stayed loyal to his four man team of fitness conditioners, physiotherapist, and travelling adviser. He has not shown the same commitment to his succession of different coaches, at least not until now.

Lendl was the right man at the right time, he was somebody who Murray could respect.

 ‘I think he’s always been very honest with me. He’s always told me exactly what he thought. And in tennis it’s not always easy to do that in a player-coach relationship. The player is the one in charge, and I think sometimes coaches are not comfortable doing that.’

So what was Lendl’s secret in unlocking Murray’s potential? Apparently it was not rocket science.

 ‘The main thing I’ve learnt from him is to be stable on court and not so emotional. He makes sure that I never get too up, that I never get too down.’

This may not be rocket science, but almost every top athlete and mind coach will say much the same thing. They will describe it as mindfulness, staying in the present, letting go, getting out of their own way, and neutral thinking. These are not new ideas either, they have been around since the dawn of civilisation.

However, they are not easy skills to acquire. Indeed they can only be learnt the hard way. Just as world 100 metres champion Usain Bolt had to learn the hard way too.

 ‘You have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win.’

So why do you need a coach? Because you never listen to your own voice in your head, even when it is right. We all need a coach, somebody we respect, somebody who does not pull punches, somebody who will shake us out of our comfort zone.

Pick the right coach, the one who will explain what you need to know, not what you want to hear. A coach who understands that peak performance demands the exquisite balance of physical, technical, mental and spiritual qualities.

So who is your coach?