The perils of being talented

Twenty-one-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios is in his tennis match. He is ready to serve.... The crowd is dead silent. Instead of a vicious serve, he hits the ball with a lob to his opponent Mischa Zverev. The ball moves agonizingly slowly toward his bewildered opponent. Nick does not wait for the return, before his German opponent can hit back Nick runs to his chair. He deliberately loses this match. Are we witnessing a unique sporting moment? No, unfortunately, losing on purpose really is much more common. 

Why do players do that?

Bam, another ball flies over the net. Hours of training to perfect their serve. Talented players have great strength and technique from an early age. They stand head and shoulders above the rest. But some talented players also lack self-confidence. They don't know if they are going to make it, they have doubts. But one thing is certain, they have talent. The only thing they don't want to lose is that...

What happens to an incredibly talented player who loses to someone without talent? Maybe you don't have that much talent. That's the worst thing that can happen to you and you don't take that risk as a player. You'd rather give up, at least then you can say, “I didn't even try. That's what they do! Then it wasn't because of their talent but because of a lack of commitment.

As a coach, you naturally want to know why they act this way and how to change this behavior. In the documentary “the Playbook,” successful tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou reveals his strategy for players who throw matches. He explains that he does not get angry, which has been his primary reaction in the past. He has come to realize that giving them attention and respect does provide the solution. You have to make them feel that you will never leave their side. Intense conversations with players showed that it is out of fear; they don't want to lose the one thing that matters to them: their talent. 

Because of his approach, his talents never lost a game again due to lack of commitment. This phenomenon of losing on purpose is not only seen in tennis talents; talented students or employees also struggle with it. As a coach, teacher or manager, you can help these talents through their barrier so that they will realize their dreams. 

PS: Bateson's Logical Levels are very helpful in this common situation where people don't know how to get everything out. 

Ruud Olijve

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