Anyone in Great Britain who is at all interested in tennis, at some point over the last few years, will have spent time riding the rollercoaster that is the emotional journey of being a Murray supporter!
We have shared his desire to win… and have appointed ourselves as the expert coaches he never had, offering him advice from our sofas (or the hallowed grassy mound). I wonder how many of our collective suggestions for him over the years, were less about his tennis technique, and more about his battle with mind and emotions? We have seen how he has, in the past, been very up and how quickly he got very down. We know so well, the link between a lost point that ushered in a verbal outburst, which expressed the anger, frustration, annoyance, self-berating, which were illustrated by the frown or grimace, which affected the concentration, which led to another lost point(s).
We have watched Murray’s support team in his box, jump to the moon on won points, and shake fists of energy and encouragement and focus when he is wobbling. The thing is, in watching them over the years, I have often felt the effort they are putting in to mask their own frowns (that match his); they really try hard not to show their own negative emotions, but somehow I have had the sense they were feeling as down as he was. The Murray box of key supporters have struggled with their own emotional journeys…
…and it has been like a mirror to what is going on on court. The one area of court where all armchair experts long to see Andy Murray triumph, is his emotional responses. In taking control of his inner roller coaster, we know he will have more time in ‘the fruitful zone’… which no doubt will lead to that longed-for Slam Title (which the armchair experts -and possibly the entire nation – will obviously share in).
And now things are looking different. There is a different feeling in the box-team, and a difference starting to appear on court. Lendl is someone Andy Murray really respects. He wants his help. His opinion matters. And Lendl is there for him.
One thing this coach is clearly great at is MODELLING HOW to BE emotionally. It is not that he is not interested, not caring or doesn’t actually know how to smile – but just that he knows during a match Murray needs to find his still place and the best way to help him get there is to stay in his own.
It was fascinating to watch at Wimbledon this year, and made me think about how children need emotional role models. How they so often look to the adults they trust and respect to take the emotional lead on something they are not sure about. And more significantly how often babies, toddlers and children of all ages subconsiously pick up the same emotional state as those key adults we are around.
Babies around stressed adults learn to be anxious. Toddlers living with emotionally unpredictable adults learn to be unsure. Children around anxious parents learn to be scared. They are barometers, no words are necessary, they will detect the vibes and will often use their behaviour to indicate whether things are ok with everyone in their world, or not.
If we want to really nurture the emotional wellbeing of the people we are around, we must first take an honest look at our own emotional state… and it’s not just for children – as Murray would tell you, it goes for grown ups too!