Posts Tagged ‘Tennis’

Using Disrespect to Motivate Yourself and Prove People Wrong

October 5, 2009

In sports, as in life, sometimes when you feel slighted and disrespected, it can give you extra motivation to do well to prove people wrong.

Michael Jordan was famous for it, Brett Favre is going through it now, and I’ve even used it myself for extra incentive.

“It” happens when people underestimate you.

A lot of people were put off by Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech last month, when he recounted many instances when people said he wasn’t good enough.  Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he never forgot it, so he became the greatest player of all time.  Writers said he’d never win a championship, so he won six.

In 1993, LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets scored 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls and supposedly said, “Nice game, Mike.”  Jordan vowed to score 37 points against the Bullets the next game by halftime and he scored 36 by halftime, 47 in all in just 31 minutes.  The funny thing is that Jordan admitted later that Smith never taunted him, but he just made the story up to give him extra motivation.

Now, just hours before Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings takes on his former team, the Green Bay Packers, there’s a lot of talk of revenge.  This is different than the Jordan situation, though.  While the Packers decided to let Favre go a couple of years ago in favor of Aaron Rodgers, it was partly because Favre kept going back and forth and wouldn’t give Green Bay a decision about whether he wanted to come back instead of retire.  When the deadline had passed with Favre deciding to remain retired, the Pack decided to go with Rogers.

Last summer before Favre signed with the New York Jets, it was clear his first choice was to go to Minnesota because they were one of Green Bay’s major rivals.  Favre wanted revenge.  He would like nothing better than to prove the Packers wrong.  But the Packers made the right decision.  Favre broke down at the end of last season, and though he’s having success this year, it’s mainly because he’s on a very good team.  And most football insiders know that Favre takes away as much as he gives, as he has more interceptions than any QB in NFL history (Click on “Quarterbacks” on the right side of the blog to see what I wrote about Favre a year ago).

Still, the idea of proving someone wrong can be very strong, and if you can use it as motivation, more power to you.

You see this most often in sports when an underdog uses disrespect as extra motivation to win.

Three years ago I wrote about why I like working with kids with autism under my first FAQ at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php:

I’ve always loved sports, and I root for the underdog. Anybody who has played sports or been a sports fan knows that when someone says you can’t do something, you love to prove them wrong. I prefer working with the kids who have the most severe disabilities because I love the challenge. One of the things I like most about working with kids with autism is the amount of progress that they have the potential to make.

I remember a time when an autism therapist asked why multiplication should be taught to a child who would never have a reason to use it.  About a year after that, the child mastered triple digit multiplication.

When I tried out for the junior high school tennis team in ninth grade, I was cut from the team.  I made the team the next year in high school, and during my junior and senior seasons I had a combined record of 23 wins and eight losses in doubles.  Then I lettered for four years at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, albeit a small university.  I never forgot that the coach wrongly cut me in ninth grade and put other players on the team ahead of me whom I was better than.

Then in 2000, I signed up to play in a 4.0-level tennis league.  They told me I would play the first match and then I showed up and they said I wasn’t going to play the first match – I would have to watch.  So I went home, cancelled the check, and looked for a 4.5-level (higher level) league.  I found one and won six of the eight matches I played in doubles.  Some tennis board had to decide whether to let me play or not after cancelling the check and writing a new one.  Luckily, they did.

I’m not trying to compare Michael Jordan to me, I’m just saying that proving people wrong can be a powerful motivational tool.

How many times has the media counted someone out?  John Elway can’t win a Super Bowl (he won two).  Peyton Manning can’t win the big one (he won a Super Bowl).  Kobe Bryant can’t win an NBA title without Shaq (he did it last year).

Keep giving people motivation.  Keep saying they can’t do something.  But don’t put limitations on anyone.  I just searched on the word “limit” from the “Autism” category of my blog.  It came up three times:

I quoted from the book “Engaging Autism” by Stanley Greenspan:  “Schools tend to be very structured and to put a high priority on compliance and limit setting, rather than on engaging, interacting, problem-solving, and thinking creatively and logically.”

Then, from “Sports for Children with Autism,” which I wrote last summer:

“I never would have thought hockey would be a great sport for kids with autism because of the need to skate and handle a stick simultaneously, but it turns out that it can be great, and it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put limitations on anyone.”

And finally, this:  “A lot of people are familiar with the amazing story of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who scored 6 three-point baskets in a game for his high school team a few years ago. This type of success doesn’t happen a lot, but it would never happen if too many limitations are put on children who have autism and other disabilities who want to play sports.”

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Local Sports should be Local

August 9, 2009

I have a problem with the order of the sports stories on Channel 4 tonight, read by Dari Noka.  He buried the DC United-Real Madrid soccer game near the bottom.  Real Madrid is one of the most famous teams in the world, the game was local, and 72,000 fans attended.  Then the final story was the Legg Mason Tennis Championship, also in DC, which featuring two of the top six players in the world. The last two items were local, so they should not have been behind an NFL preseason game and a minor golf tournament.

Here’s the rundown of how it went:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  3. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  4. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament
  5. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  6. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC

Here’s how it should have gone:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  3. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC
  4. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  5. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  6. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament

Maybe I should get a life but maybe local sports should be taken more seriously, like back in the day when we had Glenn Brenner, George Michael, and Frank Herzog, not to mention Bernie Smilovitz and Steve Buckhantz, plus good weekend anchors like James Brown.

Ok, I just realized the NFL preseason game was on channel 4 (NBC).  That makes it more understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.  It reminds me of when I worked at Mutual Radio years ago – a minor golf tournament would get a report a minute and 20 seconds long, because it was sponsored, more than twice as much time as was devoted to a Super Bowl report.

Federer the best ever? Not so fast.

July 7, 2009

Yesterday, Liz Clarke wrote an article in the Washington Post about Rod Laver’s opinion on whether Roger Federer is the greatest player of all time.  Laver was non-committal; saying just being the best in his era should be enough for Federer.  Nowhere in the 565-word article does Clarke even mention Pete Sampras’ name.  This is an egregious omission, even though in the main article about the Federer-Roddick match, she did mention Sampras as one of the greats.

She says, “Both names, Laver and Tilden, have long been bandied about in the debate over who is the greatest to play the game. And a third — that of Roger Federer — was listed alongside even before Sunday, when Federer raised the mark for excellence by winning a record 15th major title.”  Stating “a third” without mentioning Sampras, who won 14 major titles, is very misleading – it makes it seem like there are now three great ones on the Mount Rushmore of tennis.

I’m not saying Sampras was better than Federer, but I think it’s premature to say that Federer is undisputedly the greatest just because he has one more major than Pete.  I am saying that Sampras was equally as good as Federer.  Sampras had Andre Agassi as a rival while Federer had Rafael Nadal.  Sampras was 4-1 vs. Agassi in Grand Slam finals while Federer is 2-4 vs. Nadal.  Plus, Nadal has been great for only a few years while Agassi was a top contender for most of Sampras’ career.  Sampras also faced Jim Courier, who had four major wins, whereas during Federer’s era, no one other than Nadal (six) has more than two.

As for their strokes, they are about even.  Neither had a discernable weakness, while Pete’s serve was a little better than Federer’s.  True, Federer won the French Open and Sampras didn’t, but the surface and balls at the French Open have been changed to give non-clay court specialists a better chance to win.

I also take issue with the talking heads at ESPN who automatically agree that Federer is the best without even mentioning that there could be a debate.  Maybe after all is said and done, Federer will have close to 20 majors and it will be more clear, but not just yet.  Just because someone has more Grand Slam titles than another player doesn’t make him better.  Agassi won eight and John McEnroe won seven.  Agassi also won all four majors and Mac didn’t.  Does that alone make Agassi better than McEnroe?  Not necessarily.  For what it’s worth, McEnroe also won 9 doubles majors.  McEnroe was also much more dominant than Agassi. True, Fed has been more dominant than Sampras, but the field isn’t as good.

By the way, Bjorn Borg should also be in the discussion, though my personal opinion is that his game was too one-dimensional as a baseliner to be considered the best.  Still, he had 11 Grand Slam titles, and he won all of them on the two most diverse surfaces:  five on grass at Wimbledon, and six on clay at the French Open.  Plus, during Borg’s era he had to play against McEnroe, Connors (eight majors), and Guillermo Vilas (four).

A lot of people think Martina Navratilova was the best female player ever even though Steffi Graf had 22 Grand Slam wins and Navratilova had 18 and Chris Evert also had 18.  I personally believe Graf was the best, but the point is, why do people automatically assume that Federer is the best just because he has the most majors, while most media types would say Martina was the best female player, so they use different criteria for women?

Back to the talking heads – Today on Pardon the Interruption, Mike Wilbon said that there was absolutely no debate that Tiger Woods is a better athlete than Federer.  Really?  Tiger walks a course and hits a stationary ball.  Federer is constantly moving for hours at a time and he needs to make a lot of quick movements in a split second.  He faced serves against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon that were up to 140 miles per hour.

It’s not even a debate.  Tennis players are much better athletes than golfers.  Would Tiger be able to move on the court like Federer?  No way.  You can be out of shape and still succeed at golf, but you need to be fit to play tennis.  Tiger may be a great athlete, but don’t say he’s unquestionably a better athlete than Federer.

Best Tennis Player Ever: Sampras or Federer?

December 4, 2008

Roger Federer is often called the greatest tennis player of all time.  Federer is only 27 years old, and with 13 Grand Slam titles, so he almost certainly will break Pete Sampras’ record of 14.  What bothers me is that Federer’s dominance of the sport over the last few years has people claiming he is the greatest player of all-time.  Why are people so quick to say that whoever is on top today is the best, forgetting about yesterday?  All I’m saying, is give Pete a chance.  Sampras won 7 Wimbledons; Federer has 5.  Neither won the French Open.  Both players had a great rivalry – Sampras had Andre Agassi and Federer had Rafael Nadal.  However, Sampras was 4-1 vs. Agassi in Grand Slam finals while Federer is 2-4 so far vs. Nadal in finals.  The two players’ careers were remarkably similar, but Pete still has the most Grand Slam titles.  So you can say Federer is a truly great champion but at least say Sampras was just as great.