Monday, July 8, 2013

In praise of mentors

Sometimes, a coach is enough. But sometimes, a player needs an extra boost from someone who is not a coach, but a mentor. Marion Bartoli, who just won Wimbledon, is an example. She engaged 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo to advise her, and what Mauresmo did--to put it in simple terms--was to tell Bartoli to lighten up and chill out. So instead of doing drills before the final, 2013 Wimbledon champion was singing and dancing in the locker room. It may have been exactly what she needed.

Consider Kirsten Flipkens. Her career was almost ruined by injury and illness, and--she says--almost everyone gave up on her. But not longtime friend Kim Clijsters. After Flipkens suffered a blood clot scare, Clijsters took it upon herself to become a mentor and advisor. Flipkens' career turned around almost instantly, and she made it to the Wimbledon semifinals.

In 2010, Francesca Schiavone asked Italian Fed Cup coach Carrado Barazzutti to accompany her as her coach at the French Open. And while I'm sure his coaching was sound, and then some, there's also reason to believe that Schiavone was clever in attracting a Fed Cup atmosphere to her French Open effort. (More than one of us used to say that at every big event, someone should hit Fed Cup Queen Flavia Pennetta on the head, and when she wakes up, tell her she's at Fed Cup.)  Barazzutti's presence represented a spirit which had led Italy to Fed Cup victory, and from which Schiavone no doubt benefited in Paris.

Martina Navratilova was asked by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario--who "discovered" Svetlana Kuznetsova--to take a look at the talented young Russian. Navritalova made Kuznetsova her doubles partner, and she told her: "I won the U.S. Open, and you can, too!" And she did.

Sometimes a coach is enough. Sometimes, a "mental coach" (the term used by Schiavone for a sports psychologist) is needed. And sometimes, a mentor who comes along at the right time is exactly who a player needs in order to break through to another level.


Eric said...


Loved this post. It's always great to thank mentors. No one makes it to any destination alone.

the lighten up tactic must really work. people have said that lendl does that with murray a lot.

and just from a personal perspective, mentors mean so much. they're so hard to find.

Diane said...

Oh thanks, Eric. It made me laugh, though, to think of Lendl getting someone to lighten up!

Sabey said...

I hope Caroline Wozniacki can learn something from Bartoli's breakthrough. Sometimes, the person who brought you there cannot get you any further.

Diane said...

Maybe spread the word to Petra?

Anonymous said...

When Maria took the title in 2004, her team told her that it was 'too early', 'premature'. That is not helpful at all. If she won, she won, and it was the time for it. Instead, they instilled doubt instead of encouragement and a 'let's go for it and win everything' attitude.
The same has happened to Petra. Kotyza must be replaced. Petra has lost confidence, has been confused by not being allowed to play her game (go for it at the earliest opening), and who knows what else. Losing match after match in which she was up a third set break is ridiculous, given her abilities. I'm with Sabey. The person who brought you there cannot get you any further.