In my newsletter this month, I wanted to share some lessons learned from one of my amazing athletes that I have worked with for the last 16 years. What a journey it has been. Rewind back to 2006 and I was in Tokyo doing some coach education workshops and was asked to look at their wheelchair players. Little did I know that would be the beginning of an incredible journey with Shingo Kunieda, who just retired as World Number 1 Men’s Wheelchair Tennis Player and the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). In the space of 16 years, he won 50 Grand Slams, 6 Paralympic Medals, including 4 Gold and finished the year as World Number 1, a remarkable, ten times. Here are some lessons we can all learn from such a great champion.
LESSONS FROM A GOAT
Right from the start, Shingo knew exactly what he wanted to achieve. He asked me on the very first day after the session, if I thought he had the potential to be # 1 in the world! He wanted to be Invincible! Clearly he achieved that! When we have clarity and big dreams, those dreams lift us up and drive us forward. They ignite us and they excite us, so the lesson here is to dream bigger than you even believe.
FOCUS ON THE DETAILS
It is one thing to get clear on the final destination. Then it is important to break your big goals into smaller manageable tasks. We had goals for all his strokes, every component of his fitness and mental game and his movement, as well as nutrition and recovery. There was no stone left unturned, even his sleep patterns and injury prevention and management too were apart of that. When you are super clear on exactly everything you have to do, then it is easy to get to work with a clear plan. Rome was not built in a day. It takes time, hard work, commitment and consistency of actions day in and day out. What details do you need to focus on right now?
SPEAK WITH PASSION
“I am Invincible” was Shingo’s Success Statement from day one. He totally embodied this. He lived it. He said it with passion. He got in state. That was not always easy to do. It takes hard work and courage, commitment and consistency to do this daily and with every part of your physiology and with passion and intensity. Shingo even had signs all around him to remind him too – so he could be truly invincible. I encourage you to come up with your own statement too. It does not matter if you do not believe it right now. Our minds do not know the difference. It is what you feed it.
SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT
Part of Shingo’s training was to visualise exactly how he wanted to play, as well as specific techniques and strategies. Everything starts in our mind. You have to see it first to believe it and be it. What do you need to start seeing in your life to create your dream?
NEVER GIVE UP
It was not always smooth sailing. There were times when he was out for months and numerous operations that meant he could not even train or compete. There were times when he even lost belief in himself and doubted he could keep going, however champions never give up. They ask great questions. They find a way. They don’t take ‘no or it is not possible’ for an answer. They follow their hearts and dig deep and keep focused on their goals. Back in 2021 when he lost first round at Wimbledon, he sought out the advice from one of the all time greats on grass – Roger Federer and came back to win it the following year. Winners find a way and never give up.
THE POWER OF OUR MINDS ARE INCREDIBLE
I will never forget Shingo’s exhaustion after winning the Gold Medal in Japan. He had endless hours of interviews after that and then had to fly straight to New York for the US Open. Changing time zones, court surfaces, temperatures, conditions, food and so many other things is exhausting in itself and he simply could not even sleep with the big change in time zone too. Champions find a way. They change their state. They see it. They speak passionately to themselves. They go within and trust their inner strength and they never stop believing. Yes – he did go on and win his 8th US Open less than a week later. Never underestimate how strong you really are.
ROUTINES FOR SUCCESS
Shingo was meticulous when it came to doing routines. They are actually easy to do and easy not to do! Therein lies the key to his success – he was consistent with his routines both on the court for every point and off the court, in his preparation, in his recovery and even in what he ate and how he traveled and prepared for every match and tournament. What routines can you add to your day to set you up for success?
When all the hard work and training has been done, it is time to simply trust yourself. Easy to say, but hard to do! It comes from doing everything possible, from giving it your all, from leaving no stone unturned and simply relaxing and trusting in you. Anything is possible to those that know and trust within. Everything you need is already inside of you.
Shingo always had a great team and support system around him from his wife, his coach, his physio and trainer, his manager and me! Surround yourself with positive people who always believe in you and support you through the good times and the tough ones as there are plenty of those along the journey. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Congratulations to Shingo on his Extraordinary career. I am so proud and honored to have shared this journey with him from his 1st Grand Slam at the Australian Open to his 50th Grand Slam at Wimbledon last year. He is a true champion on and off the court and a wonderful ambassador for tennis. I hope you too can take on some of these strategies to help you Be Extraordinary too. If you would like to learn more about how to be a champion yourself in whatever field you are in, please don’t hesitate to contact me for some coaching sessions. Simply hit reply to this email.
Until next time, Be Extraordinary!
Ann Quinn, PhD
Peak Performance Specialist