American sports psychologist, Jim Loehr writes regularly for Tennis Magazine. This piece by him, known as 'Loehr's Laws', was written specifically for Tennis players in the September 1995 issue of Tennis Magazine, but has been adapted by me to suit all sports. I am sure it will benefit young sportspersons who want to make a mark in any game, at any level.
Here goes -
1. Learn to love the game: To reach your ultimate level in any game you've got to learn to love it all; the grinding, the pushing, the struggle. Jimmy Connors, for example, had a love affair with competition. A great sportsperson never gives up. He has to be an optimist in the most trying of circumstances and has to constantly look for the escape route that the opponent will allow him to win the competition.
2. Toughness prevails over talent every time: Steve Waugh and Rahul Dravid aren't the most technically correct batsmen in the world. But they have hearts of iron. Under pressure, you can bet your last rupee that these batsmen will come good. Talent will take you towards the top, but it takes toughness to go all the way.
3. Your behaviour in the non-playing time will make or break you: Only 25-50% of time is actually spent in play in Tennis. In many other games it is lesser still. A batsman facing Brett Lee, for example, has hardly half a second to play a shot - offensive or defensive - to his delivery. He then has to wait for almost another minute before Lee runs in and bowls the next ball. During this time, if you have self-doubts, your batting will be adversely affected. Great players like Sachin and Lara forget the last delivery, reinforce belief in their batting ability and concentrate on the next delivery.
4. It's never too late to get tough: No matter how tough you already are, you can become even tougher. And the higher you go in your game, the tougher you will have to get. Mental toughness is a forever battle.
5. Everything is connected to everything else: What happens in your personal life have a profound effect on your performance during competition. Learning to control the emotional storms of life away from the game is one of the greatest challenges for sportsmen. Fred Trueman, the great England fast bowler, once had a tiff with his wife on the eve of a test match. He drove away in a huff to the ground, slept in his car in the parking area overnight, and then went on to claim five wickets on the first day of the test match. That's professional toughness for you!