Mind and body work in sync
It was a real special treat to be at the Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal “Match in Africa” charity event in Cape Town last weekend, where by the way, a world record of 51 954 attendees for a tennis match was set. To put this in context, the venues staging the biggest matches at the Grand Slam tournaments house “only” between 16 000 and 23 000 spectators.
Federer is 38 years old and in any sporting terms that is quite an age to still be playing and still be winning titles at the highest level, but one must ask the question: How is this even possible that he is competing at his age and at a level that few can compete?
Anyone in their mid-30’s will testify to the fact that it is harder to get out of bed in the morning after a hard training session and it takes twice as long to recover on all levels than in one’s 20s. Recovering faster has a massive advantage in competing against other players. The faster your recovery, the harder you can push at the next training session and then the easier it becomes to repeat.
Watching Federer answer questions during his interviews, I noticed that he and Nadal are incredibly lean to a point that soccer players are even bigger in size than they are. Their bodies are ripped and can generate incredible amounts of power with precision. When you start looking a little closer then a trend begins to emerge.
In rugby you see the same pattern and the sport demands that you have the strength, size and power capacity to tackle, get tackled and survive the battle grounds.
You don’t see too many bulky “rugby type” soccer players running around at pro level either because of the vast amount of distance at high intensity they must cover.
Would Federer make a great rugby player if he had good skillsets? The opinion would be that he could be average, but he would not have the right package combination to play at a high level. Federer, at his age, has the package and a tactical mind that allows him to play tennis at the highest level.
I often get asked: “what sports should my child play based on his current size, height and weight?” Don’t be fooled by people predicting if your son or daughter will make it one day or what sport they will excel in. There are just too many variables that play a role in an athlete becoming successful.
What you can work on is what genetic your family has now and what your grandparents had and also their grandparents. If your family is 5ft 4in on average, don’t expect to be a 7 ft giant in your basketball team. You might be slightly above average for your family’s height, but you are still going to be too short.
Your frame links are also party to your genetics. There are always exceptions to the rule, but if you look at a family of Kenyan marathon runners, more than likely most of their frames will be the same, lean and efficient. It is not to say you will never become a great wing in rugby but rather saying that you need to choose sports that better fit your profile.
In sports which are better suited to your frame, you will find a child performs better at it naturally because their framework supports the outcome. If you asked a bodybuilder to run a marathon, more than likely they fall apart after a few kilometres. Their frame is not suited for a marathon nor is it suited to play rugby. They are too big and true athletes are able to use their mass efficiently for their sport.
Rather allow your child to experience all sports from very young but first start off with the ones they would naturally excel in better. Don’t deny them opportunities in other sports because you think they might not be good at it or too small for it. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes and just maybe they are the missing link to the puzzle for their team.
Also don’t specialise too early in any sport since this will guarantee you injuries later in the years. Different sports help balance athletes both mentally and physically. When you get past the puberty phase then you can start thinking of specialising.
Federer mentioned that he no longer plays table tennis or sports that will affect his health and wellness in tennis. He purely focuses on things that will make him better. He went on to say, that when he retires then he will continue to do all the things he has put on the shelf.
Age is just a number, if you look after your body as well as Federer does and even Christiano Ronaldo for that matter, your body will treat you right back. Abuse your body and understand that your body will torment you with injuries and poor performances.