the heart and soul of a champion


In the domain of high performance practices whether in music, sports, performing arts or any discipline, the pursuit for perfection is an illusion that oftentimes is the hurdle that impedes an individual from reaching Mount Rushmore. As an idealist these individuals fixates on their lack of natural talent in one specific area, i.e. lack of height for athletes in sports like basketball or volleyball, and constantly performs in a mind of an underdog; hence lacking the requisite confidence to excel.

To truly break-free and excel in your chosen field-of-mastery, you must first recognise, confront and accept imperfections. You need to embrace your imperfections and in fact, understand that imperfections are what make you special! Given sound execution of fundamental principles the so-known ‘imperfections’ is personal style! For instance, you don’t go to a musical concert because an artist is perfectly in-tune and is precise with the timing of every note; those are a given. Instead we attend a concert to appreciate the personal style of an artist’s artistic expression that is unique only to that person. In the execution of a master performer he/she are able to communicate their emotions through every sound and bodily movement, and that is the pinnacle of elite performances.

In tennis, Roger Federer does not own the most powerful serve or forehand in the professional tennis circuit, in fact his ability to dominate without brute power is the exact reason we marvel at his brilliance. Instead the world is in awe of Federer’s maestro-like skillset paired with his ability to manoeuvre himself looking like a gazelle dancing gracefully around the court. This is what makes him special! However far before Federer dominated the tennis world and became the great man he is, he would have to confront his ultimate ‘imperfection’; the lack of power. Now, had Federer believed in the deception to make your weakness into your strength he would’ve had spent hours in the weight room trying to make himself more powerful and develop a game like a Rafael Nadal. However, that is simply not him and doing so will be counterintuitive to his game. So instead he would’ve accepted his lack of physical abilities to generate large amount of power, managed it enough so it does not become a performance-limiting factor and focused on developing his tennis gameplay abilities in a way that maximized his chance for success. This acceptance to his limitations is evident during one of Federer’s many fun-filled post-game interviews where he openly admitted how he prefers to use his main rival Nadal in video games to enjoy the luxury of been able to hit smashing baseline forehands during rallies.

For developing athletes this is not a message that you should blatantly accept imperfections and weaknesses in your field-of-mastery and not continue to work hard. Instead your job is to understand and embrace the natural limitations placed upon your physical and/or physiological makeup and when appropriate use it to your advantage and as a means to project your own ‘personal style’. For example, a shorter basketball player should embrace his lack of height and instead realize his lack of stature provides him a lower Center-of-Mass that will allow him to move more swiftly around the basketball court. Hence his/her game should be developed in a way predicated on excellent displays of agility and masterful skillset that a taller player would not be able to replicate, and in turn it becomes his main gameplay advantage.

In closing, young athlete should ask themselves 2 questions:

         i.            What are limitations in my performances?

       ii.            How can I define my own personal style according to these limitations?

Also, please don’t make these decisions and judgments on your own. Instead, seek professional advices, ask your coaching staff for their opinions as these are the questions that needs to be answered as a team.

Neal Wen

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