Thursday, September 11, 2008

As we mature, we realize we can't do it all on our own

You may have seen where 21-year-old Scottish tennis star Andy Murray beat No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open the other day.

Murray has been criticized in the past for, as the USA Today put it, "not living up to his talent."

In reading about Murray's win, I came across this column from a newspaper in London that makes an interesting observation about the role maturity plays in an athlete's success:

"Athletes who have a languid, take-it-as-it-comes approach to maturity are seldom to be numbered among the achievers. If a male is to become a serious winner in sport, he has to reach manhood at the earliest possible opportunity."

Is it a coincidence that Paul Pierce won his first NBA title at the age of 30? Or that his teammates, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, at 33 and 32, respectively, just won their first titles? I think their maturity really manifested itself in how they played this past season.

In the words of former Celtics great Satch Sanders:

"All of those guys are mature because many players start to mature around 30 and realize they can’t do it on their own."

This realization -- that we can't do it all on our own -- is one reason why mature players often find more success (i.e., win championships) as they get older. But there are other reasons, as this author points out:

"Success in sport is very similar to success in other areas of life. You need the necessary skill, be they physical or mental, and knowledge. Successful people also have that general attribute called ‘maturity.’ Often maturity develops as a person ages and gains experience.

However, maturity does not always equal experience. There are many older athletes who are making the same mistakes they made 10 years ago. Conversely, there are young athletes who display maturity beyond their years.

Mature athletes do not try to be like others or waste time comparing themselves to others. They accept themselves for the person they are and strive to develop to the very best of their own ability. They take up the challenge to bring the best out of themselves.

Mature athletes place more emphasis on self-comparison than social comparison. And develop skills in self-monitoring. The more you understand yourself the more effectively you can plan and take action.

Mature athletes are careful to be rational in their beliefs. For example, instead of perfection they believe in their commitment to strive to achieve the highest standard possible. Whether instinctively or learned, they identify irrational thoughts and effectively change them to more rational, productive thoughts. They regularly check and adjust their beliefs and thoughts."