No matter where you are on the racquet sport spectrum, now that pickleball is part of the vernacular, the Grand Slam tennis championship being played at Flushing Meadows is one of the hottest tickets in New York City. Tennis reigns supreme again in September in the hottest media market in the U.S. and for millions of TV viewers. With it, the parade of brands and the fandom.
For two weeks, we are empowered to choose personal favorites and act as (armchair) umpires. Just like with any other pro games, we can be highly critical of our picks, as if we could do better. And yet, we could do more for ourselves by learning from these top athletes. These lessons can apply to brands as much as to everyday professional or personal life.
There are no shortcuts to success
Whether it’s the Williams sisters, Frances Tiafoe, or Novak Djokovic, hard work is the constant in their high performance — and no amount of luck or talent can make up for lack of practice. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good,” as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers: The Story of Success, which claimed that the key to achieving high performance is a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours. Successful people make it look easy, since we only see them when they perform. This applies even to our newest celebrities, digital creators. Mega-successful YouTuber MrBeast, who has the highest following in the world, has spoken about “the grind mode” of working non-stop on his content. Making it look easy is hard work.
Learn from the pros
The year-round tennis season is a grueling one for most pros, who constantly chase ranking points by traveling to play as many tournaments as they can, at great expense, all around the world. This in addition to training several hours a day on the court, as well as disciplined regimens of off-the-court strength exercises. Even the world’s number one singles player, Carlos Alcaraz, follows an intense regimen of on and off-the-court training. While he was referred to as a Ferrari when he was initially discovered in his junior days, coaches decided he had much to improve in terms of physical strength and speed. His coaches have said that they “remind him every day is like a brick that he has to add as best as possible,” so that “the wall he is building is perfect and none of the bricks are misplaced during his daily work.” Luckily, for most of us normal people, no such schedule is required — but any extra hour put towards a project, or a goal, is a good investment in success. Commitment, discipline, mental toughness and goal-setting are some of the same elements that make up leadership.
There are Second Acts
It’s never too late to stage a comeback of some kind. Stopping a workout routine can lead to loss of muscle strength in both professional and amateur athletes in about 3 weeks, not to mention the range of strokes. For women taking longer absences in order to give birth to children, making a comeback could be that much harder. And yet, the trend this year in tennis has been several successful comebacks for top singles players like Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, and of course Serena Williams. Some years ago these mothers would have stayed retired, but the professional women’s tour has made some changes to allow new mothers an easier way back into rankings. Also, because top athletes are in better physical shape than before, their recovery is swifter. And our society is much more encouraging of a can-do attitude for women athletes. But it takes that much more of an effort to balance motherhood with the physical and mental requirements of a demanding sport: ‘After all, playing at a Grand Slam event isn’t exactly like doing a dance on TikTok,’ Wozniacki told Forbes. ‘You can’t simply jump back on the court and expect the same results after a three-year absence. The opponents, you know, are pretty darn good.’ Lilly Pulitzer is one surprising brand comeback. The 60-year-old company, once popular with the Palm Beach socialite set, has gained a gold on the Generation Z obsession with the preppy style. The brand has doubled down on influencer marketing, a smart tactic, given that young people are influenced more by TikTok than word of mouth, according to Business Insider. The Pulitzer label has worked hard for years to connect with and attract younger audiences. It just goes to show that brands and people can become relevant again.
Show Up to Play
Tailgating is a lot of fun, and hotdogs taste best at the stadium, but going out to play a game — any game – takes courage. Showing up to play may take you out of your comfort zone, but it may be a game changer for your team, your career, or your brand. It takes initiative, planning, and even creativity to work out an action plan. Who knows? You may discover your next passion or improve on something you already really like doing. You may even inspire someone else.