does Andy Murray try too hard?
I am a massive fan of Andy Murray. He is a phenomenally talented sportsman, and for work ethic, determination and sheer effort he's a role model and inspiration to any athlete in any sport. He also seems like a top bloke, modest, down to earth, and grounded.
The notes in this photograph caught my interest this week. Murray had them at his QF match vs Gilles Simon at the Rotterdam Open (he lost). A Dutch journalist found them and tweeted them.
I suppose there are a number of things that they brought to mind. First is that it is great that Murray is taking this kind of approach, giving thought not just to the technical and strategic aspects of his game, but also to his psychological gameplan. Obviously it didn't lead to a good performance in this particular match, but it is a good sign, and much needed in my view.
I wonder how new this is, and if this is something that Mauresmo has been encouraging more of in him or whether Murray has driven this himself? It's obvious that Murray hasn't had a robust enough approach to this aspect of his game - if anyone in his sport could use a good psychologist, it's him. I know he'd consulted someone under Lendl, and perhaps now Mauresmo is also introducing something along those lines. I still find Murray really stressful to watch, particularly in the majors, where you always have the feeling that his finger is hovering somewhere near the self destruct button. However, for most of this years Australian Open, I have never seen him looking more assured or confident. Stress free viewing, for a change. However, there is still work for him to do, evidenced by his showing in the final.
It is here that I think his notes highlight a problem.
Murray fundementally lacks confidence. I've thought this before, I thought it during the latter stages of the final against Djokovic, and in reading his notes here, I think this now. The bit that reinforces this to me most is point 2 - "try your best". The one thing Andy Murray does not lack, is an ability to try hard. Effort seeps out of his every pore. Hard work, continual improvement, effort, effort, effort - it's got him to where he is, and when the chips are down, it's clearly his 'go-to' strategy. It's a somewhat weird thing to get your head around, that one of the world's greatest tennis players gives himself the kind of advice that I'd routinely give my 8 year old son before any football match. On a level, it works for Murray. But on another, it may be holding him back.
I reckon Murray is trying too hard, and in my view, he needs to shift his emphasis from 'trying' to 'believing'. Now that he's at the top of his sport, he needs to convince himself that he's good enough, and that he really belongs there. This might involve expressing more assertiveness, or even a touch more arrogance if he is going to consistently push guys like Djokovic, Nadal or Federer and win many more grand slams. This doesn't mean switching off the effortful part of his game, it just means a bit of fine tuning.
If I was going to offer Murray one piece of advice, it would be to eliminate the word 'try' from his vocabulary.
Just a little game - next time you watch him in an interview, or read one of his blogs, count how many times Murray uses the word 'try'. It's something you could learn from and have a go at yourself. Saying "I'll try" too much implies that you will put in effort, but also that you don't know whether you'll be successful - which indicates that you may lack belief. A more confident approach is to either commit to do something, or not to do it at all.
'Try' this out, and let me know how you get on!
Yours in psychology,