HTLS 2020 - As you get closer to the top, the expectations are a lot: Graf on handling mental health
At a time when athletes from all sports are speaking up about the importance of mental health, former tennis greats Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi addressed the issue while speaking with senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Talking about the pressures that elite sportspersons face on a daily basis, Graf highlighted how it becomes tough to ask for the best from yourself day in and day out.
“It’s tough to find that emotional balance. Emotionally it’s hard to ask the best out of yourself day after day. As you get closer to the top, the expectations are a lot. You don’t realise the amount of pressure not just from outside, but even from the perfectionist that is within you. Once you walk away, you’re far from having that equilibrium,” Graf said.
She said that a lot of players find it hard to cope with life after retirement as they are unable to think of what to do after their career is over
“There’s so much you’re taught in tennis that there’s a big part you’re missing and a big part you gain. But there’s so much it prepares you for the post retirement life. It’s a different phase but I see with players who are close to retiring, they have the question, ‘Where do you go from here’. Because tennis has been all that they know,” Graf said.
Agassi added that players often find it difficult to cope with the relaxed life post retirement as they are used to the stress of playing regularly.
“When you unplug from tennis it’s almost like PTSD, intensity of engagement - bit like having drugs and not having drugs. Life seems boring for a while. It’s hard to realise life could be a bit more relaxed as well. Sports makes you tough from one perspective, it also makes you a person where you need to disconnect and grow in some other way,” the former US tennis great added.
He further said that it is important for people to be self aware and take care of mental health.
“I believe people need to be true to themselves, for that you need to be self-aware. You need to prioritise mental health. We all find our own forms of distraction in life,” he said.