Grand Slam-winning tennis star Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, makes some telling points in reflecting on how it feels as a parent when watching your child going through a difficult interview with media.
Feature photo: The then 19-year-old Andy Murray a picture of despair during a press interview, having lost at the 2006 French Open. AP
Most young sportspeople of exceptional talent are not necessarily prepared for the spotlight that comes outside the confines – or relative freedom – of the playing field. It is easy to be caught off-guard by an unexpected enquiry.
After all, as a child you first want to play, actually compete, and – hopefully – win. That is your focus; not being asked questions that can be tricky to answer.
And with the overwhelming focus of social media, those unexpected questions can lead to a long tail of comments by persons who (i) may not even know you and/or the circumstances, and/or (ii) do not have sufficient grasp of the issue to be in a position to comment with authority. But comment… some certainly will.
Of the pressures on a young athlete, there is also the age-gap. Often those persons asking the questions or commenting on the responses are considerably older than the person in question (no pun intended). This can also lead to misunderstandings in what the young person being interviewed actually meant.
This Judy Murray passage from her article in this morning’s Telegraph warrants being stated in full:
“When you step into an interview room, there are so many potential pitfalls. If you’ve won, you’re excited and in danger of feeling so relaxed and happy that something slips out and gets you into trouble.
“It’s tougher, though, when you’ve lost. You’re much more likely to become upset or to bristle at a provocative question – and we all know that anger, tears, feuds and gossip make for good stories.
“The whole situation takes me back to when Andy was young and really struggled with the press-conference environment. He wanted to compete in big stadiums in front of huge crowds, not to be asked about whether his shorts were too big, or whether he should get a haircut, have a shave or smile more often.”
Remember, he was still a teenager; he just wanted to win matches. End of.
Judy, who has a lot of experience in tennis as a player and coach herself, arranged for the then 19-year-old Andy to undergo a course in media training
“The idea was to help Andy deal with the attention, the adverse comments, and know which subjects to avoid. You’ve got a coach at that age, teaching you how to hit your shots and plan a match strategy, but few young players can afford a PR consultant as well.”
English media professional Jonathan Overend gave the young Andy (then 19) the best advice, whilst sharing a taxi, says Judy.
“Jonathan… made some great suggestions on how to handle press conferences and interviews,” says Judy.
“Speak about your tactics, how the weather was affecting play, and what the momentum switches were. Do the press conference on your terms. It was common sense but a real light-bulb moment.
“If you don’t want to bring emotions into the picture; then you can be more analytical. Instead of saying, ‘I’m upset because I lost’, say ‘I missed a chance at this moment’, or ‘I need to go away and work on such-and-such.’
“The other thing we [Judy and Andy] did was to watch press conferences of players who handle them really well.
“Andy Roddick and Roger Federer were two of them. They were so good at taking an awkward question and turning it around so that they could get their message across. They also used humour brilliantly. Yes, they were older, but that’s the best way to learn. Study those who do it well.”
Judy goes on to say that more attention should be focused on this aspect of the recognition that comes with sporting success.
“Being comfortable and confident in front of a microphone is so important. It’s just not the sort of thing that a young athlete is thinking about when they’re trying to establish themselves…”
I didn’t realise quite how distinguished a career and life Sir Andy Murray’s mom has had. Google “Judy Murray tennis” and you will see in Wikipedia that she has done quite a bit. Judy actually wrote the article. Her piece was prompted by the decision of the world’s highest-paid female athlete, Naomi Osaka of tennis fame, to boycott press conferences. If needs be, Google and you will be up-to-speed with this ongoing saga.
It is amazing how you chance upon a random Facebook feed and find yourself spending a good couple of hours happily lost down Memory Lane.
Thanks Anthony Hall, your post sparked all sorts of happy reminiscences – although I must hasten to add an especially (unfond) uncomfortable afternoon memory too…
See if you recognise these players and the coach/manager etc. If so, please point out who is who amongst this quality group of KZN10 schoolboy cricketers from that early eighties era who as far as I can recall were outstanding as a team at that 1983 Nuffield Week.
I do recall some of the guys almost immediately, although my facts and so on may be more than a little hazy here and there.
I notice the 1983 Maritzburg College and Natal Schools captain, the wicketkeeper/batsman Andrew Brown (front row, third from left); his school teammate, the left-arm seamer and right-hand bat Greg Walsh (back row, third from the right).
And on the far right in the front row, fellow Maritzburg College batsman Richard Delvin, who I think made 2 centuries at the 1983 Nuffield Week but missed out on SA Schools selection – there must have been some seriously in-form batsman at that Nuffield Week.
I think Greg Walsh, who was an outstanding fielder into the bargain, also hit a century at that Nuffield Week.
Not sure who took the bulk of the wickets.
Durban High School’s Robbie May (back row, fourth from the right) was an effective quick bowler so I am not surprised he is in this outstanding team, which I think (as I said) had a superb Nuffield Week.
I think that fifth from the left in the back row is Kearsney College paceman Anthony Hall, who made SA Schools that year as far as I can recall. Ant was seriously quick and uber-aggressive, and had the ability to cut the ball viciously off a reasonably responsive pitch.
I was last at school in 1982 and as I type this I vividly recall facing Ant’s right-arm pace and fire – a charging buffalo had nothing on a suitably riled-up Ant Hall – from one end on Kearsney’s splendid AH Smith Oval while the ultra-talented Natal Schools (and further) flyhalf Cameron Oliver (RIP), who was a left-arm quick capable of weaving red-ball magic when the mood took him, was at full-throttle from the other end.
Just to get bat on ball – at all – on that testing fourth term 1982 Saturday afternoon felt like a triumph in itself.
I think that second from the right in the back row is Michaelhouse’s hard-hitting all-rounder Dave Burger, who later finished his schooling at Maritzburg College.
I think that’s Beachwood’s Craig Small in the front row – while I think Craig Beart of Hilton is there as well, alongside Rich Delvin. And the teacher coach in the front row has to be Hilton’s Ant Lovell.
And Dean van der Walt of DHS is there, it might have been Dean’s second year in the side.
Help me out guys.
When the ticks on a ruffled buffalo are biting in all the wrong places it’s no place to be.
A key factor in the England rugby team’s thriller 23-20 Six Nations win over France at Twickenham on Saturday was the marked change in captain Owen Farrell’s attitude towards the referee. It is a lesson for our schoolboys – and perhaps all (or at least many?) of us.
My experience is that it appears to take a lot for South African rugby fans to even grudgingly accept and respect “anything England national rugby team”, and Farrell in particular has not endeared himself to South Africans with what has too often come across as an irritating, arrogant, “bad sport” manner.
England’s defeat by Wales had been punctuated by what Saffas have come to love to hate about the England skipper; a “whinging” Farrell questioning the match official seemingly at every opportunity. It did nothing positive for his side; indeed it just created a frustrated, negative outcome.
As a player (and spectator) we should surely come to realise over time that remonstrating with the ref does near-nothing to engender a change in decision. Farrell has now shown to himself in the high-quality France match that a change in his approach brings reward. Not once did the England number 12 challenge referee Andrew Brace.
Head coach Eddie Jones revealed after the match that his leading man, who also enjoyed an outstanding personal performance, was under orders not to confront the ref – and Farrell stuck to that game plan.
I like how Jones puts it: “The way Owen (Farrell) has responded to the criticism that he has received has been absolutely outstanding. He hasn’t whinged, he hasn’t complained, he took it on the chin, got on with it and fixed his game.
“… we basically made the decision on the referee that we were going to let him do whatever he wanted. No queries, no questions. He had a game plan about how he wanted to referee and we followed and adapted. Owen had a great balance and I thought he was at his aggressive best (as a player).”
England management had earlier in the week invited noted refs Andrew Barnes and Matthew Carley to advise Farrell and the team on how to cope better.
One player who clearly benefited was key England lock Maro Itoje, who gave away 5 penalties against Wales. This time round, it was one.
To top it all, Itoje impressed with his known ability to disrupt the opposition and also scored the nail-biting winning try (4 minutes from time). The lock forward’s remarks afterwards also spoke volumes for the thought he had put into fixing the mistakes he had made against Wales, which had drawn much criticism his way.
And Jones said not much input had come from the coaching staff. “Sometimes you can see it in a player; when they have their head around it and their eyes in it. To play that sort of game, on the back of what Maro (Itoje) has had to suffer, is a great testament to his character and his desire to be a good teammate. That is what stood out for me – his desire to be a good teammate.”
The talismanic lock revealed how he had successfully got the balance right. “Obviously I never want to lose my bite. I never want to lose my edge. I believe my mentality makes me the player I am. My attitude makes me the player I am. At the same time, I have to thread that needle more effectively.”
And the eloquent Maro, who is a fascinating personality with many fine attributes, certainly threaded that needle properly on Saturday – he negotiated the fine line, that narrow margin of playing on the edge without incurring damaging sanction.
England did concede 12 penalties, just 2 less than against Wales, but encouragingly it was the manner in which those penalties were incurred that marked the difference. Too many against Wales were of the sort that are the bane of every fan’s life. You know, when a player in “your” team does something that leaves you in What the … was he thinking!? mode.
This time they weren’t of the “just-plain-dumb” variety.
As Jones puts is so well: “When you start moving the ball at pace it puts more pressure on your support play, and our support play just wasn’t good enough (on the occasion of the penalty transgressions). It’s not a discipline issue, it’s a playing issue.”
Now that kind of penalty conceded is of the sort that most fans can live with – the type where admirable attacking intent is only undone when the ball-carrier gets isolated. That shows a team is on the right path. It is an error that can be improved on.
All in all, well done England on taking positive action on stuff that needed to be fixed.
Source info: The Telegraph
The alarming drop in form of reigning England Premier League (EPL) champions Liverpool is one of the talking points of the moment in football. It can happen to all teams, even the "best" teams, not least our schoolboy sides, so it is informative to take a look-see.
Even on a normal, ho-hum day there is so much being written about Liverpool it is virtually a full-time job (seriously, you will know what I mean if you tried) trying to keep up with all of it, particularly as there are so many divergent but valid viewpoints being bandied about.
So, I’ve tried to cobble together at least some of it, but by no means have I captured it all.
"Anfield, with people and without, is completely different," is how Man City boss Pep Guardiola termed it last month, echoing a sentiment that has been publicly and privately expressed by Liverpool's players. The famous Kop stand at Anfield is a formidable opponent on its own. It could be argued that the Kop bereft of Kopites is akin to a 1- or 2-0 lead for a visiting team.
The 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Fulham at Anfield on Sunday was the team's 6th successive home defeat. No other title-defending EPL team has ever suffered such a large fall-off in points at this stage of the season.
A major factor has been the number of injuries to important personnel, predominantly in key positions, which has seen the club featuring 19 different centre-back combinations during this campaign. Midfielders have been shifted out of their usual slots to fill the void at the back, which in turn has exacerbated the pressure in the more attacking zones of the field.
With the pressure, other cracks are also becoming prominent, including the players' mentality and attitude as well as questions surrounding the decisions made by manager Jurgen Klopp.
The chances of retaining the EPL title are almost gone and even a top-four Champions League berth next season appears to be fading fast for Liverpool, who now lie in 8th place on the log.
The Telegraph's football journalists have delved into the topic with the thoroughness that one has come to expect of this prominent UK news website. Chris Bascombe, for example, reports of the criticism levelled by the club's former player Jamie Carragher, ex-Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness, as well as fiery ex-Man United skipper Roy Keane.
Carragher said the club as a whole had not dealt well with adversity, Keane described it as crisis time and Sky pundit Souness called the decline unfathomable and that Liverpool had not shown Fulham the respect they deserved.
“It beggars belief how a team can go from being so good, to [being] so average,” Souness expounded. “People talk about the manager, but Jurgen Klopp has learned a lot about his dressing room. It's about players. Some of them have not stood up to the challenge.”
Klopp has, to his credit, not harped on using the injury situation as a handy scapegoat for the club's plight yet one cannot help but feel for the manager in this respect. On a family level, too, Klopp has suffered much; the death of his mom perhaps even more deeply felt by his being unable to attend her funeral.
If one looks at just a few aspects of the slippery slope Liverpool find themselves on, the numbers are startling:
* 8 home games without a win; on just 1 occasion (the 1951/52 season) have they ever had an even longer winless streak at Anfield
* the 6 home losses equals the same number of consecutive home defeats suffered in the '53/54 season. Four home losses in a row is the next-highest
* 8 defeats in their last 12 EPL games; as many defeats as in their previous 121 EPL matches
* 115 goalshots at Anfield (not including penalties) with zero actual goals to show for it; which leads to a truly remarkable statistic: the longest drought for a home side on record
* Fulham's win on Sunday is the first time since October 2010 (Blackpool on that occasion) that a newly-promoted team has won at Anfield
Given the situation, perhaps the best chance left to retain Champions League football at Anfield will be for Liverpool to win the current competition - and that journey continues today when they take a 2-0 first-leg lead into their meeting with RB Leipzig in Budapest in the round-of-16 return match, both sides intent on earning a berth in the quarter-finals.
Apparently FSG (Fenway Sports Group) the owners of Liverpool still back manager Klopp, the man who as recently as 45 days ago, was closing in on an unbeaten home run spanning 4 years and who as recently as Boxing Day 2020 was at the helm of the EPL log-leaders.
One wonders how Klopp would be feeling if Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was his boss. The man who holds the purse strings at Stamford Bridge fired Carlos Ancelotti a year after his Chelsea side had won the Double.
Jose Mourinho was hired, sacked, re-employed and then fired again by the Russian despite not losing a home league match for more than 3 years. And it's not just a Chelsea trait.
Claudio Ranieri was ejected by Leicester City a bare 9 months after piloting them to a storybook English Premier League title.
If one looks at his managerial career, Klopp has found it difficult in previous times of adversity. Of course, that has been the plight faced by many a manager who has tried and failed to stop the rot.
The German was the darling of the Rhineland around 2004 when he engineered Mainz to promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time ever. He was in charge three years later when they were relegated and was further unsuccessful in getting them back to the top-flight of German club football.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp took the club to the Champions League final 8 years ago and just 18 months or so later the German side were relegation-threatened in the Bundesliga.
Another source of concern is that it has not so much been the defeats themselves, but the nature of those defeats that have caught the attention of many.
Outplayed is an unequivocal word, but one cannot prevent that adjective entering one’s thought process when applying one’s mind to the manner in which they were (well-) beaten by Burnley and Brighton. Not very long ago, it might be fair to say that the 2 B’s would barely have measured up to once-mighty Liverpool.
What this turnaround in fortunes has clearly shown is that a hiccup or series of hiccups is quickly grasped and exploited by those who appear hungrier on any given day, particularly against a team that is driven by Klopp’s attack-minded philosophy.
Let’s hope the house of cards does not descend from collapsed mode into complete disintegration.
Time will tell.
Images Rex PA AP
Over the course of recent times I have heard two stories that have stuck in my mind. I might have the wrong names and perhaps my recollections on the stats are inaccurate, and if so it is no reflection on any persons mentioned; it is merely a case of a well-intentioned effort on my part to raise an interesting topic of conversation. And I hope some of you might have knowledge of other noteworthy records or suchlike – they don’t have to be as impressive, just noteworthy; be it a remarkable season or whatever.
Story 1: If I am more or less correct, Arve Arntzen did not lose a single rugby match he played in while in the colours of Merchiston and then Maritzburg College. So that, one can surmise, covers 9 or 10 years of school rugby seasons.
Story 2: Again, if I am more or less correct, Willie Williams did not lose in a single rugby or cricket match he played in for Maritzburg College. That spans a period of 5 years.
If I am correct, those are truly remarkable, and interesting, bits of info.
As I said earlier, maybe you know of something along these lines, that makes one really sit up and take notice. Or perhaps it might have been just one or two years of not losing a match when playing for your school teams.