You’re the reigning Wimbledon champion, the first Briton to win at home for more than 30 years. You’re facing the prospect of defending your title against a rampant Novak Djokovic and a dominant Rafael Nadal. Then, three months before the tournament starts, you lose your coach. How do you bounce back?
Andy Murray had been coached by Ivan Lendl for nearly three years when they split in March, a break that left Murray feeling a deep sense of loss. “That night was tough, he was a big part of my life,” he said afterwards. And in that one sentence he summed up the important place a coach has in the life of an athlete.
The commitment required from a coach to a player of Murray’s standard must not be underestimated, something Murray himself recognised. “There aren’t that many guys out there who are willing to commit the time, that are willing to travel and make sacrifices,” he said. Murray’s choice of words here is ironic as in fact there wasn’t a “guy” there to fill the void left by Lendl, instead the Scot appointed a female coach – former world number one Amelie Mauresmo.
While the appointment of a woman may have sparked comment from some, not least the last British Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade, from a more practical standpoint, Mauresmo has been faced with a massive challenge: has she had enough time to build up a solid coach/athlete relationship in time for the biggest tournament of the year?
The Three Cs
The relationship between an athlete and their coach is a unique one, and arguably the most important within sport. It determines how satisfied, and hence how motivated, an athlete is.
Sports psychologist Sophia Jowett has proposed a model based on the premise that the relationship between coach and athlete is one in which two people’s behaviour, emotions and thoughts are mutually and causally interdependent. Based on this, she identifies three qualities are as forming the bases of all successful coaching relationships, known as the “three Cs”.
The “three Cs” are closeness – including liking, trust, and respect; co-orientation – shared goals, values and expectations; and complementarity – how engaged with each other the coach and athlete are. Perhaps the most pertinent of all of these for Mauresmo is closeness, and in particular trust and respect, as these can take time to develop.
But it seems that this new coaching relationship is already off to a good start – when recent comments made by both Mauresmo and Murray are viewed in the context of the three Cs, there are strong indications that many facets of the right relationship are already in place. Murray has stated: “Amelie is someone I have always looked up to … I’m convinced that her joining the team will help push us on.” So there is already a high level of respect and trust that she is the right person for the job. This level of respect is also displayed by Mauresmo who has said: “He’s an amazingly talented tennis player.”
This reciprocated level of closeness is something further supported by last year’s Wimbledon Ladies Champion Marion Bartoli (whom Mauresmo coached to her win) who has said she feels they will get along well, thus ticking the final box of liking each other. As well as bringing with her the experience of coaching Bartoli, Mauresmo also brings personal experience of her own Wimbledon success to the mix.
So while psychologically Murray was left somewhat wounded by the departure of Lendl from his coaching set up in March, the signs are already looking good for his developing relationship with his new coach. How successful they will be remains to be seen, and Murray has a tough competition ahead, but it’s possible that Bartoli’s predictions are true, and Murray has found the “perfect person” to help him retain his crown.
But can he deal with the pressure of a nation’s expectation? Read more here.