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The team behind the tennis: An insight into Federer's career

Insight

13 July 2018

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Authored by Charlotte Derbyshire, Client Services Coordinator

As Wimbledon appears on our screens again, many of us may reflect on Roger Federer’s record breaking 20 Grand Slam singles titles under his belt. Although this year saw him fall short in the quarter finals, Federer has still won more majors than any other male in history.

It’s easy to think of singles tennis as a solo sport, and yes, the athletes do perform in isolation. But with some experience of the world of elite tennis, I’m fairly confident that Federer’s success is partly due to the team that he has constructed around him, each providing valuable contributions towards his performance. Amongst others, this team includes his coach, fitness trainer, physiotherapist, agent and nutritionist (1)

Of course, each of the elite tennis players have a similar team around them, so what is it that makes Federer’s team perform so well?

At Lane4, we refer to teams that consistently perform well together as “high performing teams”. According to the research these teams:

 

  • Consistently satisfy the needs of customers, employees, investors and others in their area of influence (2)

  • Frequently outperform other teams producing similar products and services under similar conditions (2)

  • Produce the most effective outcome with the greatest efficiency (3)

  • Capitalise on both team member task-related expertise and the mastery of team processes (4)

     

Within these teams there are a number of key factors that allows them to achieve this performance; how well they share knowledge, their levels of trust, how effective their processes are and the strength of the leadership, to name just a couple. In my opinion, these are four of the key strengths of Federer’s team.

 

They share knowledge in order to learn from success and failure

Members of high performing teams actively engage in knowledge sharing with one another in order to learn from success and failures. A key factor in Federer’s success is his desire to learn and improve, despite his magnificent achievements so far; this mindset is reflected across his team.

"I feel like he's constantly thinking how he can make me a better player." (Roger Federer about his coach) (5)

 

They know each other well and have high levels of trust

How team members feel about one another and their team as a whole, determines how they behave and how they will perform. Members of a high performing team are able to trust their teammates to perform their roles effectively and make difficult decisions. For example, Federer’s coaching staff advised him to withdraw from Rolland Garros in 2017 so that he was well-rested for Wimbledon. This was a successful tactic, as Federer went on to win his eighth Wimbledon singles title just one month later, a tactic he has also adopted for Wimbledon 2018.

"As far as Roger (is concerned), he didn't play the clay court season last year and he won Wimbledon. To me it was probably a bit of a no-brainer that he was going to do the same thing. Why would (he) be doing something different and take a risk? It worked so well." (John McEnroe) (6)

 

They have strong and clear processes

Teams with clear processes enables them to produce effective outcomes despite changes in their internal and external environment. To do this, the team needs to have high levels of communication and coordination. For example, Federer adapts his training in the lead up to a match due to several factors, including: the opponent, court surface and climate.

"As a team, we are talking tactics a lot obviously before the matches right now," said Federer earlier in 2018. "I need to be reminded of a few things, but those things can be the crucial ones, you know.” (Roger Federer) (5)

 

Leaders provide a good balance of support and challenge

Within a high performing team, leadership duties are often fluid and there may be multiple leaders within one team. The best leaders have a vision, they challenge their team, however they also ensure that team members feel supported in achieving their goals. The support and appreciation Federer has from those around him is apparent, particularly from Severin Lüthi, one of his coaches who he describes as a “very bright" and "natural leader".

"As a coach, he's really valuable to me. He knows my game really well, he knows my practice sessions very well. He knows what I need to work on. He knows what makes me happy and sad." (Federer) (7)

 

Although it is easy to assume tennis is an individual based sport, to me it’s clear that the surrounding team can have a huge impact on improving an athletes’ overall performance. Similar success can be found within organisations, where high performing teams influence factors such as; product quality, customer satisfaction, productivity and reduced employee turnover (8,9,10).

Think about the team around you; how strong is the leadership of the team? How well do you trust each other? Share knowledge? Have clear processes? Do you have all the factors needed for record-breaking success?

 

 

 

References

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/12/sports/tennis/roger-federer-atp-finals.html

2. Kur, E. (1996). The Faces Model of High Performance Team Development. Management Development Review, 9( 6), 25-35.

3. Weaver, S., Wildman, J., & Salas, E. (2009) How to build expert teams: best practices. In R.J. Burke & C.L. Cooper (Eds.). The Peak Performing Organization. London: Routledge

4. Salas, E., Rosen, M., Burke, C., Goodwin, G., & Fiore, M. (2006). The Making of a Dream Team: When Expert Teams do Best. In K. A. Ericsson, N. Charness, R. Hoffman, & P. Fletovich (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

5. https://www.givemesport.com/1294147-ivan-ljubicic-explains-why-coaching-roger-federer-is-very-complicated-for-him

6. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/federer-skipping-roland-garros-a-no-brainer-john-mcenroe-118063000513_1.html

7. http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/roger-federers-team-are-the-secret-of-his-success

8. Glassop, L.I. (2002). The Organizational Benefits of Teams. Human Relations, 55(2), 225-249.

9. Gross, S.E. (1997). When Jobs Become Team Roles, What do you pay for? Compensation and Benefits Review, 29 (1), 48-51.

10. Burke, R. J. &Cooper, C. L. (2009). The Peak Performing Organisation. New York: Taylor & Francis.

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