Service › Mental health
In the second part of our article series, the former German tennis pro Michel Berrer answers questions on the multi-faceted topic of “mental health”.
by Stefan Bergmann
last edition: February 20, 2023, 8:02 p.m.
Former DTB player Michael Berrer has fully arrived after his tennis career. The 42-year-old Stuttgarter, who was able to rise to 37th place in the ATP rankings during his active sports career, now works as a management consultant and mental coach. Its clients include athletes as well as renowned companies such as Porsche.Berrer’s goal is always to exploit the maximum potential of its customers. tennisnet.com also answered questions from the Davis Cup holder. In a multi-part series of articles, the friendly Baden-Württemberger provides his views and expertise on the topic of “mental health”.
tennisnet.com: Let’s start today’s session with a very interesting general question: what can youdo you take sport for life?
Michael Berrer: I think a lot. First of all, motivation and goal setting. Sometimes in life I need goals. You can’t always do that. I’m not a fan of saying, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” I find it a bit weird these days. But of course you can also work this way. Certainly: setting goals is very, very important. What motivates me? What gets me out of bed in the morning? It was “obvious” in tennis. So I knew I had to go on the track now because I want to be able to play three sets with Nadal in three weeks. So think in terms of consequences. If I do this now, then I’m not in the mood to do it, but I have to do it. It’s the same as: I have to issue an invoice so that I have my money in my account in three or eight weeks. I don’t like doing this, but I have to do it. This is so, because this is how we think about these channels. An athlete must always think in chains, even in the long term. I’m doing it at 16, so I’ll be on top at 20.
What if something doesn’t work as it should?
We then come to the theme of resilience. How to deal with setbacks? And this is one of the most important questions for me. I always notice how people get completely out of control when something doesn’t go very well. But to be honest, it’s no different in tennis. If you lose on Tuesday, you will play qualifiers for the next tournament on Saturday if things go wrong. So there are enough opportunities and I need to find a mechanism to process them fairly quickly. And I just saw for myself that the first thing is acceptance, to say, okay, this is how it is now. No one can turn back time anymore. Maybe we can briefly analyze what the problem was. “Lessons learned” are also not unimportant and are only used in the rarest of cases. And then check them off and get ready for the next thing or do the next things to make it successful again. It’s actually a very simple process. And then, we can’t enter a negative phase, because we are already busy with the next match. I think it’s extremely important.
Maybe you can see the whole thing in even smaller parts, because ultimately every point you play is a mini-decision. When I’m at the net, do I fly to the right or to the left? And of course, it can get out of hand. But I can’t immediately say that today is a bad day, I have to be ready for the next point. This means that as a tennis player you must constantly refocus, rebuild yourself. And it’s definitely something you can use incredibly well in your private life – or in your professional life.
Absolutely. I think that’s the good thing about sport. You have an advantage, you get a direct consequence. You get instant feedback. Sometimes it doesn’t, but in most cases it does. And I’m a big advocate of a good mindset, which includes looking good physically, regardless of the actual situation. When you arrive at work in the morning and there are six people in the office with you and you are in a really bad mood. Of course, you can then just be the one drawing energy from everyone. It can happen. But I expect 80% of people to come in with a good mindset. And then look for someone where they can throw up or cry. And it also has a lot to do with self-talk. It’s always incredible when you play in the lower leagues with association players. Each ball is commented on, there are only negative comments. And these are things you need to practice. This means you need to practice using positive self-talk. Because you are your best friend. And when I have to give a presentation in front of 600 executives, my heart sinks too. But then? Then I imagine how great it will be afterwards and how happy everyone will be. Then I double fist myself again like on the tennis court, go out there and do it. And to be honest: in most cases, the worst that can happen is not that the world is going to end, but that something just isn’t right.
If you think the worst too often, you can’t concentrate properly, right?
It’s like that. In sport, you have to be able to concentrate and hide things quickly. I find it difficult these days. A second there on Instagram, then there on the site, then there, there, there, … It’s a learning experience for me, being able to hide things that are not relevant and focus on the essential, the important , to concentrate. To be able to judge what I should pay attention to. I think I learned that in sports. And I think that’s very, very important. This means that someone may yell at me, want to annoy me, and I try to keep my attention focused on what is relevant. And the fourth thing we can learn in sport – even as tennis players – is the topic of “teaming”. Think of it this way: we tennis players pay our coaches to criticize us. But I won’t improve without these critiques. A very interesting situation. Some companies now do this very, very well, to the extent that they have their own selection program for the athletes they recruit into their company. Because at the end of the day, we’re like CEOs paying people to make us better consultants. And this realization is incredibly important: you can’t do it alone.
If you have any questions about “mental health in sport”, send them to us at: email@example.com. We will forward your question (anonymously if you wish) to Michael Berrer and publish it here in future issues. Together, we raise awareness of the need for mental health!