By Jon Michail
Budding tennis superstar Nick Kyrgios has rattled the world of sports entertainment ever since he launched himself into the public spotlight, but recently, these rumblings have been for all the wrong reasons.
With a string of high profile wins, accompanied by a dazzling showmanship style akin to the most experienced, star-studded players ever to trample the court, the future for such a promising talent was set to trump even the most successful and cherished of his countrymen.
His supreme confidence and lack of noticeable inhibitions, his ability to go toe-to-toe with giants, and his coolness in the face of seemingly overwhelming circumstances for such a fresh-faced player, all brought him to the fans’ attention – a situation that would make what was soon to develop all the more challenging to overcome.
Once a player is in the spotlight of public attention, everything they do is magnified, and once you fall out of favour with the fans, it’s almost like a tube of toothpaste: easy to squeeze out, almost impossible to cram back in.
After reaching the top 30 in the official rankings, and appearing in his first ATP final, he was set to take the highly-regarded John Newcombe Medal for the second year in a row – a feat that without the controversy surrounding his name, is hard to argue isn’t deserved.
In addition, he has a four-week ban hanging over his head for his recent misdeeds and is now also ‘on detention’ from a Canberra college’s Hall of Fame.
Amidst the harsh criticisms, and the adoring support, there poses a question many neutral analysts have put forward: Where did it all go wrong?
The answer quite commonly is to list the incidents he has been involved in, but these are only symptoms of the problem, and the real issue lies with the headspace an athlete must be in if they are to have any hopes of reaching the highest echelon of their respective sport.
The Kyrgios debacle tells us one very important thing about prosperity in a professional sport, but also success in general, and that is: it doesn’t matter how talented you are, how many hours you spend practicing your craft, or how fortunate you are to get a lucky break – if your mind is not in the right place, if your priorities are wrong, and if you lack self-control, you will ultimately fall short of what you intend to accomplish and can go from hero to zero.
It is an unfortunate scenario for Kyrgios, but a foreseeable one for all those who know how troublesome it can be for a person in search of success, who is without the proper guidance, and lacks the attributes necessary to fulfil their vision.
For Kyrgios, if nothing is done to substantially change the perception of him in the minds of the fans, losses will be imminent, and he’ll be left with only himself to blame. If he takes the blame upon himself, which is almost guaranteed if everything falls apart – if delusion doesn’t take hold – a lack of self-respect can be born out of this, as he’ll be unlikely to forgive himself for the lost opportunities.
Today’s sports stars are regarded as important role models that have an official contract with the public and without the necessary corrections, once they stumble, all will be lost to the void of public disillusion. This will inevitably lead to massive financial losses, as even though winning is paramount in the sport, without the support of fans a career is not an exciting proposition. His reputation is already in disarray, which in turn has also had a processional effect on his family, colleagues and community. The fact remains that a player with a positive fan base can have a lucrative career without constant high-profile wins; a career that can continue even after their time on the court is over.
The negative public perception is warranted; even though some criticisms border on the extreme, overall, the consensus about Kyrgios seems to have reason. Only time can tell if this perception will be overhauled, but going by the recent nonchalant reactions to the outrage, one can sensibly assume this won’t be the case. For his sake, I sincerely hope he gets the message loud and clear and transforms himself to reflect the true champion he can be both on and off the court.
The alternative, he will discover, is that talent in itself can be overrated.
Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.