How “Individual” are individual sports these days?


Recently, I have been admiring the talents and achievements of some of the most successful athletes in the world of sport.  Take for instance, Rafa Nadal, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Rory McIlroy, Phil Taylor.  These sportsmen have been truly incredible in their sports and continue to break records every year on their own.  However, how alone are they in their success?  Has “individual” sport become a team game?

There are many reasons why you would want to pick an individual sport over a team sport.  One’s success is completely dependent on one’s own efforts.  Independent and self-reliant.  The idea of being the only one in the spotlight; you can’t hide behind team-mates and that can make you feel like Hercules.  Or it can go the other way and make you wish to disappear.  It requires incredible discipline, you haven’t got your team to force you to go to the gym.  It’s in your own hands.  You need to be mentally tough.  If you are having an off day, you can’t look to the likes of Messi or Rooney to give you inspiration.  In the past few decades though, I reckon individual sports have shifted closer towards a team effort.  Gone are the days when a top sprinter or tennis player has to book his own flights or cook his own meals.  These athletes are supported in every way imaginable and may be the reason why records continue to be broken.

Let’s just have a look at McIlroy and these thoughts are only off the top of my head and not set in stone.  He has taken the golf world by storm in recent years (Let’s forget 2013 for his sake, he was too busy playing with all his new free gear and watching tennis matches) at his very young age.  Firstly, we have the caddy as with all golfers.  After that you can be sure he has his own: coaches, physios, fitness trainer, managers, chef, private jet and pilot, house-maid, chaffeur, sponsors, photographers and many more.  You are looking at at least 10 people that are fully employed to making this man perform at his optimum in his individual sport.  They may get an ‘aul mention in his victory speech and a healthy salary, but aren’t they the real champions aswell?  Everything has been laid out on a plate for him and allows him to focus solely on improving his game.  This is why I have a lot of respect for any records that stand in individual sports from 3o years ago and more.  It was more individual.  Athletes used to have to worry about getting track time or being able to use the tennis courts.  Our sports stars of today have it easy.

I am not for one second saying that these athletes are not talented, because they clearly are.  I am just highlighting the fact that having a great professional team behind you can make your job a lot easier.  When it comes to the performance on the court/track/course it is only you out there.  Nevertheless, you can go out there with the confidence that you have prepared for every obstacle in the best way possible due to the help of your “backroom” team.

So here is to hoping that the 135 members of the European Ryder Cup team can achieve success in Scotland come September


4 thoughts on “How “Individual” are individual sports these days?

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  1. Athletes who choose to pursue sport as a career, in my opinion, are faced with many decisions. Some maybe obvious while others cover a gambit of personal and private issues. Your article, “off the top of my head” touches lightly on some needs individual athletes may have. Myself, I would like to read more about your thoughts regarding this. It may be there has never been an athlete who has not needed assistance, support or learning from others. Your point is well taken about how athletes make transitions as their career progresses. I thank you for aiding in your way, by assisting the individual athlete in your way through observation. Opinions do matter.

    1. Firstly, thank you for reading and commenting, it is much appreciated. As you said yourself, I have only touched lightly on some of the topics and provide readers with my personal observation of the situation. I think it’s fair to argue that each individual has different needs and preferences. One may wish to have a large team while another may just want family support. I suppose my main point that I’m trying to make is that it is considered “normal” nowadays to have a considerably large back room team to allow the individual athlete to narrow their focus. Does that make achievements from years ago more impressive? I suppose technology advancements have allowed for deeper analysis of performance, hence one would be foolish not to look at this if it was available. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Reblogged this on amelialancaster123 and commented:
    Interesting read to be honest as I’m a tennis player & a footballer & a skier. I’m a fan of all as you can tell, however, I prefer doubles when it comes to playing tennis. Definite read for you sports fans!

  3. Team sports have all of these ‘extra team mates’ too from sports scientists to psychologists. Every aspect of sport has improved with technology as you mentioned, but it is worth noting that the majority of teams are using the information and technology available to them so everybody is still on a pretty level playing field. As you pointed out with individual sport it is only the individual out there competing, which is the crucial difference between team and individual sports. In a team if you’re having a bad day you can hide behind a team mate, in an individual sport you have no where to hide. I think that aspects of sport have changed so while athletes are not booking their own flights or cooking their own meals, they are dealing with a lot more media attention and would be in the spot light a lot more. Excellent point about the world records that have lasted 30 years or more – totally agree with this, Great piece..

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