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BLOG: Why being a good sport is good for tennis – and business

Rafael Nadal’s grace in defeat after an epic Wimbledon battle with Gilles Muller last night got us thinking about how being a good sport is not only an admired quality in tennis heroes, it’s also particularly relevant in business.

Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2017

Nadal: still a winner after bowing out of Wimbledon 2017 (Alison Young /

This year’s tournament has seen a couple of early-round incidents of poor sportsmanship, which have highlighted just how much we expect professionalism and good grace on the court. It’s just not tennis any other way!

Not just for the sake of public perception, good sportsmanship also plays a crucial part in helping players keep their head in the game and maintain a positive energy.

Being positive in the face of good and bad outcomes, and being able to accept challenges with a clear head is also enormously beneficial in business – and especially in the sales industry. It enables us to see the bigger picture, and stops us from being weighed down by small issues that are unlikely to matter down the line.

If a tennis player gets worked up over an umpiring decision that doesn’t go their way, chances are their game will suffer. Venting anger in the moment is unlikely to help because the frustration will bleed through and affect their focus.

The same applies in business. If you can’t accept small set-backs you could well miss out on the big positives.

In the case of business, becoming preoccupied with an idea or a product that didn’t work out the way you planned is a waste of energy that would be better spent learning from the experience and focusing on future efforts.

Nadal: the consummate good sport

When Rafael Nadal spoke yesterday after his fourth-round loss to Gilles Muller in a gruelling battle that lasted fours and 47 minutes, he was no doubt devastated but displayed his customary sportsmanship and was able to credit the better player on the day.

“It was not my best match against a very uncomfortable opponent,” he said. “Well done to him. He played great, especially in the fifth set, but I fought to the last ball.”

In addition to contributing to your own mind-set, displaying good sportsmanship in dealing with clients or members of the public is also a must.

While not everyone is going to become a customer, treating each person as though they are, or might be in the future, is just good business sense.

In the same way that the gracious players who are knocked out of Wimbledon are feted as much as the winners, taking bad news in business with good grace is more likely to earn respect. Not only is it a matter of courtesy and a sign of true professionalism, leaving a good impression almost always means you have the crowd behind you next time.

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