Andy Murray shouts, he cries, he may seem moody, some love him and some are just not fans. He does not fly, shoot webs from his wrists or save the world, but he is the greatest British Tennis Player ever. He is a pretty normal guy who gets frustrated sometimes, doesn’t court the camera but hits a mean cross court backhand, and can do it all day! I don’t claim to have the inside story on Andy but I know that among the people that I have encountered in the tennis world that know the real Andy, absolutely no one has a bad word to say. Over the last few months I have found myself inspired by the boy from Dunblane, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.
As a parent I have learned to look beyond victories and awards, my daughter is neither a sports star or an academic egghead but I hope that she sees the real values in the world and moves through the world with some of the attributes Andy quietly demonstrates. Let me elaborate before you think I have a serious man crush!
To say Andy has had a few good months might be like saying that winning the lottery gave you a little financial stability. However, just like each and every true legend of sport you have to be careful not to be blinded by the shiny gold now hanging around his neck for the second time. Andy is the epitome of an Olympian but you have to look between the lines at the little things he does to understand what that really means. It is not the victories that inspire me, we are all good at something (my talent is drawing cartoon animals but we will breeze over that one) it is all the other more important things! More important than Olympic gold? Really? Bear with me …
Just a few months back he was clutching another much larger piece of gold at SW19. His emotions and tears showed a level of desire and honesty that we want from all our young people. He knows the sport, respects the sport and understands that magnitude of his achievements with a genuine gratitude. Achievements like this never come without sacrifice, but Wimbledon is also about respecting history, knowing who came before and who will come after.
Winning does not make you a role model, it only gives you the chance to be one, but Andy Murray is quietly showing that he is one of the best tennis role models the world has ever seen. It’s not just what you do but how you go about it and it is exactly the things you may not have noticed or heard about that you should tell your kids about.
Famous for the “all white rule” players endorsements are never more apparent than at Wimbledon, they pop from the shirts like candy wrappers, ranging from banks to media and everything in between. Did you notice Andy’s? He played this match, and the entire championships with a “Malaria No More” awareness patch on his sleeve. A charity which he supports and put up his shirt for auction at the end of the finals, raising 10,000 GBP.
What followed the match may have been missed by many also but said so much about the twice Wimbledon champion. Cradling the trophy Andy climbed the steps inside the All England Club to be greeted by Prince William and Kate, having just delivered an impressive performance you might think that discussions about the match might be the only subject but he was quick to ask them about their young offspring and HRH had to remind him that he has just won the pinnacle of tennis events. On to the Wimbledon Ball and he can be found sitting with the winner or the Wheelchair event, Gordon Reid. The next day on breakfast TV the host probed Gordon for an insider comment from Andy on his victory. “We didn’t talk about his match!” came the response! The conversation was one way traffic with Andy was asking only about Gordon’s victories. There is an inspiring awareness of others, their needs and their lives. It’s not maybe a character that you might be driving your child towards in their quest for success but it’s one that sums up the true historical meaning of champion. One who represents and defends others!
A week later his character was again unmistakable as he traveled to Belgrade to cheer as a non-playing member of the British Davis Cup team to take on Serbia. With no Djoker, Andy was not an essential playing part of the team but he took the trip to be present and watch victories by Kyle Edmund and brother Jamie. The classic line from Spiderman comes quickly to mind, “With great power comes great responsibility!” and no one seems to understand this responsibility and loyalty more than he.
When players started to drop from the Olympic event with discussions about zika, finances and the lack of tour points, no one thought that Andy might be on that list. He is addicted to sport, an aficionado and fan of the quests that all sports bring. Proud to be the flag bearer for Team GB and present in the Olympic village to chat and connect with athletes from all sports. There is no luxury off site apartment, no music star like rider, he relishes the role of being a team player, mingling in the cafe and being part of everything the Olympics mean.
Even after his victory, he was also quick to correct a commentator when they suggested that he was the sole owner of double Olympics golds in tennis, instantly pointing out that the Williams sisters had already achieved this feat an more. Of course he has defended the women’s game on numerous occasions recently, but there is an ever present humility to recognize the achievements of others, and give credit where credit is due, even in your moment of victory.
Even on the court you can argue that Andy’s style of play is not as flashy as some, his mantra is work, then work harder. The winners come for sure, and there is always a spectacular pass or lob to make you marvel but there is a patience and a willingness to earn the result. Talent is worth nothing without the commitment to fulfill it and this is reflected in every hour spent on court.
Family is so important to Andy, stating frequently that wife Kim and new daugther Sophia are his priority. And have no doubt, there is a slightly built Scottish woman with a few dancing skills, and a steely smile responsible for much of the foundation for his character. But when the bright and shiny things are won the true responsibility of being a Champion and a true Olympian have been demonstrated so well by the Olympic Champion. Andy the player is impressive, but if you have your eyes open, Andy the role model is beyond measure!
Your role as a parent is unparalleled in sending these messages to you child. Explain these things to your child over and over again! They will define them!
If you want to raise an elite athlete then you could do no better as a role model that Andy Murray. Work hard, immerse yourself in the sport completely, care passionately about your achievements with a humility that respects what came before and will come after, give credit to others and understand the value of life away from the game. When your child looks in the mirror is the gold the thing they wear around their neck or hold aloft, or is it who they are and how you behave every day.
As I am writing this, on yet another flight, my daughter leans across to thank me, tell me how grateful and lucky she is to have the opportunity to travel as we head off on vacation. It’s unprompted, honest and said with real sincerity. I am inspired again to be the best parent I can to this wonderful young person. Was that a momentary piece of gold? Is she as inspired by the little things that Andy Murray does as I am , or is the rest of the world just sending the right messages? Who knows!