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In It Together

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

StarIn his warts-and-all autobiography, Open, Andre Agassi displays remarkable sensitivity in assessing his relationship to the sport that brought him into the public eye. He hates tennis, he asserts repeatedly, because it is the loneliest sport on the planet. At the same time, he recognizes tennis as a metaphor for life, and he fully accepts the gifts and lessons the game has offered him.

His challenges are extraordinary: A terrorizing father, prodigious talent, competitive pressures of the highest order, and invasive celebrity. He makes some poor choices along the way. But he consistently makes one good choice, a choice that ensures his success, and this is to follow his instinct for meaningful connection with others.

Performing better in situations like Davis Cup and the Olympics—when he’s representing something greater than himself—Andre knows that for him, the antidote to tennis’s loneliness is being part of a team. He tends to his closest relationships with generosity and gratitude. In his singles career, he achieves his best results when he’s most aligned with a team of friends, family, coaches, and trainers.

Nobody embodies the spirit of coach/friend better than Gil Reyes, the strength trainer who has been with Agassi since early in his career. And as Andre recalls how Gil first expressed his commitment, I can’t help but think about the kind of teammates I want to have and the kind of teammate I want to be.

Gil said, “Andre, I won’t ever try to change you, because I’ve never tried to change anybody. If I could change somebody, I’d change myself. But I know I can give you structure and a blueprint to achieve what you want. There’s a difference between a plow horse and a racehorse. You don’t treat them the same. You hear all this talk about treating people equally, and I’m not sure equal means the same. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a racehorse, and I’ll always treat you accordingly. I’ll be firm, but fair. I’ll lead, never push. I’m not one of those people who expresses or articulates feelings very well, but from now on, just know this: It’s on, man. It is on. You know what I’m saying? We’re in a fight, and you can count on me until the last man is standing. Somewhere up there is a star with your name on it. I might not be able to help you find it, but I’ve got pretty strong shoulders, and you can stand on my shoulders while you’re looking for that star. You hear? For as long as you want. Stand on my shoulders and reach, man. Reach.”

Whose team are you on? Who are the teammates who help you shine?