Ash Barty says her mentor Ben Crowe changed her sport and her life. (Getty: Paul Kane/Stringer)
There’s a lot to admire about Ash Barty — but what can we ordinary mortals learn from her?
Mindset coach Ben Crowe has an idea. He’s the man the world number one tennis player credits with making her a better player and a better person.
“Ben has become a massive part of my team … helping me with my mental application, and changing my perspective of things in both life and in sport,” Barty has been quoted as saying.
Along with Barty, Crowe has mentored a raft of highly successful sportspeople, including Richmond Football Club captain Trent Cotchin and world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore.
So what has he taught these champions that we can apply in our own lives?
Give yourself permission to fall down
“Anyone can really learn and understand what the best version of them looks like,” Crowe tells RN’s Sporty.
To become your best self, he says, you first need to let go of the things you can’t control and focus on the things you can.
Then, start focusing on authenticity.
“[That’s working] out first and foremost ‘who am I?’, and really disconnecting with the persona and focusing more on the person,” Crowe says.
He says it’s a quality Barty demonstrates plenty of.
“[She is] someone who has really connected with their authenticity and given herself permission to be imperfect and full of struggle, and is going to fall down and make mistakes,” he says.
Crowe also says Barty’s learnt to disconnect her work from her identity.
“Playing tennis is what she does, but it’s not who she is,” he says.
“It doesn’t define the depth of Ash Barty.”
See vulnerability as a strength
Crowe says there are “two types of people on the planet today”, and not just in a sports context.
“There’s those who see vulnerability as a strength and those who view it as a weakness,” he says.
If you’re the latter, typically you are “very closed, closed minded, defensive,” Crowe says.
“You feel like you’re on the back foot, being attacked. You’re not very compassionate.”
But if you “view vulnerability as a massive strength and you lean into the risk and the uncertainty and the emotional exposure”, great things can happen.
Crowe says that’s the journey Barty has been on over the past couple of years.
When you accept vulnerability, “you’re more open, you’re more open-minded, you’re more curious, creative, innovative”, he says.
“And you are incredibly compassionate — first for yourself.
“And if we can be kinder to ourselves in that way, then we will be more compassionate to others, and then you create a beautiful, amazing connection.”
Move past the ‘perfection myth’
Crowe says we also need to get over our fear of failure; of not being perfect all the time.
“We are so caught up in this perfection myth,” he says.
“We think we have to have the perfect body or the perfect job or the perfect relationship.”
He says it springs from a damaging feeling of inadequacy.
“We are all caught up in that ‘I’m not enough’,” Crowe says.
“Don’t get me wrong, you can be in search of excellence and self-improvement because you can achieve those things, but you can’t achieve perfection.
“The antidote to the perfection myth is the ability to celebrate imperfections, and embracing vulnerability gives you the permission to celebrate those imperfections but also to be able to say ‘I am enough’.”
From that foundation you can go after your goals without having to achieve them to feel good about yourself.
“That’s called living,” Crowe says.
Tell yourself positive stories
Crowe says the narratives we have in our heads about our lives can either propel us forward, or hold us back.
“We are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves,” he says.
“And you are the author of your life story, so the good news is you get to write the ending.”
Storytelling to positive effect involves going back over memories or stories “that are holding us back from going after our goals and realising our potential” and reframing them so they become a “more positive, affirmation-based story on who I am”.
“From that place then I can work out what I want,” Crowe says.
The mentor to Barty — a player who has this season won three singles and more competition money than any leading male tennis player so far — clearly has on his side evidence of his advice working.
And while a $6 million dollar prize mightn’t be within reach of most of us, perhaps we can still benefit from the lessons that have helped her Barty get to where she is.