I was watching Nadal play tennis last night, and thought about this. Here’s how you develop a pattern, and prove it to yourself, and basically become superstitious about it.
Think about how superstitious Nadal is. About his routine, his water bottles, stepping over the lines. He’s done this for years and been one of the most successful athletes in his sport.
But how did he get to this point?
I would say first and foremost is that he doesn’t know what makes him a better tennis player than anyone else. He would probably say he worked harder, but there are 10,000 guys that work just as hard without any grand slam titles. Think about his first successes as a junior. At some point [pardon the pun], he won a match and thought I didn’t step on any lines. Maybe that is why I won. Or my water bottles were perfectly aligned. That is why I won.
It’s not the compulsion that changes anything. But the fact that he thinks that the compulsions control things, change things. If he doubts that his tennis game can exist outside of these compulsions, he’d panic and lose his flow. We’ve shown how panic can shorten time and add strength, but it also takes away endurance and fluidity.
So, yes Nadal can play great tennis outside of his routines. But the fact that he doesn’t think he can, keeps him from it.