How adversity can be Bouchard’s best teacher


Adversity can be the best teacher.

It builds character and soul.

Grow up poor and disadvantaged, and you learn to fight your way out of it. Get stepped on enough, and you learn to stand up for yourself and believe in yourself. Lose your friends and family, and you learn to appreciate the value of those around you.

Until her recent struggles including first round exits at the French Open and Wimbledon, Genie Bouchard probably didn’t know much about adversity. She grew up around wealth in Montreal and Florida.

She was a “pampered athlete” assisted by her parents, Tennis Canada and her longtime coach Nick Saviano.

Thanks to the business acumen of agents and organizers, Bouchard gained her fame (magazine covers) and fortune (endorsements) based more on her celebrity looks and golden personality than her proven ability to hire the right people, manage a crisis, or win multiple tennis tournaments. (She’s only won the Nuremberg event on the WTA tour).

How could such a fortunate upbringing teach her about adversity?

Genie might know more about adversity than we assume. We don’t know what really happened between her and Saviano, or her former best friend Laura Robson, or various other coaches, handlers and others.

Maybe she’s tougher inside than we think. But the public doesn’t see this.

Sure, we see her visit kids in hospitals — a very good thing. But that wouldn’t give her the toughness of nurses dealing daily with moaning and dying patients.

We see Bouchard losing on tennis courts on TV. But that’s not like losing her country to war, or her sister to murderous gangs.

The world’s top players — Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams — know all about adversity.

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Djokovic grew up amid the horrors of the Yugoslav war (which I covered in the early 90s).

Williams, who grew up in America’s own war-zone in southern California, also had to overcome the murder of her sister.

Andy Murray was 8 years old when he took cover under a desk as a former scout leader — a man he knew — shot dead 16 kids and their teacher at a school in Scotland.


Roger Federer, once known for tantrums, matured as a person and player after Peter Carter (his coach from age 10) died in a car accident a week before Federer’s 21st birthday.


Rafa Nadal grew up on an island in a nation not nearly as wealthy as France, Switzerland, Germany or Sweden. He still acts with utmost humility and respect for opponents, and he blames nobody but himself for his recent struggles.


Bouchard doesn’t deserve her new public image as the “arrogant” princess who refused to shake hands before a match. She’s actually generous with fans and media, singing autographs after practices, posing for their selfies, and generally helping reporters do the difficult task of analyzing her problems. (I even saw her helping these guys use their phone in Madrid.) 


But Bouchard said she never saw Ying-Ying Duan play before their opening round match at Wimbledon. All she had to do was go to youtube.

Bouchard says she needs a new trainer to help her gain strength. You need a trainer to strengthen you? How about the thousands of other athletes who run — on their own — in Kenyan highlands or Jamaican tracks, or train on muddy courts in Kyiv or cracked courts in America?

At some point Bouchard has to realize — as many champions do — that her will power has to come from within. Tennis Canada, IMG, Saviano, Sam Sumyk, Justin Bieber, Jim Parsons — it doesn’t matter who is around you. You are the one playing on the tennis court. You have to find something within, something deep down dirty and special about yourself that gives you the oomph to overcome obstacles. 

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Spending a few weeks on a beach with your family or boyfriend — as many pundits have suggested — might give you time and distance, but it won’t teach you about adversity.

Buying a new house or boat might cheer you up but it also won’t teach you about adversity.

Working with Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan would certainly help build character.


But it’s not a realistic option for Genie. A better one? Play the Challenger tour. Get your driver’s license and drive from event to event. Work-out with boxers or martial artists. Go back to the same focus and work ethic that got you to number 32 in the world (a great achievement) when I first saw you in Japan in autumn 2013.


And here’s the most rad advice of all. Read all that negative stuff that trolls or critics say online about you. Don’t be afraid of it. Learn to accept the dark side of humanity, and yourself. It will teach you how to deal with pressure and negativity. After awhile, you won’t even notice it. 

The positive take-away for Genie is that the more she loses, the more she learns about adversity. If you want a competitive advantage and superior mental strength under pressure than your opponent, consider this, Genie. Only you know what’s it’s like to reach a Wimbledon final, become rich and famous at age 21, and then lose almost all your matches this year. Only you know what it’s like to be the most hated and targeted player on tour right now.

They don’t know how that feels, and you can be stronger for it.

(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson, Globalite Media. All rights reserved)