For seven years, I served as the Chief Tournament Physician for the Family Circle Cup, a women’s professional tennis tournament in Charleston, South Carolina. Over those years, I met and took care of some of the best athletes in the world, including Venus and Serena Williams. It was an amazing experience.

Performing the coin toss at the Family Circle Cup women’s professional tennis tournament

One year, as part of a marketing agreement between the tournament and the hospital where I worked, the institution had the opportunity to have a representative do the coin toss at the beginning of the featured match of the day, one that would be shown on ESPN. The president of the university couldn’t do it. The dean of the medical school couldn’t make it. Marketing knew I would be there anyway in my office in the clubhouse, so they asked if I could run over and do it.

Picture the scene. Roughly 10,000 people were in the stadium to watch a match between tennis star Serena Williams and a young Russian player. Serena was and is extremely popular among the Charleston tennis fans. I was supposed to walk out to the center of the court with the match referee. The players would enter, drop their bags and walk to center court. Each one would shake my hand, and then I would flip the coin. One player would call the coin toss, and then the winner of the coin toss would either pick to serve or choose which side she wanted to play on first.

I walk out to center court with the referee and exchange small talk for a couple of minutes. Serena and the Russian girl walk in and drop their bags. The Russian girl gets to the net first, smiles at me and shakes my hand.

Eliminating distractions can help you see your goals clearly, like Serena Williams

Serena Williams ignores me during the coin toss

Then Serena walks up. I extend my hand, but she doesn’t shake it. She doesn’t even look at me. She is staring straight at her young Russian opponent.

I was embarrassed. In front of about 10,000 people in the stadium and who knows how many people watching on TV, she left me hanging. The referee nudged me and told me to flip the coin, which I did. After someone called it and won the toss, I walked off the court. I tried to hide my embarrassment, but honestly, it stung a little bit.

A distraction to Serena Williams that day?

For months, I was really mad about it. I couldn’t believe how rude Serena Williams was in that moment. But over the years, as I have become more interested in personal performance, I have changed my attitude towards what happened at center court that day.

Serena Williams wasn’t being rude. She was focused. I was simply a distraction to her. Her one goal that day was to beat the young Russian girl on the opposite side of the net. She came there to do one job – beat her opponent – and she was focused on doing it. And she did win – destroyed the girl, in fact – in less than an hour. That focus is a large part of why she is the best player in the history of women’s tennis.

What distractions are keeping you from achieving your goals and dreams?

What distractions are you allowing to get in the way of your main goal? What should you be focusing on, but instead you are texting, using social media, reading blogs and websites and other activities that get you no closer to your goal? In fact, they take you away from that goal.

You must eliminate large and small distractions that destroy your focus at work or in school or sports

In the video above, I discuss the Serena Williams incident and how she taught me the importance of focus that day. I offer some examples of how small – and large – distractions – keep you from achieving your main goals at work or in school or sports. If you can eliminate distractions and focus on the one activity that moves the needle towards achieving your big goals, you can be a Champion in Sports, Business and Life.

Ready to win in every aspect of your life?

I’ve created a checklist of 12 qualities of the world’s best athletes and coaches that will help you win in your work and life. If you adopt these traits, you will succeed in every aspect of your life, every single day.

Get the checklist here!

Recommended Products and Resources
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