A journey of hope and doubt

Shameema Yousuf, Sport Psychologist and CMPC at Empower2Perform, watches 'Andy Murray: Resurfacing'.

Andy Murray – Wimbledon Champion, US Open Champion, ATP Finals Tour Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist. The title of his recent documentary, ‘Resurfacing’, is apt given the resurgence in British Tennis hopes he has inspired. But in the main this is the uncertain and emotional journey of an injured athlete, following Murray's hip resurfacing operation.

In a January 2018 selfie video, 29-year-old Murray describes his worry about an upcoming procedure, following a painful season where his problems became publicly apparent in a Wimbledon 2017 match against Sam Querrey. The programme quickly introduces us to the team of people that have supported Murray on his recovery journey, which includes his coach, a physiotherapy medical team, sport scientist, a sport psychologist and his family. This highlights the impact of multidisciplinary support during the course of the athlete’s injury rehabilitation, with each bringing different strengths, personalities, and comfort, needed by the athlete. 

Viewers get a sense of Murray’s perfectionist tendencies and work ethic, in his commitment to tolerate intense routines to build his strength and movement both on and off court. He embraces challenges that push his body and pain threshold to its limit. Attention to detail and an incessant need to explore all avenues with regards to his injury are evident, as he speaks to other athletes who have had similar operations to understand their return to fitness timelines. 

While the documentary highlights critical media headlines questioning his ‘emotional’ mentality and fitness in his early career, Murray has won the hearts of those who share the platform with him on tour. Champions, family members and previous coaches highlight his philosophy, combative mentality in the face of adversity, drive for excellence and thirst for detail – factors in his success as an athlete. But we're also introduced to aspects of vulnerability experienced by an injured athlete. Murray speaks of his anxiety, the pressures of intense media and public scrutiny surrounding his injury, his escape into tennis as a child after experiencing a traumatic school shooting event in Dunblane, and his parents' divorce.

'Resurfacing' is a journey of hope and doubt, as viewers are taken on the emotional ride that many severely injured athletes may experience. At some point athletes who suffer severe injury will question what is next in their career, as the reality of retirement looms. Murray considers his life after tennis, ruminating on the structure his career gives, but not wanting to push through any more pain. He visits a clinic to get treatment to numb his nerves endings so that he doesn’t feel pain when pushing limits on court, and towards the end of 2018 he tries alternative fitness techniques with a reconditioning coach in the USA.

Murray tries everything possible to help him continue his quest to compete pain free, but as the realisation that his hip operation and rehabilitation efforts in 2018 has not quelled the agony, the emotional toll of pursuing excellence is again brought to the fore as he struggles to announce his impending retirement at the Australian Open 2019. His announcement is not definitive, as Murray relentlessly continues to search for solutions that will allow him to continue in his tennis career. 

Murray then undergoes a metal hip replacement surgery, after which he returns with the same commitment to fitness and training. Viewers begin to see a different Murray: a man emancipated from anguish and pain, happy and at ease in family life, and ever more determined to play the game he loves. With much media attention, he focuses on his return in doubles at the Fever Tree Championships during the 2019 grass court season, continuing on to compete on the singles court in Washington, DC in August 2019. As the documentary ends, one is reminded of the journey of an elite athlete who continues to push boundaries with hope, passion, and perfectionist tendencies in a sport that has given him refuge and success.

The documentary illuminates a number of themes in applied sport psychology practice. With the support of a sport psychologist, athletes can maintain perspective and manage difficult emotions associated with re-injury, doubt and a lack of confidence fuelled by the pressures of internal and external expectations. 'Resurfacing' also draws out the importance of developing an identity that extends beyond being an athlete. Personal and vocational development is essential to enable the transition across different phases of an athlete’s career, which may include possible forced retirement. We similarly recognise that Murray demonstrates resilience in the face of adversity. While adverse situations expose athletes to challenges that help to develop resilience, sport psychologists may support athletes by helping them to develop personal qualities required to maintain function through these adversities.

To summarise, ‘Resurfacing’ documents the complexities and personal relationships in injury rehabilitation, both physically and psychologically.

- Watch now on Amazon Prime Video.

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