3 lessons from Roger Federer’s speech at Dartmouth College: ‘Life is bigger than the court’ and more

Roger Federer stood before the graduating class of Dartmouth College, feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. He began his speech with humour, admitting it was only his second time on a college campus.

Dressed in an unfamiliar robe, he joked about his discomfort and how he had worn shorts almost every day for the past 35 years. He reflected on his journey, sharing lessons learned from tennis that he hoped would resonate with the graduates.

Effortless is a myth

The first lesson was that “effortless” was a myth. He described how hard he had to work to make his play appear smooth and easy.

“The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy. I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool,” he said.

It’s only a point

His second lesson, “It’s only a point”, drew from the brutal reality of tennis, where even top players win just over half their points. He urged the students not to dwell on failures but to learn from them and move forward with renewed focus.

Life, like tennis, is full of ups and downs, and the ability to overcome hard moments defines a true champion, according to him.

“In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches. Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches? Only 54%,” he said.

“When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world. But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you,” he added.

Life is bigger than the court

Federer’s final lesson was that life is bigger than the court. He shared his passion for travel, culture and philanthropy. He spoke about his work with his foundation to provide early childhood education in Africa. 

The legendary tennis player encouraged the graduates to pursue a purpose-filled life and make a difference in the world.

“I never abandoned my roots, and I never forgot where I came from… but I also never lost my appetite to see this very big world,” Federer said.

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Published: 11 Jun 2024, 02:11 PM IST

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