Interview with Nikander Damianos

What does your daily routine look like? 
A cup of coffee, a quick shower, a light breakfast and then I go to work. My breakfast usually consists of a muesli bun and Greek yoghurt with a little honey. I don't want to eat too much. In the morning my body still needs to start up so I don’t feel like stuffing myself with too many different nutrients.

So basically, you don't give yourself a rest to sit quietly and eat breakfast? 
Yes, that's about right. I don't have any other morning rituals. Most of the time, I am in the 'quick let’s hurry mode’ to get to work anyway. 

What is your inner drive to get the most out of yourself every single day? 
I want to become the best version of myself and make full use of my maximum potential every time. I’d like to seek and experience what can be improved in my tools and skills to become even better. When things become easier to me, I soon tend to let go of that specific mindset, because the results will be good anyway. 

nikander damianos the drive to do it interview

At what point did you stop playing tennis?
Until I was 18, I was always in the top three. To keep that up takes a continuous drive. I also had quite a few injuries that confronted me with the fact that you really have to keep giving it your all, because if you don't, others will. With padel, I found my drive again, to see what your limits are and really work for it. 

What happens if you don't feel like training at some point? 
I want to become the best version of myself within the means I have and within the social place I am in right now: sports, work and a social life. I no longer put everything aside for my sport, as I used to. I want to become the best version of myself in conjunction with other things that are important to me in life. It is no longer the only thing my life is all about. That is why it hardly ever happens that I don't feel like playing. My work is now more like my tennis career used to be and padel really is a choice. I choose to do something I really enjoy and that gives me energy. Maybe if I'm injured at one point I might think that it’s no quite my day, but no, it hardly every happens that I don’t feel like training or playing padel. These are really my lucky moments in my week. 

Does your work also consist of teaching padel training now?
Yes, that is one of the things I do. But besides that, I am involved in a lot of different things. That makes my work exiting and fun. I'm doing traders, giving clinics, setting up venues and giving padel lessons.

As it comes to padel, you are now ranked No. 7 in the Netherlands. What is your ambition regarding padel? What does your best version look like?
That's hard to say of course. In fact, if you dive deep into that topic, you might come to the conclusion that you may never achieve the best version of yourself. You can always improve certain things and skills. There are plenty of examples of top athletes who once became No 1 in the world and then, six years later, still became No 1. Purely by constantly improving themselves. 

With how my life is arranged now and with the place padel has in my life now, I would be very happy with top 5 spot. Besides, I would like to be part of the Dutch team instead of playing along. That also means that I no longer see myself playing in the World Cup, but as a part of the Dutch team. And of course, the Olympics. We are working hard to make padel an Olympic sport, so that would be my ultimate goal. 

What is your tip for anyone looking for 'the' drive? 
Don't go looking for your drive. Sounds very cliché, but I think everyone has a certain drive. There is always something that you like and that energizes you. You have to listen to that. I think that if you listen to that voice deep inside and act upon it, you will find your drive. Everyone thinks something and everyone has an opinion. The important thing is to find out what gives you energy. I think it is highly important to stay true to your own inner voice that tells you what your drive is, to ‘feel’ what your drive is really. Above all, 'dare to feel' yourself. 

Looking at myself, I have played tennis professionally all my life and that is why people saw me as 'the tennis player'. If they asked my parents when me and my brother were younger "how are the children doing?", they were always referring to 'the water polo player' and 'the tennis player'. Our names were sometimes not even mentioned. Sport at that level becomes part of your identity. To suddenly quit the sport is then quite a big step. I really had to say goodbye to 'something', even though I hadn't enjoyed the game for a long time. You keep doing it because it is a part of you. Whereas, at a certain point, I realized that I got very little energy from it. And at the same time padel did gave me that energy…

nikander damianos the drive to do it interview

Tennis was your life. Padel is a choice. Would you eventually stop enjoying padel if it became your fulltime job at one point?
I like the fact that padel is a team sport. Tennis is very individualistic and padel is a team sport. You really play together, unlike playing tennis.  

I sometimes found the individualism of tennis very annoying. I could also get very angry. With padel, you share your victories, you lose matches together, together it’s more bearable. It's way more fun to approach it that way. But even so, I really had to choose for padel. I wondered how to find the time again. And when I started, padel was still seen as a game. If I really wanted to pursue this, I had to quit tennis. The two sports collides if you want to take it seriously. That was a big step for me. A step I don't regret, but I had to take it. 

You also see a lot of soccer players suddenly taking up padel. Most of them had no choice, for instance because they could not continue with their career. I did have that choice, and therefore I had to experience whether I would miss playing tennis. I don’t miss it, at all. You can also get stuck in something and still keep playing or keep doing it. And then you’ll eventually find out that it just isn't it after all. I think a lot of people get stuck in that kind of decisions. Whether it happens in sports or with other things. I think for a lot of people making choices is quite difficult. 

You are a very good example of really following your own drive. Does it feel that way for yourself? 
Yes, I daresay so. I really went for something that brings me joy and happiness. If you had asked me this three years ago, I might have looked at it differently. But this opportunity crossed my path and I went for it. You have to seize opportunities and not just think 'oh that could be something’ and then do nothing but staying in your confort zone. You sometimes have to think "I'll just turn right at this point". At least that's what I did. 

nikander damianos the drive to do it interview

Do you have routines? And are your routines important to you? 
Yes, I do have routines. They give peace and structure. But some of my routines also rely on superstitions in my sport. I have to start my day with coffee and a shower, then I start my day well. During the game I walk on the lines, and I always have to put a new grip on my racket before I start. Furthermore, I don't want to eat too heavy, so an energy gum or a protein bar is part of my routine. 

What is your motto? 
Go for the things that give you energy and not just do it, but go all in. Allow it into your life and fully enjoy what you’re doing. Also, make sure you're not busy with things that others expect you to do, but be busy with thing that make you happy.  

Are there any gym exercises specific to padel that will help you get better? 
Motoric skills, speed, agility, laddering, turning and everything that has to do with core training. Personally, I wouldn’t focus on strength training, because you don't want heavy muscles, you want to train speed and agility... I like speed exercises best. 

Are there any tips you want to give padellers? What should they do to get into the top 10 as well? 
First of all, you have to enjoy the game. That goes for everything, you have to enjoy it to become really good at it. If you really want to become a top player, dare to experience where you fall short in the game. If necessary, ask a coach, your friends or be very honest with yourself. You often are aware of your weaknesses. Try to master those. There are many top players who keep practicing and practicing on something they are less good at, and even when they master it well, they still keep practicing. Koeman is a great example of this: he kept practicing on free kicks even after training. That distinguishes a footballer from a top footballer. Facing your weaknesses and making them your specialty.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment