Your Inner Athlete: Williams Sisters, True Competitors

Your Inner Athlete: Williams Sisters, True Competitors

Dr. Haley Perlus continues with weekly tips about ways to empower “Your Inner Athlete.” Ok, yes, this is her second post this week, but that is because just three days ago, big news came out of the sports world: Serena Williams trounced sister Venus to reach U.S. Opens semis. Sadly, as of this writing, Serena lost in a shocker to Roberta Vinci, 2-6,6-4,6-4. However, Haley decided to seize the sister moment to talk about the nature of “true competition.”

Serena Williams of the U.S. (R) embraces her sister and compatriot Venus Williams after defeating her in their quarterfinals match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2015.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Serena Williams of the U.S. (R) embraces her sister and compatriot Venus Williams after defeating her in their quarterfinals match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

It’s such a treat when siblings in professional sport compete with each other. Whether you’re a fan of tennis or not, you’ve heard of the Williams sisters – Serena and Venus – both who have achieved top success in tennis and business.

On September 8th, with a score of 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, Serena eliminated Venus in the quarterfinals of the US Open. In her interview Serena commented that she doesn’t look at Venus as her sister, but as her competitor. I would have to agree and I’d also like to point out a few specific behaviors I witnessed that made this match what sport psychology experts are now referring to as true competition.

The root meaning of the word competition is “to strive or to seek with.” It is not “to strive or seek against.” If you watched the Williams’ match, you would have seen two athletes striving together to be the best they can be individually. Of course they each wanted to win and, in their quest for personal excellence, they welcomed each other’s best efforts. With all of their years playing together, Serena and Venus have formed a type of partnership where they facilitate and enhance the performance of the other purely by presenting optimal challenges.

Serena said that Venus is the “toughest opponent I face.” Any athlete, on a continuous mission to push beyond previous levels of achievement, needs an opponent, partner, and competitor, with skills that are roughly equal to him or her and who present a high challenge.

True competition also includes celebrating your victories during the competition. Serena let out a few fiery fist pumps and verbal praises during the match, but they were aimed at the ground rather than directly at Venus. It’s a way to acknowledge your positive performance while also respecting the athlete on the other side of the net who played a role in your achievement.

True competition obviously isn’t only present with sibling athletes, but these forums provide us a great opportunity to see true competition clearly played out on the field. Ultimately, for any athlete, business person, and health enthusiast who continues to strive to be the best they can be, must understand that to be their best, they need to have partners who will help them embrace the opportunity to achieve new heights. The handshake or hug at the end of the sport match, business meeting, or fitness session, cannot be just for show but for a deep gratitude for challenging each other to really step it up to perform their best, regardless of who wins in the end.

Where can you embrace true competition in your sport, business, or wellness? Is there an athlete in your running club that can become your partner and help you improve your time? Can you form a partnership with someone in your family and challenge each other to stick to your nutrition and fitness regimen? In business, instead of perceiving a specific person as an enemy in your company, can you find ways to look at him or her as the person who can push you to perform your best? I guarantee, once you start building this partnership in your mind, your energy, effort, and performance will skyrocket. It’s because you will be embracing true competition and finally using it to your full advantage.

Dr. Haley Perlus

About Dr. Haley Perlus:

The event wears its name like a glove: “WOW.”  The acronym is a perfect fit for Becca Tudor’s awesome Weekend of Wellness, relatively new festival (the 3rd annual gathering took place in early June) that celebrates overall fitness, including ways grow a spine, man up –  yoga, kettle bell, Pilates, cycling, kids’ classes – and also get educated about health trends in general through lectures by doctors, nutritionists, and renowned experts in the field of sports psychology.  Experts such as Dr. Haley Perlus, a stand-out on a long list of superstar women featured at Telluride WOW, already a no-miss event if you are on a path towards personal transformation.


I attended Haley’s lecture about the psychology behind good nutrition and overall health. The holistic contents turned out to be a back door to ways to live a healthy life in general. We were all left wanting more from this buff, blonde brainiac, so Telluride Inside… and Out invited Haley to blog on our site. And lucky for us all, Haley agreed.  BIO: With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, M.S. in Sport Pedagogy, and numerous fitness and coaching certifications, Dr. Perlus is an expert at empowering athletes of all types and health enthusiasts achieve peak results. An adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, international speaker, former Alpine ski racer, appointed Industry Leader for, and author, including soon-to-be-released “The One Minute Diet and Guidebook to Gold.”

Dr. Perlus helps people reach their highest standard of performance. For further information and a free chapter of one of her books, visit  

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