During Roger Federer’s match at the Australian Open this evening, the analysts discussed Federer’s athleticism, and his sports potential had he been raised in the United States rather than Switzerland.
This is similar to an argument that I have made repeatedly in my newsletters about Federer’s and Steve Nash’s athleticism.
The analysts said Federer would be a great shortstop or center fielder, or maybe a running back or a point guard. This analysis seems accurate.
He has great hands, which would make him a natural at shortstop, and he has great hand-eye coordination, anticipation and reaction time, which would aid his hitting.
He has great flexibility and reads subtle cues, which would give him the vision to pick out the holes in football or find the open man in basketball.
The more important point, however, is the cross over of athletic skills between sports and the true definition of athleticism. Federer is not a powerful athlete, so he does not fit most people’s definition of athleticism, much like with Nash. However, he exhibits so many different athletic qualities through his play that it is impossible not to call him athletic, when we use a broad definition of athleticism that combines more than just power.
Power is a facet of athleticism, and in power-related sports (1oom dash, Olympic weightlifting, football), it is a very important aspect of athleticism. However, power is not athleticism.