Three Things Every Young Athlete Needs to Know in Order to Succeed

Three things every young athlete needs to know in order to succeed

Picture of Allistair McCaw

Allistair McCaw

1. The Mind is everything.

It can be your best friend or your biggest enemy. When you choose to act, think and stay positive, especially during pressure situations in matches, the better chance you will have of succeeding. You will be surprised how many better skilled or talented players you can beat just by keeping ‘it together’ and believing. To be champion minded you have true self confidence.

2. Look and act like a Winner.

Your body language speaks volumes. They say you can tell a winner from a a mile away. Your posture and the way you carry yourself sends a powerful message to your opponents. Walking around with slumped shoulders and dragging your feet, sends a message that you are doubtful, negative and unsure.

In fact, it only gives your opponents more energy and power. Looking and acting like a winner (even when you are trailing in a match), sends a message of “I’m coming at you with my best”.

3. Never, ever give up!

If you keep ‘hanging in there’, great things can happen. I promise you. No matter how badly you are performing or how impossible it seems, there’s a chance. Why? Because you’re still alive and ‘in it’.

In fact, your best chance to turn a match around is when your opponent thinks they are near the finish line and think they’ve already won. That’s when you keep pushing them and keep playing!

Your opponents fear it most, when they are close to winning and you are still putting the pressure on!

I promise you that the quicker you implement these 3 things, the better chances of success you will have!

Help us to reach more tennis parents, players, and coaches. Share the post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.

Ten Things that Great Coaches Do

MASTERING THE FUNDAMENTALS - Ten Things that Great Coaches Do

  1. Great coaches are great listeners.
  2. Great coaches are great motivators.
  3. Great  coaches don’t just communicate well, they connect.
  4. Great coaches are great teachers.
  5. Great coaches care.
  6. They don’t only teach and coach the sport, they teach life skills and lessons.
  7. Great coaches are not afraid of change.
  8. Great coaches never stop learning.
  9. Great coaches don’t arrive on time, they arrive well before time.
  10. Great coaches are great innovators.

Help us to reach more tennis parents, players, and coaches. Share the post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.

A Simple Cure

Picture of David Mullins

David Mullins

I had to retire from the finals of the Irish Junior National Championship Finals when I was 18. This was a huge deal to me at the time, and it should have been the impetus for some changes in my approach to the care of my body.

The reason I had to retire was that for the first time in my young tennis career I experienced a significant injury. The culprit was the lower right side of my back, and it felt like a debilitating injury. I could not even put my socks on the morning of the final, never mind try to run around a tennis court!

I rested for a few weeks, took some pills, received physiotherapy, started a stretching routine and incorporated some new strengthening exercises into my gym routine. I then went off to college, and by my senior year my back had packed up again. I ended up sitting out about 2 months of my senior year, at a time I was playing my best tennis.

I started seeing a chiropractor, invested in orthotics, got some new stretches and routines in the gym to help fix it. I saw some slow improvements, but every few months I would have another episode of this terrible back pain that could keep me sidelined for weeks or months. Each time, it was rest, physio, painkillers, stretching, sleeping on the floor with my head on a phone book! I tried everything. Once I stopped competing at a high level I had very few back issues.

However, this past year, at age 37, I returned to competitive tennis representing Ireland in the over 35 world championships in South Africa. I started training relatively hard for this event, and sure enough my back problems returned. I stumbled through the event with limited movement and serving ability. I even had to sit out a couple of days letting my team down.

My physio, who is also a tennis player, suggested I change my serving technique. I heeded his advice and sure enough I believe my back is fixed! I played a Men’s Open money event last week and won 4 singles matches and 4 doubles matches over 6 days to win the event. I was on the court up to 4-5 hours some evenings, and not once did I have an issue with my back.

To me, this is a miracle! I never believed I could play tennis for this long, at this level ever again. I assumed that it was just down to bad genetics, and that I should probably quit competitive tennis again as it could lead to more degenerative issues later in life. Advice that many “experts” love to give. I think they feel secure in this advice because they assume the person/patient won’t actually do the hard work it will take to cure themselves.

I had several coaches, physios, back specialist and other experts work with me during my days as a competitive tennis player, and not one of them suggested that maybe my back issues were being caused by something in my technique. No one, including myself put the pieces of the puzzle together that my extreme serve motion was causing the inflammation in my back.

I experienced my first injury at age 18 that stuck with me for almost 20 years. I see junior players now consistently getting injured at even younger ages. I am not saying that everyone’s injuries are being caused by their technique, but this is an area players, parents and coaches should be taking a very close look at if a player is experiencing a recurring injury.

We get so wrapped up in results that making a major technique change to prevent further injuries is a low priority. We would much prefer to find an easier, quick fix solution, such as painkillers, therapy or in some cases surgery. After my experience, I believe that a player’s technique is the first place we should be reviewing when players are consistently injured.

This may seem obvious, but I assure you, IT IS DEFINITELY NOT HAPPENING in most parts of the world. Players put a lot of pressure on themselves to win and also may feel that pressure from parents and coaches to perform to justify the investment in their passion.

Even though their technique might be shaky, the shot may be effective and perhaps the players main weapon. Very few players (and coaches) are willing to take a few steps back in order to set the player on a new trajectory which hopefully includes fewer injury woes in their future.

Ultimately, the players have to be the ones taking the lead on this. They must be willing to do the work it will require, and commit to the constant maintenance that will be needed for maybe the rest of their tennis career. However, they also need to be supported by their coaches and parents as they suffer through some unexpected losses and a dip in confidence.

The process I went through to change my serve was relatively simple. The coach at my club video tapped my serve, showed me how extreme it was, had me look at a video of Federer, and I changed it on the spot. It felt weird, uncomfortable and limiting, but with time it got better as I had a clear picture in my head as to how it should look. I would say I have lost, on average, about 5-10mph off my serve but my 1st serve percentage is higher and I am hitting my spots more consistently.

I am not saying it will be this simple for everyone, but I would prefer to start with this, rather than another round of anti-inflammatories! The other amazing part of this story is that I always suffered with some low-level golfer’s elbow throughout my tennis career. Since changing my serve this tendonitis has disappeared. My old serve included an extreme elbow tuck that was likely causing this issue.

The two recurring injuries, and really the only injuries I ever dealt with as a tennis player are completely fixed from just changing my serve technique! I have put up a video on my youtube channel – davemullinstennis –  to show the difference between my old motion, my new one, and what it looked like when I was injured and barely able to serve at all.

If a player is struggling with a particular chronic injury, I would suggest finding a coach that can help identify the shot or strokes that might be causing the problem, and then start the process of rebuilding the technique to avoid future injury issues. Not all coaches are experts in technique. It definitely is not the strongest part of my coaching repertoire. It is okay to work with another coach who is strong in this area; it does not mean you are ditching your current coach.

Hopefully both can work together for the betterment of the player. I would also suggest finding a physiotherapist (athletic trainer) with a strength and conditioning background that can provide treatment, but also a logical rehab and strengthening program that starts at a basic level, and progresses over a long period of time. There is usually a healthy, holistic solution out there to these injury problems, but you have to be willing to make some changes, and put in the work.

Even though I believe my back and elbow issues have been fixed, I still work on strengthening the muscles around these areas in the gym at least twice per week. I assure you, the initial frustration you feel with the technical change will all be well worth it for your tennis and overall health and wellness.

Help us to reach more tennis parents, players, and coaches. Share the post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you. 

Important Lessons from Roger Federer Season in 2017

Picture of Marcin Bieniek

Marcin Bieniek

We just started new year. 2018 is on. As all people do it is time to analyze past year and learn some lessons from our own experience. But why should we limit our improvement just to our own positive and negative situations? Let’s learn from others too. Let’s learn from king Roger Federer.

2017 was definitely a surprising year not only for Federer’s fans but for the whole tennis world. Roger was coming back after a longer break and nobody knew what to expect from Swiss player. Roger Federer proved that he is probably the best tennis player in the history of sport because he won 2 out of 3 Grand Slam tournaments that he participated in. His technique was always fabulous but his physical and mental preparation are skills that were responsible for his spectacular results in the past year.

Not everyone is able to come back after break with the same success like Roger – look at Maria Sharapova who was banned from competitive play and she is still without major title after coming back to pro tour. 2018 also confirms that coming back after injury is not an easy job. Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori are already out of Australian Open and we still hesitate about performance of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

I am aware that Roger Federer plays at a completely different level than we play but it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from his experiences and incorporate this knowledge into our own performance. Roger gives us opportunity to see that some methods are worthy to consider so why shouldn’t we learn from the best tennis player in the world and trust his approach? If top player can try new things and risk fame and millions of dollars what would stop us to make some small changes?

Unfortunately many players are scared of losing to lower-ranked opponent or they don’t see their tennis career in long-term and that is why they don’t progress or their development is really slow. Only by trying new things you are able to discover your maximum potential as well as you can avoid some mistakes that you made in the past.

Roger Federer season in 2017 was excellent. He won Australian Open and Wimbledon and he looked like good-old-maestro. It was so interesting to watch but if you look at some changes that Roger incorporated you can understand that it wasn’t a luck. Roger trusted his new plan and it worked out. Now it is time for us to take some lessons from his season and apply them to our careers.

RF 2018 - Important Lessons from Roger Federer Season in 2017

Lesson 1. Set priorities for tournaments

Younger players tend to play more and more tournaments. They look only at ranking points and what they see is the next tournament. Roger Federer had completely different approach in 2017. He understands his limitations and stage of career so he chose to play less tournaments. Why was this approach so successful? Roger was able to focus just on few competitions and he would set his training plans just for these events. That’s a precious lesson for all tennis players. You don’t have to play 30 tournaments a year because you have still many years to go. Set less tournaments but make sure that you have a good training plan and you work as hard as possible to be in the best shape while competing.

Lesson 2. Have good work/life balance

This is one of the areas that not too many players (and coaches) pay attention to. Roger has wife and 4 kids and he understands his role of the father and wife. He set some breaks during the season to spend more time with family and enjoy off-tennis time. Did it affect his tennis performance? Did he lose endurance level? Did he forget how to beat his biggest rival Rafa Nadal?

Of course not. Unfortunately too many players and parents have these doubts even while thinking about vacation. Learn this lesson and make sure you have proper tennis/life balance because if there is too much tennis in your life you will have no chances to achieve great results.

Lesson 3. Age is not a limitation

I know many coaches and tennis experts who say that if player is 28 years old it is time to think about retirement. Really? Let’s look at Roger in 2017. 35 years old and beating the best players in the world. It doesn’t matter if his rival was experienced 28 years old player or new generation 20 years old kid because Roger was better. His stamina, speed, agility, reaction and coordination are still in place. What does it mean for other players? Don’t put limitations on you. You can achieve anything you want if you work smart and hard.

2017 was great but right now we are in 2018. I am waiting for Australian Open to see if Roger is going to surprise us again. I know that he has abilities like nobody else to raise his level during the most important events but tennis provides the same chances for winning to all competitors. The best player will win the title but our job is to watch matches with pleasure and learn more than just pure results.

Help us to reach more tennis parents, players, and coaches. Share the post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you. 

Tennis Is One of the Most Physically Demanding Sport

Picture of Ray Brown

Ray Brown

Male students often arrive at our place in horrible poor physical shape. I have inquired about this and they reveal that they are discouraged from participating in any physically demanding activity for fear that it will be too much for them.

Tennis at our place is very hard and physically demanding. I have kids come, as old as 16, and interview and never return for fear of how hard the program is. This is the exact opposite of my generation who never recoiled from a difficult task.

Some South African immigrants recently presented to me a startling conjecture. The reason that American males are growing up so pampered and irresponsible is that the father in the family has failed to do his job of teaching the males how to step-up to a challenge.

They went so far as to say that the mother now has too much say in the upbringing and as a result the boys are prevented doing what boys of my generation did: constantly engage in vigorous physical activity.

Of note is that those students in our program who also play football or basketball report how much easier training for those sports is compared to tennis. When we get a transfer from football, for example, it takes at least a month to get the student into adequate physical shape to do our drills because they have never been physically challenged.

These facts now raise a new and controversial question about why tennis participation is lagging. It is not that that other sports are “stealing’ the talent; it is because other sports are easier.

A curious fact about group sports is the factor of “group think”. Players can actually agree among themselves to slack off and take it easy during training, thus resulting in an inferior player.

Tennis, at least at our place, does not allow for such group think. It is quite the opposite: everyone must constantly step up the pace and meet difficult challenges.

So I leave this question for your readers: is the fall off in American tennis a result of other sports stealing the talent; or, is it a result of pampered kids just not being able to step up to a challenge because they have never been required to do so, or even discouraged from dong so?

Help us to reach more tennis parents, players, and coaches. Share the post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.