Will Cycling Improve Your Game?

Here’s a question I recently received via e-mail from an athlete. I get asked this question quite a bit, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Dear Allistair,

Thank you for your tips and inspiring posts. I have a question I hope you can answer. My coach has me doing cycling (indoors) as part of my fitness training. He has me doing intervals and hill climb programs. Is this helping my game?

Mark W.
___________________________________________________

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your question!
Well the answer is ‘a big ‘no’ and a little ‘yes’.

Will biking improve your gameLet me start with the ‘No': Unless you’re a cyclist or Triathlete, cycling isn’t going to directly help your game if you are in a sport where you are on your feet (moving). Sure It might improve your ‘fitness’ or aerobic capacity, but my view on cycling is that there are a lot better things to do to improve your movement and game skills. I would rather ‘save my legs’ and energy and focus on the needs that my sport demands.

You aren’t sitting when you’re moving in your sport, so why train that way?
You always need to keep asking yourself ‘WHY?’ – Why am I doing this? Is this making me better or just making me tired?

You get what you train for. If you train fast, you will get fast. if you train slow, you will be slow. If you bike a lot, then you’ll probably become a pretty good cyclist.

The ‘Yes’ – Where is cycling beneficial for the athlete/player?

A cool down on the bike after a practice or match to spin the legs and flush out some lactic is ideal. Also a ride on a regeneration day, where the athlete is ‘staying off their feet’ and doing some foam rolling, stretching etc..

Also, maybe the athlete has a lower limb injury, then I will have them on a bike to help maintain (to a degree) their fitness and aerobic level.

Hope this helps!

Best of luck,

Allistair

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Performing Under Pressure

Performing Under Pressure 

Athletes, It comes down to this: You can be a beast in training (that’s good, that’s ok), the undisputed king of winning practice matches or points, but if your can’t perform under pressure when it counts (competition time) you won’t reach the elite levels.

PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE

In my experience of watching hundreds upon thousands of matches (in all sports), when two athletes or teams are of similar level in skills and fitness levels, the one who almost always wins, is the one who can handle stress and pressure best when fatigued. They stay positive under pressure. They focus on solutions, not problems.

The great athletes and teams thrive under pressure, whilst the others talk themselves out of success. They make excuses, they blame, they wilt, melt and fade away.

The difference in the preparation is this:
A mentally tough athlete is someone who has placed their body under tougher conditions during training. They embrace the difficulty and challenge. They ask the coach for more.
They don’t b*tch and moan about conditions, facilities or the weather, in fact, the tougher the better.

You want to be great? Then step up and do it.

Sugar coated practices with high fives and war cries won’t do it. You need the Ugly, the ‘search your soul’ practices. They bring out the reality, not the fantasy.

Players who have been placed under these situations will thrive when it counts more. Their body and mindset is prepared, they’ve been there already. They recognize it, accept it and adapt to it better.

ATHLETE: WANT TO KNOW WHEN THE BEST TIME AND OPPORTUNITY IS TO LEARN AND GET BETTER?

It’s when practice gets ugly, It’s messy, you are ready to throw it in, you are in a negative state of mind, you hate your coach —- YES! That’s when. It’s what I call OPPORTUNITY TIME.
That’s the time you, as an athlete, need to be COACHABLE, TO LISTEN AND RESPECT THE HELP YOU ARE GETTING – NOT FIGHT IT.

The way you compete is directly related to the way you train – your habits, your routines, your attitude, your ability to think and perform under pressure, even your punctuality arriving to training sessions.

My message is this: If you want to perform better under pressure (for example – win those closer matches), then start to take an honest hard look at how you train, think and respond to pressure under fatigue. Are you coachable?
For me, that’s what separates the elite athletes from the nearly elite athletes.

Great athletes ask their coaches to challenge and push them, not vice versa. They want the ‘ugliness’ in practices.

Are you asking for uglier?
Because that’s where Champions are made.

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Outfought rather than outthought – Serena Williams claims another Wimbledon title

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Malek Murison. 

As a general rule, in high level sport, the margins between victory and defeat are incredibly fine, with mistakes or moments of brilliance often enough to decide close contests. This is never truer than at the Wimbledon Championships, where this year Serena Williams once again dominated the grass courts of South West London. However, unlike previous years, 2015 was arguably a tournament where mental attributes rather than tactical decisions propelled Serena toward the title.

A run of testing matches showed the importance of mental fortitude and will to win, alongside the power and skill we have come to expect from Williams, highlighting just how far grit and determination can take you in the modern game. This is not to say that Williams isn’t a tactically sound player – that would be a ridiculous claim about arguably the greatest player the women’s game has ever seen – but rather that it wasn’t necessarily that side of her game which dominated Wimbledon this year.

Let’s take a closer look at Williams’ route to glory. Her first real match of note was the third Serena_Wimbledon_2015round encounter against home favourite Heather Watson. Roared on by a patriotic Centre Court crowd Watson took Williams to three sets, was at one stage a single point from going 4-0 up in the final set, and looked well on course to cause one of the biggest upsets in recent years. Williams herself said that Watson should have gone on to win the match, and yet for some reason she didn’t. Did Williams change her tactics to somehow come back against the odds? Not really. But what she did do was compete, and fiercely at that, literally screaming with fury at every ball. Sadly for Watson, in the end it was just too monumental a task to out-fight Serena, as Victoria Azarenka found out later in the quarter finals. Despite winning the first set, the former world number one from Belarus simply couldn’t maintain the intensity required to grind Serena Williams off the court.

The semi-final against Maria Sharapova has an interesting backstory, which perhaps shows us just how fierce a competitor Serena Williams is. Back in 2004 a 17-year old Sharapova beat Williams in the Wimbledon final, and since then Serena has won 17 of their head to heads in a row. For a player of Sharapova’s calibre to have such a poor record against Serena Williams is surprising to say the least. But perhaps it points to a deep lying motivation on the part of Williams to make up for that crushing defeat all those years ago, and to never again allow the Russian to get the better of her.

Credit goes to Williams because, In an increasingly competitive and exciting women’s game, the top seeds rarely all make it through the opening rounds unscathed. Yet Williams was able to come back from losing positions – no mean feat in a best of three set match – and her determination and sheer will to win ultimately overpowered her opponents just as much as her groundstrokes.

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‘Pushing’ the Athlete: Good or Bad?

‘Pushing’ the athlete: Good or Bad?

Pushing the athlete

Especially in my area of expertise, I can’t tell you how many times a parent or coach has asked me to push their athlete. Well, here’s my answer:
I never ‘push’ an athlete. I deeply believe that that must come from within the athlete or child themselves. They must want to. It’s must be their intrinsic motivation.

I’ve always believed that ‘pushing’ someone is doing something that’s not within their own desire and will.
In fact, over the years, I’ve seen coaches and parents push athletes right out of sport completely (Remember the “70% of kids drop out by age 13” article? – Link:https://www.facebook.com/McCawMethod/photos/a.666989423321861.1073741828.171104789576996/692370777450392/?type=3&theater

Pushing athletes can eventually lead to a resentment. A resentment of the coach, but even worse, a resentment to the sport eventually.

You see there’s a difference between pushing and making it tough. I believe in making it tough for them. I will challenge and make it hard for my athletes, physically and mentally, because at the end of the day it’s their choice to how much they push themselves. They have got to make that choice.

One of my favorite sayings is that as coaches, it’s not on us to teach effort, that’s on the athlete.

As a coach, I will motivate and facilitate my athletes ‘push’, but making sure its safe and contributing to the better of the athlete and his or her goals.

The best athletes in the world WANT to push themselves, they don’t need ‘pushers’, they simply need motivators and facilitators. And that’s our jobs as coaches.

Because Intrinsic motivation always wins in the long run.

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Home School Versus Traditional School

Home School Versus Traditional School

Todd Widom - PhotoThere is a new trend in tennis development with coaches convincing parents that pulling their child out of regular school and putting them into an online source of education is going to progress their child’s tennis at a more rapid rate. Tennis is a big business and more hours for your child on the court equates to more money for the coach or academy. However, more hours on the court does not mean that your child will progress faster or even progress at all, and it could even mean that your child regresses. It is all based upon the quality of the training.

I have parents call me often explaining how their child trains five to six hours a day, they are home schooled, and they are really struggling with results in their tournaments. I usually take a player like this on the court for an hour or so, and notice that they struggle to get through the hour training with me. The junior tennis player should be training to build up the mental and physical stamina in order to be able to handle all these hours if the training is to the utmost quality. If the player trains 25 to 30 hours a week and they cannot get through a normal hour of good training with me, and if they are running around with four to five other kids on a court, do yourself and your child a favor and keep them in school. You will save yourself a great deal of headache, money, and time if your child and their tennis training is not done properly.

My generation of tennis players, during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, that went on to become professionals or very high-level college players never had an online school option. We went to school and trained after school in a very disciplined environment for two to three hours. I understand that times have changed and online school can work if it is done properly. I also understand that many schools will not allow kids to miss enough days for when they are playing tournaments so the child is frequently forced into going the online route. If you are training in a very disciplined manner, in an excellent and well-formed system, and you are very disciplined with your school work, then the online program can work in the child’s favor. During my years in coaching, I have had students go to and play tennis at Ivy League schools with an online education.

I have seen where the online program can work with highly disciplined students and I have seen where the program is a disaster because there was no organization. It is the responsibility of both the student and parent to make sure that the school work is done in a timely fashion and done properly. I would not rely on the academy to make sure that your child is doing their work and doing their work up to par. No one cares for your child more than the parents.

When I was a junior tennis player, my vast improvements in development were in the summer when I could spend double the amount of time training and improving my skills. I was also trained by professionals that did not market and sell that they produced professionals in their system, even though they actually did produce very high-level college players and professionals. Therefore, the time spent on the court was always of the highest caliber and spending double the time on the court in the summer months were most beneficial. If you have the option for your child to be in a great training environment, they are serious about their tennis and seeing how far they can go in their tennis career, and they are disciplined and focused on being educated, I would probably take the online educational route. If the tennis system your child attends is not the best quality or they do not have a great desire to be the best they can be, then do yourself a favor and keep your child in school. If your child is a serious tennis player and has aspirations of being a high level college tennis player or a professional tennis player then you should consider online school and the best training system you can find for them to be successful and reach their best potential.

The post initially was published on Parenting Aces.

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