10 Reasons Why Champions Succeed

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Allistair McCaw

1. They have a vision and deeper purpose.

2. They are willing to get up at any hour in the morning to go train.

3. They are willing to go harder and longer than their opponents.

4. They never look for excuses or blame others. They take responsibility.

5. They never blame their circumstances or past.

6. They are obsessed and constantly thinking about it.

7. They have a deeper purpose and are driven by their ‘why’.

8. They are protective of their energy and who they associate with.

9. They aren’t trying to be perfect, instead they are doing, trying, failing and trying again until they get it right.

10. Last but not least, and probably the most important one; they simply want it more and will do whatever it takes.

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How Much Does the Coach Really Matter? 

David Mullins

Sports fans typically fancy themselves to be true experts of their sport. They love to share their opinions as to what tactics athletes should adopt, what calls the coaches should have made, who must retire, who should turn pro, who is taking performance enhancing drugs and which coaches should lose their jobs.

They love to give adulation and praise to coaches when they win and demonize them when they lose. But Max Landsberg, author of Mastering Coaching, states only “20 percent of learning derives from a coach who cares about an individual’s or team’s learning.”

If this is true, even if a coach happens to be the Michael Jordan of coaching, the most they can hope to impact a players progress is around 20%. This means that your average or inexperienced coach may have even less than 20% influence on their players’ development. This makes me question, do coaches deserve the attention they receive?

My own experiences and observations have led me to believe that a team’s success ultimately depends upon the quality, experience and mindset of the players within the team more than any other factor. Think about it. Do the Patriots win yet another Super Bowl without Tom Brady at the quarter-back position? Do the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Championship without LeBron James?

When it comes to building a successful college tennis team (or any college sports team), the most vital skill a coach can possess has nothing to do with motivation, conditioning, tactics, team-building, empathy, planning or culture building. It is, in fact, sales!

One of the reasons I retired from college coaching is because it had become clear that the profession had evolved to be more about sales and less about coaching at the highest levels. I naively entered the profession thinking it was all about tennis development and molding young students into highly functioning adults who would go take on the world.

Originally, this was the sole purpose for including athletics as part of the curriculum in third level education institutions, but I believe the relevance of this now gets lost with the influx of resources at the highest levels. Those wanting to make a name for themselves as a college coach must make recruiting their highest priority, every moment of every day.

At many colleges, winning is the number one priority of the Athletic Department. Therefore, Athletic Directors should be looking for highly skilled salespeople, and investing in the development of their coaches’ selling proficiency more than any other area of expertise.

The definition of the word Coach is, “One who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy.” Based on this definition, I think using the word, “coach,” for college coaches of all sports, including tennis, may be somewhat inaccurate. Head coaches are expected to play many different roles and they need a term that more broadly defines their occupation. My belief is that they hold more of a management position, and coaching is just one of their various daily duties, thus referring to them as managers would be more appropriate.

To be sure, there are still many dedicated “coaches” out there who are fantastic developers and phenomenal, genuine salespeople. They don’t spend time negatively recruiting other programs and can connect at a high level with these teenagers. They may not be coaching championship winning teams but they are maximizing their recruits’ potential and find ways to consistently overachieve despite their limited talent level.

They spend an inordinate amount of time travelling, making phone calls, and building relationships with players, parents and coaches in order to find a recruit who will match their coaching style. Once that player is on campus for their freshmen year, this same coach works incredibly hard to back up everything they promised, and work equally as hard on the court as they did during the recruitment process. I have so much respect for these coaches and what they sacrifice.

It is up to you, the future prospect, to determine who those coaches are and how important a role you want them to play in your experience. Remember, that on average, the most you can hope the coach to assist with your development is about 20%. The rest will be up to you. On the other hand, it is also important to recognize that a coach can have a negative influence on your experience, too.

I coached players that were not right for my program and coaching style and even with the best of intentions, was not the correct fit for them as a coach. This happens from time to time, so be sure to do your homework so that does not happen to you.

I tell clients I consult with all the time to get very clear on their criteria for selecting a college. Many of them will tell me that having a “good” coach is one of their top priorities. When they use the word coach, they are generally referring to the strict definition of a coach and determine how good a coach is by their win/loss record. I encourage them to challenge generally held assumptions, and that just because a coach’s team wins a lot does not necessarily make them a “good” coach. It could, in fact, just make them a fantastic salesperson.

If playing for a coach who can help you develop your game is important, then you must look beyond the wins/losses and tradition of the program. There are some fantastic coaches at all the different levels of college tennis who have decided they are extremely happy in their current position or haven’t had the right opportunity to move up to a higher level to attract the top recruits.

Don’t overlook these coaches and programs. These coaches may be more grounded and focused on the things that truly matter in a player’s tennis and personal development. They are the ones who epitomize the word “coach”. They may not be bogged down in recruiting battles that require them to constantly travel and miss practices to go watch some local stud for the 87th time in the past four months. They may not put winning as their number one priority, which I know is heresy to you hard-charging, go-getter types.

Understand that if Team A consistently attracts blue chip recruits and Team B has nothing but 4 start recruits, well Team A is going to win 100% of the time, regardless of how amazing the coach is – at least in the world of college tennis.

Now if you say your top priority is being part of a highly ranked, championship winning team or playing with blue chip recruits on a daily basis, well, that is a different story. I am absolutely not saying that you can’t have a great coach, and practice daily with a winning team of blue chip recruits but this combination is not a given and is rarer than you think.

If having a quality coach is an important component of your college choice, then you must define what your definition is of a quality coach. What are the skills that you hope they possess? Is their level of success as player important? Are you looking for someone that is going to challenge you and make things tough, or do you want a coach that will be ultra positive all of the time?

Do you want a coach that has great technical expertise in order to make some changes to your game, or maybe it is someone with a background in sports psychology or strength and conditioning. What about years of coaching experience versus a younger coach who you feel can relate better to the issues you may face as a college student? Your decision about a coaches ability should not be based on wins and losses from one year to the next, as this will change based on their talent level and other unforeseen circumstances.

Do you like them because they are a good salesperson, or do you like them because you believe they can provide exactly what it is you say you are looking for out of your college coach based on something more than a few friendly conversations?

Have you gone to watch both their individual and team practices with players. Have you discussed the coaches ability with current and past players? Are many of their players improving year after year, and do these same coaches have their best years when they have three or four seniors in their teams who have made their way up the line-up through the years?

Maybe the tennis development aspect is not that important for you, but you want to be sure that the team chemistry is solid and the coach has a good relationship with all their players. How you are going to determine this if have not spent some time observing the interactions between the team and the coach. Whatever it is for you, figure out how you will get the answers you need to make an informed decision.

Coaches do matter, regardless of how high a priority they are to you in your decision. Take the time to do the research this all important decision deserves.

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Self-Confidence in Tennis…a Vital Ingredient

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John Cavill

All tennis and sporting greats have an abundance of self-confidence. To achieve, the player must have an ability to believe they can win and that they can be successful in their efforts.

Consultants at the United States Tennis Association report that self-confidence is one of the most important attributes an athlete can possess and should be fostered by both athletes and their coaches.

Personal Responsibility

Self-confidence is developed within the players own mind and is not something they can receive from others. Positive encouragement and feedback from coaches or supporters isn’t enough unless the player identifies with success. The player must take ownership of their confidence and not allow outside influences or circumstances to interfere with their self-image…even when they’re having a bad day!

Tennis requires leadership and self-reliance, as no one can help you when you are out in the battlefield of the tennis court. Personal responsibility is something that can be nurtured from a young age with juniors having to organise their own kit, hitting sessions with others, stretching, food choices and much more. With the player’s I have worked with, those who understand what the above means to being a better tennis player, have improved their game further than others in the same time period.

Influences and environment

To be a great player, you must surround yourself in a great environment. Self-confidence originates within the player, but positive role models and supporters will continue to reinforce positive internal self-talk. There are many places that players can look for inspiration and positive influence, for example, current or retired athletes, spiritual advisers, coaches and training partners.

I believe that environmental influences can make or break a player as every successful sports person can’t do it alone. The trust and bonds the players establish with people in their development stages give the player stability. The safety that provides the player, knowing they have people they can rely on will provide a positive platform and emotional safety net.

Struggles and set backs

Sport is like life…nothing goes 100% to plan! With jubilation, there will be turmoil but self-confidence isn’t reliant on a player feeling great all the time. There is not one athlete that hasn’t experienced negativity and self-doubt. Through adversity comes success as players will work through the tough times believing that they will come good again.

Roger and Rafa are prime examples of this…who would of thought that they would be at the Aussie Open Grand Slam final this year, especially after the 2016 they have both had. Elite players will have confidence in themselves and believe that they can bounce back from anything. This again is another important time for the player to be surrounded by positive influences who will tough out during the hard times with them so the player doesn’t feel isolated.

Managing emotional control and being able to not let external factors influence, are important skills a player must possess, otherwise performance is affected. Resilience and determination to fight back from failure and never giving up are attributes to self-confidence. Confident players don’t allow defeat to make them to feel angry or negative, but instead use the losses to give them motivation to train harder and win the next one.

Training

How and when a player trains are important elements to building self-confidence in a player. The day to day work that is performed is the reality of what they are doing. The more they practice, the better they get. Through practice and real-life improvement that they see, self-confidence will improve as their belief in their performance is grown and extensive training overcomes weaknesses. A player must win and be successful to breed self-confidence as they need to experience what it feels like so they get a taste for future success.

Improving Self-Confidence

Self-confidence comes from certainty, so the player must be doubt-free. If a player is only confident based on outcome, then this won’t build self-confidence as outcomes won’t always be good or certain. Permanent confidence will come from believing they will achieve. Confidence is based on the player’s self-assessment of their abilities and the task they face.

Because outcomes are not certain, when a junior player gets praise for them, they base their success on it. This is where the cracks will form in their self-confidence as they will perceive themselves negatively if they don’t win. As coaches and parents, we should be praising the things the player can control, e.g. behaviour, hard work, attitude etc. From this, the player will be able to rationalise their performance better so in the future the results will reflect with self-improvement.

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Are Junior Tennis Tournaments a Social Gathering?

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Todd Widom

I find it quite amusing when I attend junior tennis tournaments and see the teenagers huddled around each other either socializing or trying to snap a photo to put on social media.

Then all of a sudden, their name is called and they need to rush to the court to play a tennis match. They may win or lose, but if they do not perform up to their parent’s standard that they have set for their child, it will be a rough car ride home or back to the hotel.

The “cool” kids that love tennis tournaments so they can see their friends usually do not do well. Their mentality and preparation is wrong. For the serious kids, socializing is for outside the tennis facility. When you are at the tournament, the serious kids are there to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to win. Everything else is secondary.

For all the parents reading this article, the next time you attend a junior tennis event, just take a step back and see who is hanging around at the courts all day with no purpose. It is going to be the vast majority of kids, but also keep in mind that the vast majority of kids do not have goals and a purpose for why they play tennis.

There will be a couple of kids sprinkled around the event away from everyone else warming up properly, stretching, re-gripping their rackets, and maybe listening to music in a quiet secluded setting. They are not around many other kids socializing and listening to all the noise around them. These teenagers are there at this event and they have a purpose.

For many of you who have read my previous articles, you know that my tennis background was training with a couple of Argentine disciplinarian coaches who produced some of the best amateurs and professionals in the United States. I trained with these phenomenal coaches from when I was 6 years old all the way to 26 years old. As I reflect on how I was and what went through my mind preparing for a tournament, it went something like this.

Tennis for me was a blast from day one. I was obsessed with everything about it. I grew up and played with the best players in the country and in the world since I was 6 years old. I had two main coaches that truly cared for the students. They trained you multiple hours every day. You did not just take a lesson and then spend no time with them the following days. They were truly there for you to produce you into a champion. They were not running a lesson factory away from the other students. Tennis for me was a way to better my life.

What this means is that if I could hit that tennis ball better than most, I could find a way to better my life in something I truly enjoyed doing. I felt the love from my coaches because they knew I would run through a wall to win a point or perform the drill properly. When there is this mutual desire by both parties to go the extra mile, there was no way I could not be a serious prepared tennis player at a tournament.

To goof off at a tournament meant to me that I did not respect what they were doing for me, and what my mother was doing for me since there were tremendous sacrifices to see how good I could be. I was a reflection of their phenomenal teachings and I would not let them down if I could avoid it. You see, I was striving to be a top notch amateur and then professional, but I felt that they cared so much and wanted it for me as well, so we were in this process together working our tails off.

Playing junior tennis in Florida in my generation was very difficult. The talent pool was large.  If you did not prepare well in practice or in the tournament arena for your matches, you were not going to be successful. I would watch some of the top players and I knew that to ever beat them, things had to be done properly. I was also a top-notch player, but I knew that if something was off, it would be a quick match and I would not win.

These players would be away from the rest of the competition at events and you know they were getting ready for a prize fight. There was no socializing for these players. They were there for one reason and one reason only, and that was to win. I was not the only one trying to better my life by hitting a yellow ball better than the rest.

When I went to tournaments, I rarely stayed at the tournament hotel because for me the competition took place on the courts and I did not want to spend time or socialize with the competition outside the “boxing arena.”

In closing, if you ever wonder how you fulfill your potential in this game, it is to perform many aspects of preparation well, but to have the proper guidance so that your goals can become a reality. I am not saying that your child should not socialize, but what I am saying is that the tennis facility is there for tennis. The socializing for the serious children is outside of the tennis facility.  It is very easy to see who these focused children are at a tennis tournament.

What many children and parents need to realize is that tennis can open countless doors and the skills they learn on the tennis court can be lifelong. Many of these skills are not taught by studying out of a book in school. From very early on, I had a dream of playing professionally, and I knew tennis was the one thing I was best at, so when you have those thoughts of bettering the future of your life through tennis, you are going to have to do things better than most people.

There are kids all over the globe trying to get college scholarships or make it on the ATP Tour. What separates your child from the rest? Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Todd Widom may be reached by e-mail at todd@twtennis.com.

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How to Win a Tennis Tournament?

There is no better feeling than winning the tournament. When we win the last point in the final we start to respect our past work. We understand the reason of all hard practice sessions and we are happy that our internal motivation led us to this moment.

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Marcin Bieniek

But getting the trophy is not an easy job. Only one person can win the tournament and be really happy. So is there a recipe to have bigger chances for beating all rivals during the competition?

Hard work. Everybody knows that to get better, improve own skills and make chances bigger for winning the tournament we have to put a lot of hard work for many weeks to prepare for this deciding moment. This is the basic that all players and coaches have to implement to think about big goals.

But unfortunately it is not enough. In a regular draw there are 32 players with similar abilities who work really hard day by day. They make sacrifices, they train on the court and in the gym, they spend a lot of money on their career so the competition is really high. Where is the difference? What is the difference? How to win the tournament?

As we know tennis is a complex sport. If you want to be the best you have to take care of technical, tactical, physical, mental, and nutritional aspects. If you have weakness in one of them it can be a deciding factor. Lack of solid backhand can be used by your opponent to put you in trouble. Wrong strategy can lead to unexpected loss.

Inability to control emotions can cost you important points during the final set. Poor stamina can result in many unforced errors while being tired. Eating unhealthy can get your body recover slowly so even you played great the first match the second one will be a nightmare because you won’t have an energy.

So it all comes down to preparation. You can’t win a tournament if you are not prepared. If you put a lot of hard work during preceding weeks you can be sure that you are on the right track to get the trophy. But it is not all. If you want to beat your rivals and be number one you should focus on these 3 things. If you apply these tips you will get enormous advantage over your opponents.

 1.Reality

Mental aspect pays a crucial role in tennis. If you want to be a champion you have to think like a champion. A lot of times I see players who lack confidence because they don’t look at things as they really are. Athletes think that to win tournament they have to be better than 31 others athletes.

That is completely false. If there are 32 players in a draw you have to be better than 5 players to win the trophy. 1 in the first round. 1 in the second round. 1 in QF. 1 in SF and 1 in the final. That is the reality. There can be players who you always lose to but it doesn’t mean that you can’t win the tournament. Focus just on your opponent – not on others. If you beat one opponent at the time you have a big chance to finish as the best one.

 2. Physical preparation

Winning the tournament means getting through at least 5 matches. Additionally you will have to warm up every day and practice a little bit to stay in the top shape. Without proper physical level you won’t be able to achieve this task. There are a lot of players who play enormously well during first rounds just to play one of the worst matches in their careers while fighting for the final. It is nothing more than just poor physical skills.

To win the tournament you need constant solid performances so your body has to be ready for that. Make sure you put as much effort into your gym sessions as you do on the tennis court and winning the trophy will be your new reality.

 3. Recovery

Even the best athletes have limitations. Your body and mind have too. Only if you make smart decisions about your recovery you can be sure that you will be perfectly prepared for your next battle. If you think you are a machine you can pay a big price for that e.g during the semi-final. Players who wander all day around the courts are not the ones who lift trophy at the end of the week.

Your body and mind are under constant pressure so you have to implement recovery techniques to help them perform at the optimal level. Make sure you have plenty of rest between the matches, you drink enough liquids to replenish lost fluids and you sleep 7-8 hours to get the most of the best recovery for a human body.

Winning a tennis tournament doesn’t happen by a surprise. It is a planned mission that you can accomplish if you will implement given tips. Good luck on your next one!

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