Emphasize Performance Goals to Achieve Outcome Goals

The next psychological secret of the tennis champions from the book Maximum Tennis by Nick Saviano.

Emphasize Performance Goals to Achieve Outcome Goals

Setting goal is essential for anyone aspiring to reach a higher level of play. Equally important is that you understand the type of goals you are setting so that they positively affect your performance.

Performance goals are goals that you have more control over. Outcome goals are based on results, which, as you’ve seen, are not something you have direct control over. Ideally, if you are setting and achieving the correct performance goals, they should be helping you to achieve your outcome goals. It does not work the other way around. In other words, reaching your performance goals will give you the best chance to play up to your potential and win. Chris Carmichael, the 1999 US Olympic Committee Coach of the Year and coach of cyclist Lance Armstrong, says: “It is important to set goals beyond winning and losing (performance goals) because even the most talented racers will lose more than they win.”

Here are a few examples of typical performance goals. Players will have different performance goals, depending on their talent, their game, and what they need to work on to play up to their full potential. Once again, exactly what the specific performance goals are will differ for everyone, but they should be goals that help you to play your best tennis.

–          I will stay in the “now” state, focusing on one point at a time.

–          I will take my time between points.

–          I will attack my opponents’ second serve.

–          I will execute the inside-out patterns that I worked on in practice.

–          I will engage only in positive self-talk.

Outcome goals are also truly personal. They depend on what you want to accomplish with your tennis. Here are a few examples of outcome goals.

–          Win this match.

–          Achieve a top-10 ranking at the club.

–          Win this tournament.

–          Beat John Doe in the league match.

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How to Prevent Injures in Tennis

How to Prevent Injures in Tennis

Yesterday, famous Belorussian tennis player Max Mirnyi, former #1 in doubles, conducted a practice session in Minsk, Belarus at his tennis center. At the beginning of the event Max shared a secret of his long time successful tennis career:

“The most important thing before any tennis match or workout is the warm-up. Proper warm-up prepares our muscles, tendons and joints, and the whole organism, for intensive and hard work on the court.”

Max Mirnyi shows special exercises

I remember watching Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov before the Davis Cup matches. They warmed up for 40 minutes and after every match they did a cool down with static stretching for 30 minutes. Sometimes I saw that the younger players disappeared from the court, but the tennis veterans continued to do a regular cool down after the match has ended.

Max Mirnyi coaches a young tennis player

Non sufficient attention to a regular warm-up and cool down is one of the reasons for injures. Today I watched a tennis work out at a public court. I intentionally measured the time for the warm up and cool down. Nothing was new to me. 3 minutes of slow running with a few dynamic stretching elements, and then the players started to drill. Cool down consisted of 5 minutes of static stretching. It was a group of beginner tennis players who were about 9-11 years old. I thought that if they have not learnt the importance of warm up and cool down during their first years of training, most of them will not be paying attention to these vital parts of the work out in the future.

Other reasons for injuries are ignoring or using wrong programs for player conditioning. Many tennis coaches like to say: “Play tennis to get in shape”. Although tennis certainly provides inherent fitness benefits to the sportsman’s body, that advice reflects an out-of-date approach. The most important thing to preventing injures and optimizing performance in modern tennis is definitely: “Get in shape to play your best tennis”.

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Winning Is Not the Number-One Goal When You Are Competing

I received a lot of feedback from the blog’s readers about that winning is not the main goal for a tennis player. Some of the readers disagree with that opinion. In the following article from the book Maximum Tennis, Nick Saviano explains in details why he thinks that winning is not the number-one goal for a tennis player.

saviano pictureWinning is extremely important, and, of course, it is always one of your most important goals for competition. But when winning becomes your number-one goal during competition, it will psychologically consume you because you will be focusing your energies on something you cannot control. This will distract you from executing your game to the best of your ability. At that point, you are no longer giving yourself the best chance to win, and that means you are not going to win as often. Great champions know this concept well and the bigger the match, the more they attempt to discipline their mind. Concentrating on the things they can control, they know that winning will be a by-product of executing to the best of their ability.

Winning, as your number-one goal, in reality means striving for mediocrity relative to what you are capable of. The question is not whether you win or lose. Billie Jean King said: “When you stay in the process is when you win. Not when you get into the end results.” The question is did you do everything in your power to give yourself the best chance to play up to your potential and are you constantly trying to improve? After Tiger Woods won his third Masters championship, everyone was speculating on how many majors he would win. What he said illustrates my point: “The thing I keep saying to myself is that I want to become a better player at the end of the year. And if I can keep doing that year after year for the rest of my career, I’ll have a pretty good career.” That is the pursuit of personal excellence! Winning is a natural by-product of this pursuit. The commitment to personal excellence does not guarantee winning. It does, however, ensure success. The end result is that you will win far more than you otherwise would have, and you will often exceed your self-imposed limitations.

Rising American star Andy Roddick, as he was preparing for the 2001 French Open said, “I really don’t have any expectations (concerning winning or losing). I want to play well (in other words, execute his game). If someone is going to beat me, I want him to have to play a good match (concentrating only on what he can control).”

Later in the year, as Roddick was preparing for the 2001 US Open after winning four tour events, he said, “I’m just going to go in and try to play well (focus on what he can control), have some fun, and see what happens”. Andy reached the quarterfinals, where he lost 6-4 in the fifth set to the eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Roddick concentrated on what he could control and gave himself the best opportunity to win. This is the mental approach the top pros take. Don’t interpret this to mean that winning is not important to them. Quite the contrary, which is exactly why they try not to think about winning while they are competing.

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Styles of Play in Modern Tennis

Radwanska won in Korea

Regarding the discussion about the styles of play in modern tennis. I am sure that the following rule works well in tennis competition:

A player that uses a style that’s different from most other players has an advantage over them. But the tennis player must master his game, and understand how to outplay his/her competitor. 

The conclusion: study which style your tennis player is most fit for and teach it to him/her according to their natural capabilities. Their ability, will, and readiness to attack the net, for example, as opposed to 90% of players who don’t have that will and ability to do so, greatly increases their chance of success.

Roger Federer is the smartest tennis player at all times. He literally plays on the court, unlike many others who do hard job. A creative player like Agnieszka Radwanska who, unlike most top tier players, does not have powerful shots still manages to beat most of the more athletic and linear players on the tour. It’s unlikely that she can achieve the number 1 ranking, but being in the top 20 for many years hasn’t been a problem for her.

One of the reasons for the lack of (or the minimum presence) of young players in the top 100 in the world is their hurried and forceful preparation. Everyone is in such a hurry – the parents, the coaches, and subsequently, the players, for the jump to professional tennis, but they don’t even have the necessary technical and physical arsenal to make the transition. Overtraining and the extensive practice times (the more, the better) are both big problems in current juniors who dream about playing at a pro level. As a result, the principles of gradual and sequential training processes are abandoned.

All of this comes from talking with many tennis specialists and coaches. Feel free to compare this to your own experiences and share your own thoughts.

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Psychological secrets of the champions

In this article I started to post psychological secrets of the tennis champions from the book Maximum Tennis.  By Nick Saviano © 2003. Nick Saviano is Owner & Director of Saviano High Performance Tennis.

I found his thoughts are very informative and valuable for tennis players and tennis coaches. So I decide to posted them on my blog with the kind permission of Nick Saviano. There is the secret 1.

Focus on only those things that you can control and disregard the rest

This is the first and most important concept, and it must be the foundation from which to build your psychological approach to competition. If you can grasp and apply it, it will help you to free you psychologically to play the best tennis you are capable of.

Great athletes mention this concept all the time. Sometime they say it in fewer words, yet we often don’t seem to hear them. Monica Seles (who I felt was one of the greatest competitors I had ever seen in any sport before her unfortunate attack by a crazed fan) said it before the 2000 French Open: “I truly will try to worry about things I can control and not worry about stuff that’s really outside my control”. Andre Agassi was quoted by USA Today before a tournament as saying” “If I come in here physically ready and hungry, then I‘m giving myself the best shot to win here”. And perhaps John Wooden, the great basketball coach at UCLA, said it best: “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control. The less we will do with the things we can control”.

Why is this so important? If you are not focusing on what you can control, you are no longer giving yourself the best chance to play up to your potential. It will create problems such as fear, anxiety, frustration, significant fluctuation in motivation, and stagnation in your development. It will also affect your ability to analyze the match and to adjust tactically.

Conversely, when you are engrossed in what you can control, you will find that you are more relaxed and your concentration improves. The result is that you not only strike the ball better but your ability to analyze the match and make good tactical adjustments is enhanced. Finally, and most important, you will enjoy the competition. Don’t get me wrong. You should be aware of such things as your opponent, the score, the environment, and the like, but they are simply a means to gather information so that you know what actions you might take. The most difficult aspect of this concept for players to buy into is that they can’t control winning and losing. The phrase “I control my own destiny” is not totally true on a tennis court or in life. Here are a few examples that may help illustrate this point.

Imagine that you are playing Andre Agassi in a two out of three point contest. Can he guarantee winning the points? No. He might make an unforced error or twist his ankle, or you might hit a let cord that drops for a winner. Even against you, Andre cannot control winning and losing. What he can control, however, is how he plays, the pace between points, his shot selection, and so on. If he focuses on the things he can control (which he does to a great extent), your odds to beating him won’t good!

It doesn’t matter what the situation may be. You don’t control winning and losing. You can profoundly affect the outcome and put the odds in your favor by focusing on what you can control. Positively affect what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t. You’ll be surprised at how successful you’ll become. Once you let go of the false notion that you can completely determine the outcome, you’ll find that you are more likely to get outcome you want.

When you catch your mind drifting towards the mental quicksand of things you cannot control (which means no chance for a “flow state”), tell yourself to stop and refocus.  Get yourself back on solid ground by focusing on the things you can affect. When you are able to do this, you are a major step closer to achieving your optimum state, physically and mentally. Your chances of being able to flow in your play and reaching your ideal performance state are far better. The remaining secrets are all things that you have a great deal of control over and are inextricably tied to the first secret.