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.

Nick Saviano, tennis coach and author of Maximum 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.

Discussing Roland Garros – The 2012 French Open

We were drinking green tea and discussing upcoming Roland Garros 2012 with a tennis coach after a workout today. Actually I asked him three questions and here are his answers.

The 2012 French Open - Roland Garros

French Open is just around the corner. After Madrid, many tennis specialists start talking that Roger Federer is back to his way and he is able to capture #1 again and win Rolland Garros. What is your opinion?

Roger Federer can definitely get back to number 1, but he has to worry about Novak Djokovic on hard along with Rafael Nadal on clay. The French remains Nadal’s to lose.

Serena Williams showed again in Spain that when she is in good fit and mood, no one can compete with her. Is she able to return her #1 and win in Paris?

Serena’s best is a level better than that of anyone else. I have no idea how long she can keep it up, but it will be a physical deterioration, not a lack of the will to win. I’ve picked her to win the last 20 majors she’s played. I’ve only been right half the time.

Agnieszka Radwanska plays very different tennis, her style looks like Martina Hingis and Anastasia Myskina. I call it “smart tennis”, she plays tennis, not just hit the ball. She is #3 now. Is she an exception or her style gives her advantage?
I heard from one tennis coach the rule: Play different style from most others players and you will win more than lose. What do you think about that?

Great smart tennis, Martina Hingis, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, will beat average hard tennis, but it won’t beat great hard tennis. Francesca Schiavone has by far the most variety in her game of any top player, and she won only one Grand Slam. Meanwhile Serena Williams goes on destroying opponents. Nevertheless, if you can’t be Serena, then it’s foolish to try to outslug her, so slice, dropshot, serve and volley all make sense.

I do agree that it’s a good idea to do something everyone else isn’t doing. But you have to master your game, and figure out how to neutralize the other player’s game. The game has always gone in cycles and always will.

Choosing a College for a Tennis Player

Choosing a College for a Tennis Player

There are many ways to find a right college for a tennis player. For example, you can work directly with college tennis coaches or cooperate with consultants. Today I had a pleasure of talking to Ross Greenstein, President/CEO of premier consulting company Scholarship for Athletes.
Ross Greenstein

How did you start to work as a college placement consultant? What do you like about that?

When I was a freshman in college, I knew there was a need for this type of service.  In fact, I started SFA because I noticed there was a huge problem with college athletes quitting and/or transferring schools.  I started with some preliminary research by interviewing many college athletes about their recruiting experience. Through these conversations it became very clear that there was a huge need to guide and educate athletes through the recruiting process.  Every college athlete wished they would have had more education during their recruiting process.

Also, I have always been intrigued with coaching.  I believe that coaching is a form of education and therefore through my service, I am providing some education about the recruiting process. As I did more research it was evident that their was not a company out there that was using the recruiting process as a tool to educate student athletes about important life skills that are needed during the process.

When should a tennis player begin to look for a college?

High school student athletes should start to make a list of potential colleges, email the coaches a resume, and call the coaches in 10th grade. It is very important that the student/athletes know all the differences between the colleges on their list. Making a list of 10-15 universities is a good starting point.

Tell me, how do you work? If someone wants to talk to you and ask for your help, what should he (she) expect?

If somebody an athlete or parents wants to learn more about the recruiting process and how we might be able to help them they can reach us through email, Facebook, or by directly calling us. Our staff is very experienced and is composed of former college athletes.  Parents and athletes should expect honest answers from us about their kids’ opportunities.  We are here to help and explain to the families about the recruiting process.  After hearing how we view the process and what we do with our clients they can decide if they want to work with us. We will gladly talk to the families about the recruiting process before they sign up with us and give them some tips.

There are a lot of rumors that foreign tennis players often receive full athletic scholarships, yet they hardly speak English on a decent level. Are colleges more likely to accept a great foreign player with low understanding of English than an American who is more academically educated but has worse tennis skills?

This recruiting process is just like a job interview.  College coaches receive thousands of resumes from student athletes from all over the world.  The college coaches are going to hire who they feel is the best candidate for the job.  Often, the international athletes out- interview the American athletes by reaching out to coaches and players with more anticipation and by building better relationships with them.

As far as speaking English is concerned, the international athletes all have to take the SAT and TOEFL.  This means that English is set at a certain standard for all students.  They also tend to do very well academically once they are at American universities. Being American or international does not benefit the student/athletes, how they interview will be the deciding factor whether they are chosen or not versus another athlete with similar abilities.

Your three advices to tennis parents and tennis players who are in search of athletic scholarship?

If you are looking for an athletic scholarship, the first thing you should do is learn about the recruiting process.  A good way to do this is to contact our company directly. Even if you have no intention of hiring us we will be happy to give you a basic education and some free advice.

Step 1:  Find out the requirements for each school in order to be eligible.   If you are ranked top 10 in the world but are not eligible to play, there is nothing a college coach can do for you.  The NCAA Clearinghouse will determine your eligibility.

Step 2: Contact college tennis coaches and college athletes.  Start asking them as many questions as possible about the programs they are at and their experiences.

Step 3:  Try and play against as many tennis players as possible that are current or former college players.  This will help the college tennis coaches learn your level.

Thank you Ross and good luck to you!.

Discussion of post Choosing a tennis racquet

I received a lot of comments on post “Choosing a tennis racquet” with Bruce Levine.

I published here some comments and hope you find them informative and interesting.

Steve Benson: “Choosing a racquet is a very personal choice regardless of the level of play. The most important thing to consider is the fact that although some racquets can help reduce or contribute to arm and shoulder problems, the bottom line is that good vs. bad technique on every stroke always will be the by far major contributor to arm and shoulder problems. Roger Federer by far has the best overall sound technique of any player I have seen during the past 40 years and he has had no injury problems from head to toe during the past +12 years of his pro career”.

Mili Veljkovic: “Agree… just grip to be about right size and all the rest is technique. Last 10 years there are no bad rackets in the production by known companies. Similar story is with strings. For high quality players – racket’s balance and racket’s composition (with string quality and string tension) makes difference and some fit them more depending on game’s “style” – but after the adjusting period for really good player that difference disappears.
P.S. With wooden racket and fishing strings I came to semis of Serbia veterans – we had the same discussion and I proved it”.

Alex Yep: “I think choosing a racquet that is more comfortable to your grip is good. But most important on your performance in my opinion is not your racquet. It is the type of strings you use, depending on the style of your play.
Don’t think you going to play like the pros when you choose the same racquet as they are using. They are the promoters of that racquet. The racquet they use is not exactly the same as the ones you buy. The racquets the top pros use are modified for the pros specifications. The racquet just looks the same as the pros”.

Julius Switlik: “A good tennis player can feel somewhere 1 gram difference in weight and very slight diffidence in tension of the strings. Ask such a veteran like Ilie Năstase.
I started playing wooden racquet about 385 gr. and 20 kg on strings. It was so long ago, I may be mistaken :)”.

Rebecca Boyce : “I teach adult women beginner beginners (ages 20’s to 60’s). I start them off on a factory Head stock racquet and then am requested to suggest a racquet that will take them from beginner forward. Demos are really not warranted since they generally haven’t a clue as to how a racquet should feel. So far I recommend the Head TiS6 which they generally seem to like and handle well”.

Alex Zotov : “If you are a Pro you just stick with the same racquet for the rest of your life unless you want to change something. Pros get their racquets repainted every time a new “trend” comes in. The best professional racquets are still from the early 2000s when Wilson and Head were in their prime. Babolat picked the trend later”.

I think that a good tennis racquet does not make you play perfect, but it can help you play to the best of your ability. A bad racquet sabotages your efforts and forces you to play under your ability level. The perfect racquet for you is one that fits your unique playing style. If you decided to change your tennis racquet, ask your coach or a tennis racquet specialist about assistance.

Interview with Mitch Bridge, owner and head tennis coach of Southern California Tennis Academy

Yesterday I talked to Mitch Bridge, owner and head tennis coach of Southern California Tennis Academy.

Mitch Bridge and his players

Q.: What is your philosophy as a man as well as a tennis coach?

A.: My philosophy as a man and a coach is to pursue your passion. Wake up each day and work at what you love and it is not really work at all. If you enjoy what you are doing, you will learn to do it well and share it with others, either by playing well and having fans enjoy watching you or training with others and helping them progress while you also progress.

Q.: You have a significant experience as an owner of tennis academies. Four years ago you moved from Colorado to California and used to work as Head Coach with Advantage Tennis Academy for three years. Why did you leave it and launched your own Southern California Tennis Academy?

A.: I have been in full-time academy ownership for 14 years. I started with Junction Tennis Academy in Colorado, where we developed many Division 1 college scholarship players. I was recruited by Advantage Tennis Academy to partner with them in 2008. After 3 years at Advantage, I decided to pursue my own program so that one development system would permeate the whole academy-one voice. In tennis you have to decide if you are going to use one technique or another, and it is very important that each player is clear on which path is best for his/her development. With one opinion at the top of a company it is easier to keep that information and development path clear for all players.

Q.: Tell me about your tennis academy. What is difference from others academies?

A.: The difference in my academy is that each player receives daily instructional semi-private lessons. This individual attention makes all the difference because the players can work on specific technique to overcome their weaknesses. It is pretty simple. Work on your weaknesses everyday to make them better so your opponents have a harder time exploiting them.

Q.:  Do you have a selection process at your academy or accept everybody?

A.: You have to be a tournament level player to attend Southern California Tennis Academy. Half of our players are ranked in the top 100 in Southern California in their divisions, and this is an incredibly strong section of the USTA.

Q.: What about your goals?  Do you want to develop Grand Slam Champion?

A.: My main goal in the next five years is to create a professional champion. I lived in Colorado for 13 years and didn’t have the talent pool, climate and tournament system to create successful touring pros, so now that I am back in Southern California, and I have a strong tennis academy, I can work on creating top level players. I will do this with players by having them succeed in Southern California first, then ITF, then ATP/WTA.

Thank you for your answers Mitch. I hope to get an interview with your tennis professional champion in five years. Good luck to you!