Coaching Longevity = Practice What You Preach

Coaching Longevity = Practice What You Preach

We tell our players to stretch, eat well, and stay hydrated, to get a lot of sleep and to take care of their bodies. We want them to do all the “little things” well, and to have the discipline to be consistent with these actions. How many of us coaches actually take our own advice?

David Mullins

David Mullins

Obviously we are not competing anymore or trying to peak for a certain event, but I have found that I spend many more hours on the court than my players. On individual days, I might be on the court for 6-8 hours while my players do just two. I am not practicing at the same intensity as they are but I am extremely active and play a lot of sets and hitting drills with them.

I love being very physical during my coaching sessions. I know that real learning and development takes place on the outer edges of our students’ comfort zones.  I am fortunate that I can always push them just outside their own perceived capabilities with my own game.

This was relatively easy for me in my early twenties, and I was definitely not taking my own advice! But now as I head into my late thirties, I am much more conscious of how I need to treat my body in order to keep up with my players. I want to be able to do this not just now but late into my 40’s and maybe even my 50’s!

I believe this is possible because I feel better now than I did 10 years ago due to the fact that I truly practice what I preach.  Not only am I a better coach to my players but I am also setting a great example for them each and every day.

My closest coaching friends think I’m a little nutty. I start every morning with a freezing cold shower; I stretch and do yoga for about 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of meditation and a big green smoothie. I have given up meat, dairy, gluten, and reduced my sugar and alcohol intake a great deal. This has eliminated much of the inflammation from my body so I rarely get sore or injured anymore. I do 2-3 heavy weight lifting sessions per week and end every evening on the foam roller, coupled with some more stretching.

Now, I am not saying this is for everyone by any means. I am passionate about human performance and I am constantly experimenting with what works and does not work for me. Ultimately my motivation lies in my ability to be as active on the tennis court for as long as I possibly can. Here are a few steps coaches can take to improve their longevity and physical comfort on the tennis court.

1. Take a strong look at your diet

I believe that everything starts here and most of our ailments and health issues can be sourced directly back to what we are putting in our mouths. When we have had a long day on the tennis court, the first thing we want to do is “reward” ourselves with some comfort food and maybe some alcohol to help relax us. This feels great in the moment but we end up paying the price for it with less quality sleep while putting a drain on our energy sources.

My advice to coaches is to try to eliminate one group of foods from their diets for a 30 day period and see how they feel. If you feel no different than that food probably is not causing you any issues. I would start with Gluten, and then move onto dairy and sugar products.

Don’t be tempted by the energy bars and Gatorades our athletes are chugging down. Instead, try to replace them with less processed options like fruit and nuts. I promise that making a few adjustments to your diet will go a long way. The better you feel, the easier it will be to avoid these temptations in the future.

2. Try to do some strength training at least two times per week.

We have so many muscle imbalances as tennis players and coaches. The only way to resolve this issue is to work on our strength and mobility. I strongly recommend doing some heavy complex lifts such as the squat, deadlift, clean and overhead press. You don’t have to lift for very long if you are concentrating on these complex lifts as you are covering most of your bases. I also recommend that at least every second day you do a two-minute plank, a scapular exercise, some external shoulder work and a few fire hydrants.

3. We constantly talk to our players about recovery and the need to be able to come back the next day fresh and ready to work hard. This is one piece of advice that we should most definitely be following ourselves.

I recommend purchasing a foam roller and spending just 10 minutes a night rolling out and massaging your muscles. This will also help to relax you before bed. The number of hip replacements in our industry is staggering. I feel like every coach I speak to over the age of 55 has had a hip replacement. Take 5-10 minutes each night and focus on stretching out your hips and improving your range of motion in these areas. The best thing about the rolling and stretching is that you can do it while watching TV, speaking to loved ones or even reading.

There are many other things we can do to improve our health, well-being and coaching longevity but these are the three areas I would definitely focus on as you will get the biggest return for your time. Start small and try to replace one bad habit with one good habit every so often. Diets don’t work and you definitely don’t need to be doing P 90 X or running 5 miles a day to be fit and healthy on the court! Be kind and gentle to your body and it will respond many times over.

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Understanding the Game of Tennis

Picture of Todd Widom

Todd Widom

All too often while watching junior or collegiate tennis players play matches, it is very difficult to figure out what is trying to be accomplished on the court in a tournament or collegiate match. The best tennis players know exactly how they are going to construct points against the opponent and how they are going to use their strengths against the opponent’s weaknesses.

Playing a match and running and hitting a tennis ball wherever you would like is not going to help you win more matches. Tennis is a thinking game and if you do not know how to plan points properly and execute them, your development will come to a screeching halt.

In the United States, it seems that we have become obsessed with perfecting our strokes rather than working on some more crucial areas of tennis that are going to help you win more matches.

Having proper technique is important, but understanding the game of tennis and moving and competing properly on the court is much more important. If you look at the best tennis players in the world, they all have weaknesses.

Taking more technical lessons and trying to develop pretty tennis strokes generates more money for the coaches. The best tennis players in the world hit the ball well, but also keep in mind that they have hit millions of tennis balls in a high disciplined environment for many years, which produces high level tennis players.

What people fail to understand, is that these high level tennis players are amazing athletes, and they could never hit these types of shots without grueling physical workouts that they endure day after day.

Tennis is a game of brains, toughness, and movement. There are plenty of professionals that have a weird stroke or a hitch in their game, but somehow they make a great living at this amazing sport. Once you get to a certain level, everyone can hit a tennis ball well, so what separates one player from another?

Athleticism, fitness and mental toughness is what is going to separate the high level players from the not so high level players, at all levels. There is a reason that other countries are developing better and a larger number of professionals then the United States. Their philosophies of tennis are based on physicality, mental toughness, smarts, discipline and sound technique, not the most beautiful tennis strokes.

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22 Things Brilliant Athletic Coaches Do

22 Things Brilliant Athletic Coaches Do


  1. Have a growth mindset.
  2. Know their athletes.
  3. Keep instructions simple.
  4. Teach the fundamentals well and stay close to them.
  5. Connect with their athletes.
  6. Educate their athletes.
  7. Communicate with parents.
  8. Listen to their athletes.
  9. Lead by example.
  10. Have passion for what they do.
  11. Begin with the end in mind.
  12. Give their athletes structure.
  13. Create a positive environment.
  14. Don’t have ‘favorites’.
  15. Constantly are self learning and educating themselves.
  16. Don’t just make better athletes, but people.
  17. Have high standards and discipline.
  18. They also have goals and other interests.
  19. Teach skills before drills.
  20. Focus on the strengths & positives first, then build from there.
  21. Use imagery and visuals as examples in coaching.
  22. End practices on a positive note.

Can you think of any more? Write yours in the comments below!

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Why Would You Want Your Kids to Play Tennis?

Tennis parents, look at these facts and make your own calculations:

  • Odds of becoming a tennis pro 2 in 10000 or 0.0002. That does not seem possible.
  • Break even for a pro is #150 or approx. $160K year. Dad how much do you make a year?
  • It takes 4-8 years to reach top 200, at a cost of $160K year that is between $640K-$1,28M.
    Mary, how much is our house worth?
  • Cost to train per year approx. $12K low end by age 15, you spent easily in 5-6 yrs. Roughly $60K.
    How many mutual funds can you buy with 12K per year?
  • Only 7% of top world 100 juniors will be tennis pros and only 1% will be top 20. Top in the world, not in the USA.
    Hey John, did you win state yet?
  • Until you win, you need to front end all expenses, ouch! But, I only make….

10,000 hrs. spent by age 18 with odds of 0.0002? 5 hrs. day for 10 years, I should learn to code…

JP article - Why Would You Want Your Kids to Play Tennis?When one looks at the cold facts, there is absolutely no reason what so ever to aspire to be a professional player, and the cost and investment of time is just mind blowing. Add to this list the randomness of injuries, bad coaching, mental factors etc.

These variables and experience combined with the real facts make the decision to pursue a pro career delusional. But, none of those horrible stats are why I encourage both of my kids to play tennis and to play it extremely well.

I want my kids to play tennis, because I feel that there is no other sport that will prepare them for a life where they need to practice everyday, compete every other weekend, win and lose, laugh and cry, become part of a team, make friends and of course exercise daily and learn their nutrition in an obese country, and last devote their daily life to better themselves knowing full well that there are many other players better than them.

You see, when my kids are practicing hard every day, I on the way home, make sure to relate the practice to life in the future, let’s say he was on fire that day working towards a big competition, I tell my son how I’m preparing for a huge presentation at work or pursuing a business account that we need for the business. Sometimes, also he has to deal with a big loss. Well, at work I also have those experiences and often have to deal with them. Their tennis experience If properly focused will help them in the future, I assure you.

As I look forward a couple of years from now I see my kid at 15, practicing very hard, being fit, focused, worried about how to increase the speed of his serve, savvy with in nutritional and working extremely hard everyday towards a goal, as opposed to other kids in his class, who with too much time in their hands, are looking for ways to get high, getting in trouble, out of shape, drunk and planning orgies, etc. I think tennis keeps them, focused, determined, challenged and by the time they turn 18 ready to be champions in life.

Through tennis, I will have taught them the value of time and how to use it. You see at 18 my kids will have learned the principles needed to succeed in life: independence, self reliance, decision making, hard work, balance, determination, standing up after a big fall, disappointment and joy, they will experience the cost of winning and the sacrifices needed to get there, they will learn from losing and having to get up from it and understand that losing is only feedback. In essence, they will be properly trained to succeed in their lives.

Unlike other parents, who falsely dream a pro career for their kids and the riches tennis will bring, I use tennis to make my kids better citizens, better sons and daughters, someday a better father and mother, better people all around. Better Americans. While it would be great to get a scholarship to a great school, emphasis on great academic school, not any school that has tennis. I have to plan for that eventuality as coaches make little money.

We know that the time we spend together, the adventure of tennis made us closer as a family, kept us working towards a common goal and made our journey as parents and kids the most enjoyable way to spend time together, to bond, to get better, to grow as champions, to make new friends, to travel and stay in lousy hotels because that’s all we could afford, to play younger and older competitors and to laugh together. To live the journey of this experience we know as parenting and life.

Wow, it seems to me that I have found a way to prepare my kids for their professional careers and it is not in tennis. I’ll take tennis’ horrible odds, knowing full well that for my kids there is simply no other way I would have chosen to spend our time together, to prepare them for when they leave our nest, to be able to fly for themselves and be champions in their own life. I love you tennis, I love you. Javier.

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Can mobile phone help juniors in tennis?

Picture of Marcin Bieniek

Marcin Bieniek

Every day counts. What was great 10 years ago now it is called „obsolete”. You can have your own opinion about different subjects but the truth is that if you want to move forward you have to accept new technologies. Nowadays number one tool that all people can’t live without is mobile phone. Can we use this device to get improvements in tennis? Definitely!

When I was 14 years old mobile phones were innovations. I remember times when big companies implemented first phones with mp3 player as well as first times we could buy mobile phone with camera. Of course the quality of the picture was highly blurry but it didn’t matter. Everyone wanted to have new mobile phone even when the only possible entertainment on this device was playing snake. These times are definitely gone. Modern world gives completely different possibilities.

What can we do with mobile phone in 2017? We can surf the internet all day long in any place in the world. There is no limitations according to taking great pictures, recording high-quality videos and sharing these pieces with friends in seconds. Additionally mobile phone gives possibility to search all information: from education to entertainment. We can also listen to music, download helpful apps and book hotel in just a few clicks. It all looks spectacularly positive so why do we often complain at junior tennis players looking at their phones all they long?

Junior tennis players love their phones. If you go to the tournament it is surprising if you see athlete without a phone. Me, many other coaches and parents don’t fully understand the reason behind these actions but if we want to move forward we have to accept it. We had great childhood time without mobile phones but modern world is different. It is time to stop complaining and think how to use this situation to help our players achieve better results on the court. Is mobile phone designed just for entertainment? NO – it can be really helpful to your tennis career if you know how to use it.

You can’t change the fact that your players use mobile phone all the time, but you can show them how they can use it to improve faster as athletes. Here are examples of actions that your players can take to make mobile phone more tennis-friendly:

1. Watch tennis matches

We all know that we can learn a lot from watching professional tennis players. That is why it is really helpful to use mobile phone during tournaments to get some valuable lessons. Juniors spend a lot of time on courts or in hotels so it is a great opportunity to use these 20-30 minutes to learn from Rafa or Serena. Additionally it can have a good motivational boost before the match.

2. Scout your opponents

Internet has everything – scores, matches, videos etc. Too many times players limit their scouting just to look at past results of the next opponent. Unfortunately this information gives you no advantage while preparing successful strategy for your match. Look for videos on YouTube or contact players who played your rival before and try to get more info about strengths, weaknesses and game style. With this approach your mobile phone will be really helpful and can help you win this match.

3. Have visualization app

Visualization is used by many top athletes so our juniors should implement this training tool too. There are many visualization apps available on the market that provide instruction and peaceful music to help you relax and focus. Now you can make your phone your private mental coach. Isn’t it worthy?

4. Do your tennis journal

Tennis journal doesn’t take too much effort from player but it can be really helpful in long-term career. When you note down your daily plan, thoughts and eating habits it is much easier to take conclusions and make necessary changes or continue good work. Without this knowledge you will always guess about reasons of stomachache or poor training sessions so take few minutes a day and note on your phone several important aspects. You have always mobile phone with you so all you need is willingness to take some time and have positive impact on your career.

Maybe juniors spend too much time on their phones but there is no point to complain at it all the time. Times are different so our approach has to be different too. Let’s use this electronic device also for tennis improvement because it is possible. Implement given tips and give tools to your players to use phone for more than just Facebook.

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