Whether tennis is your sport of choice or you’re involved in another this is equally as applicable and coaches to parents and/or guardians please take note. There comes a time in a player’s to child’s very early life when they’re posed with some tricky decisions and some of them being the most hardest decisions they’ve had to make in their young life to date and a caring to supporting team (i.e. recall that triangular approach) to family is of the utmost importance. Sadly, this isn’t always the case and if more parents/guardians and coaches took on this advice we’d have more well-rounded players/athletes opposed to those drenched in the fear of pressure and its potential consequences.
Recall and refresh on previous Blogs (and their accompanying episodes) on Self-Worth to Mental Health and a myriad of topics discussed between with our extensive catalogue to date for a broader understanding. Persistence verses Walking Away serves a different purpose, however, insofar as a warning for all coaches and parents/guardians out there on how to best manage pressure and expectations to best serve the player/athlete to child. And contrary to what you might think, there’s a good chance it could be a little off. By all accounts, there will be those out there who understand the pitfalls of pressure and a growing child’s identify crisis — trying to find the place and/or space they fit into in this world. And if tennis isn’t where they fit, that is perfectly okay. If it is, that’s perfectly okay, too. But neither should view ‘tennis’ as their place and/or space alone. Irrespective of your sport, it’s incredibly important to have an identify detached from the training grounds to allow the pressure to serve its purpose on one hand, and on the other to be non-existent in contrast to the constancy of pressure and how it can take over a younger players/athletes enjoyment for their sport / the game.
On the other side of this conversation of pressure and fear is the real truth around the compounded effect of parents and/or guardians and expectations to perform — relentlessly. Irrespective the personality of your child, this relentless attitude feeds directly back to the pitfalls of pressure. You see, pressure is a funny thing that is equally conducive and dangerous. It’s a balancing act. But if it is not channelled accordingly the more it is likely to have a more negative impact than not. As someone who fell towards the later, this was because I was never taught about these pitfalls, good and/or bad and how to manage them.
Fast-forward two decades (and then some) we know the inner-working of human behaviour in child development and more explicitly the role of pressure and how it can in fact be detrimental if not managed accordingly.
So how do you manage it? First of all, take a step back. Coaches, take a step back, too. Only then, can the explanatory nature of pressure serve its purpose. If this approach is not taken, the likelihood of a promising player walking away from the game and/or sport of choice due to the pitfalls of pressure is unfortunately incredibly high. Why? Well, if you haven’t experienced it before it can become a very dangerous reality where a child (player/athlete) attaches their value — their self-worth to their self-esteem on the outcome of a performance. However, the pressure is so severe that they may become frozen and unable to play/perform in a relaxed state and as such, their performances dwindle. And, at the same time, the idea of pressure being misunderstood then becomes feared — it creeps up on the child (player/athlete) like a ghoul in the night that it can become terrifying to suffocating and all of a sudden the sport they enjoy playing, the one that brought endless bliss and happiness has turned into the exact opposite. Almost to be feared, this sport whether it be tennis or another, takes on a new light all because of the suffocating role pressure can play in a child’s development if it is compounded by the coach, parent and/or guardian opposed to being softer, caring and more thoughtful response when words are shared around a child’s performance.
And this means? It’s simple. Persistence verses Walking Away is just that. The player/athlete will persist if the environment is conducive which also means where pressure is understood and not mishandled to the point of the parent and/or guardian ‘expecting’ anything other than for the player/athlete to have fun. By the same token, if the coach expects anything more than for the player/athlete to try their best. There are no in-betweens. Win or lose it should not matter. Of course the win is a bonus and The Pathway is in full tact. But you know what? There will be losses and there may very well be many more losses than anticipated, but that doesn’t mean The Long Game is amiss. Persistence keeps the player/athlete around for the 10 Years of Play and pressure is one element, if mismanaged, that will see the player/athlete walk away from the game they love because no one wants to deal with a ghoul in the middle of the night, child or adult.
To learn more about Persistence versus Walking Away: Tennis Players, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 56. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.
Outside of the developmental spectrum of the tennis player, Age Interactions are often commonplace with ‘age’ not being seen as a barrier to interact with other children and/or adolescents (within reason) and this is even more profound during adulthood whereby age truly is merely a number. This couldn’t be more true on the WTA and/or ATP tours where age is essentially irrelevant over ranking with the later taking precedence and age really an indicator of longevity in particular if a player is at the top of the game. At this moment in time, the ATP tour is privy to Top 10 players with a diverse age — from later 30’s to now on the cusp of 20’s onwards. With a near two-decade age gap the level of play resonates with the Top 10 and age really is irrelevant. Similar differences can be seen on the WTA tour, however, with the retirement of one of our most ‘senior’ players — Serena Williams, the age range begins in the late teens to still spans across early 30’s. Whilst players on the WTA tour are not as ‘senior’ as on the ATP tour, this can be argued due to a number of players outside the Top 10 who have reached the Top 10 in previous seasons now within and/or near that age bracket. Nonetheless, it also goes to show the irrelevance of age. Plus, it near goes without saying that a lot more women on the WTA tour have been taking time away from play (especially players who reside and/or formerly resided inside the Top 10) to begin a family and those on the ATP tour do not ‘need’ to take time away from tour for these typical life stages and as such, all the more emphasis should be placed on those on the WTA tour later in their career.
Insofar as the ‘senior’ player is it so important to touch on reality — those in their early and/or late 30’s are not classified as senior in their livelihoods and/or professions. As a matter of fact those within this age range are more often considered in the prime of their career opposed to at the end of it as typically is the case with the lifecycle of a tennis player. This also goes to highlight the immense ‘growing up’ stage demanded of players in contrast to those of identical ages and not inside the scope of the sporting spectrum. Too often expectations are placed on these ‘young adults’ well before full maturity and as such mishaps do happen. On the other hand, there are strategies to avoid these mishaps with greater mentoring from more ‘senior’ players and with that, shedding light on the benefits of Age Interactions from the beginning.
More so, Age Interactions can be incredibly helpful to a developmental players’ performance in contrast to being separated by ‘age’ and/or age ranges in contrast to skill and/or experience. Whilst both have their merits for varying reasons, both should also be encouraged to be interchanged within the training and/or practice environment to see age crossovers as well as skill crossovers. The advantages of Age Interactions of diverse ages affords a greater sense of self to maturity as these mimic the professional tour where age is really a number. On a similar note, removing age from the equation and putting like-skills with like-skills teaches players and/or athletes that skills can develop at varying rates irrespective of age and the importance of learning something ‘new’ from each interaction — whether the player is younger and/or older than the player, and/or the player is more skilled and/or less skilled than the player.
Both scenarios present incredibly powerful learning curves that should be taken advantage of and afford heightened performance progressions for the player.
By ensuring a mixed age environment whereby age is not considered as a performance indicator, this can help players/athletes from varying levels of experience interact and learn from one another. Whether that means a 9 year old who has been playing for 3 years, or a 14 year old who has also been playing for 3 years, both of these players align with similar performance progressions and as such have ample to offer the other player. The same may be considered for the 16 year old who has been playing for 5 years, to another 16 year old who is almost at the end of their initial 10 Years of Play. By all accounts performance expectations will be quite different, but having these players interact nonetheless can still be equally rewarding in varying lights.
Simply put, there is always something to be learned off an opponent that is younger, older and/or of the same age irrespective of skill level. Some will be the same age and match your skill level whilst some may be younger and of a higher level and/or older and of a higher level. Overall, age is really a number to consider secondary to performance.
By changing a player’s view on the importance of age and ultimate interactions affords a greater scope of the developmental demands of the player and their journey along The Pathway and ultimately imparting along The Long Game. At the end of the day both age and/or experience based interactions should be used and not merely one alone. Whether that means diversifying what one player is working on to the next, it’s equally important in the development of a well-rounded player who is conditioned to respect the game of their opponent, irrespective if junior or senior, and to ensure their game is their core focus. By keeping this focus, players are then enabled to set their sights on how they go about executing their game on a given day to ensure their performances continue to progress whilst avoiding the possibility of getting stuck in the ‘he’s better than me’ or ‘she’s younger than me’ loophole that has nothing conducive to offer the player’s overall development. If these views do develop, it becomes a reflection of the developed biases the player has picked up from their coach and/or parents based on age in contrast to setting the stage early for what the WTA and/or ATP tour has to offer — a diversified field based on performance whereby age really is just a number.
To learn more about Age Interactions: Tennis Players, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 55. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.
A powerful tool and equally powerful motivator, The Power of Song is often under-utilised and yet the benefits by far outweigh the decision to not integrate song into practice and/or training sessions for its sheer advantages. Not convinced? Give me a minute, or two. Each and every time the radio comes on, or you find your favourite tune of the hour/day/week on Spotify, YouTube to Apple Music and/or all those between, there’s a feeling that takes over. There’s an underlying reason of ‘why’ that song is your favourite today and/or was your favourite song last week. And how that song makes you feel, good and/or bad and the array of emotions in between, can be channelled into whatever it is you’re doing at that given moment as it becomes akin to a memory etched in time as you’re able to recall those ‘feelings’ for those 3-4 minutes if you’re lucky enough for the song to play until its end.
Recall that most of our episodes on Beyond Top 10 Tennis take the time to emphasise the humanised approach — the applicability of the concept/theme and how it relates to individuals alike, not just tennis players. On the same merit, it’s so important to remember that tennis players are all human — all individuals which also means, music has meaning to them, too and feelings are individual. By tapping into this network of emotions can become and lead to an incredibly powerful habitual state of play. Now you may ask, how? This is where there is ample fun to be had!
What’s your favourite on-beat tune? A song that raises you up and you’re instantly taken through a wild ride of positive emotions? You know the ones, where you’re just compelled and can’t hold back from belting out those lyrics? Those ones!
And then you have the songs that you’re able to zone into and switch out any outside noise. Call them your gym beats to your running playlist and/or of similar activities. The ones that make you push a little harder and go that little further and whisper (rather loudly in your ear) don’t you dare give up — one more set, one more mile, just ONE more! Now let’s turn the table. When used intentionally during training and/or practice The Power of Song has a myriad of benefits. One of such is conditioning the player/athlete to zone into their performance and rely on their autonomous nature — receiving no external feedback from their coach and/or others, explicitly relying on their own intrinsic mechanisms. This is an exceptional tool for coaches to then view at what level this state of autonomy has reached and if it reflects the desired state of play.
When a player/athlete is able to tune out with the added distraction of song — albeit in a conducive way, it also shows little glimpses into their game that may otherwise be overshadowed to overlooked and allows a more refined lens to see what aspects of their game need/s further addressing. Of course, this is centred at the more developed (elite) player as the developing (developmental) player will have a number of areas which is to be expected. But The Power of Song adds that layer of distraction in a positive light and can help condition players to the expected distractions at the elite level of play and how to handle their own internal noise to in turn block out and/or alter their perception of the environment i.e. rowdy crowds to someone talking on their phone on the sideline.
The more ‘fun’ aspect of The Power of Song at all levels of play is the aforementioned feeling to tap into and to take that performance to a new level. Remember that song that pushes you one more mile or for just one more? Now we’re on the tennis court and this song — choose what works for you as everyone is going to be different; it takes you to a place of hyper focus and it’s a mix of positive emotions and amps your performance up a level — an intrinsic motivator. We’re going to use this song as a point of recall to associate an optimal performance metric with this song. And by conditioning this optimal performance metric with this song these are lyrics and/or beats that afford a point of recall to move your level of performance to that next level — to that next peak performance cycle. Of course, this song is to be used intermittently but to serve as a reminder to a memory of the zone you’re able to switch into when in need.
And this is just one song and one example.
By using The Power of Song on a rolling basis (think weekly) and conditioning performances around a specific song — one that has meaning to you, allows the player/athlete to diversify their performance whilst also working on levels of autonomy to limiting distractions. And it takes time. But it also serves as an alternative motivator to be leveraged to mix up a player’s conditioning and also offers an easy point of recall as a reminder i.e. in their notes on change of ends to remember the beats/lyrics and/or to play that song prior to their match to get the player in the ‘zone’ of those optimal performance outcomes. Each player will be different, however, so it’s incredibly important to ensure the player/athlete chooses what works best for them and then to integrate The Power of Song steadily to not only aid in performance progressions but also add something a little different and ‘fun’ to the training environment that I can guarantee will have players/athletes coming back for more!
To learn more about The Power of Song: for Tennis Players, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 54. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.
This week’s episode shines exclusive insights on the role of Reading and Performance that it is only fair to add a little more exclusiveness right here for those of you who either are in intrigued for more or those of you who are yet to tune in to Beyond Top 10 Tennis. But this has been a long kept secret over the course of the past now 8 Years as the 10 (non-fiction) texts to date, most of which are included in The Complete Collection, have been published and subsequently made available for all players, coaches to parents ensuring their road ahead towards a Top 10 tennis ranking really is within reach and possible.
But why reading? First and foremost I’m a huge believer in transparency and honesty and so of course there is a pinch of bias here. Nonetheless, there’s also the psychology of human behaviour and of learning — how you learn varies from one individual to the next with equal amounts of variance simply because we are all different and not every individual will learn the same as the next. If you’re familiar with the research then you know where I’m coming from, but if not you’re going to have to have a little bit of faith here that countless scientists to researchers alike have uncovered quite substantial findings over the past century that underpins this discussion.
The nitty gritty of it all is in the releases. That’s 10 Books I’ve penned to date (non-fiction) with an 11th now confirmed to be on its way before the year is out! It comes at a time that has culminated at 11 years since this research started and it is by no means a coincidence.
You see, these soon to be 11 texts are designed with Reading and Performance in mind. From Book 1 — The Secrets to Optimal Performance Success, to The Secrets to Optimal Coaching Success which this topic is extracted from, and our current ‘new‘ focus on Beyond Top 10 Tennis, through to The 7 Keys to Optimise Your Life, the most recent non-fiction instalment, all play a part in The Pathway towards a Top 10 tennis ranking. And this may sound unfamiliar.
That’s the point. From the beginning a ‘top 10 tennis ranking’ was never divulged as the player and coach needed to grasp key concepts to begin. The same applies throughout most of these texts with underlying trends. These trends, nonetheless, have been and are intentionally designed to keep the reader — the player to the coach and/or parent, to build habitual states of play to ensure you become equipped with the necessary tools. This non-direct approach or otherwise non-linear in a manner of speaking, is designed to take the focus off ‘top 10’ in these initial phases to ensure the fundamentals become ingrained. Once this level has been reached is when the focus can become more specific and concrete. Of course, this is an incredibly simple snapshot of the role of Reading and its Applicability that has spanned over the course of the aforementioned 10 releases to date.
The good news is that by simply reading, you’re genuinely learning new skills you can then condition and refer to continuously until they reach a level of autonomy. More good news is that this is staggered by design — from one progression to the next. Even better? By reading you’re also expanding your knowledge base and thus overall learnings that have wins for all involved. And for the bad? Well the bad news is that it takes work. But at the same time, becoming a Top 10 tennis player takes work. By using this approach you not only have The Pathway to guide you along The Long Game, but this heightened level of learning feeds back into your ability to solve problems to know how to mitigate injuries and so much more.
By design, The Complete Collection leverages Reading and its Applicability to Sports Performance by equipping the reader with key takeaways without missing a beat. From developmental through to that initial 10 Years of Play towards the next 10 Years of Play as you ascend towards the Top 100 to Top 60 before embarking towards the Top 30 and ultimately edge closer towards the Top 10, this is what the next generation of play is built on and defined by. The question now for those who have not started reading is whether or not you’re equipped to keep pace with the next generation of play that leverages science to its fullest as a Top 10 tennis ranking is now within grasp courtesy of these readings and with 20 Years of Play before you.
To learn more about Reading and its Applicability to Sports Performance: Tennis Players, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 53. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.