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Revisiting the Coach-Athlete Relationship Part 3: Developing an Elite Tennis Player

Having commenced the review on the initial sections of The Secrets to Optimal Performance Success with the coach-athlete relationship charging the way, the next topics to be dived into are Player Behaviour and Mental Stability. With each respective section of the Book thoroughly shared with new insights, it should be of no surprise how these ‘moving parts’ piece together to develop the whole player/athlete to sharing how they intersect to empower the player/athlete as a whole for The Long Game that is akin to that next peak performance cycle. To harness these peaks and to ensure they’re equally accommodating the needs of the player/athlete becomes key to consider these otherwise indirect components on The Pathway towards the Top 100 and progressively the Top 10.

When it comes to shining the light on Player Behaviour and how it remains the responsibility of the coach it really comes down to boundaries set and specific behaviours that are tolerated although otherwise frowned upon. Keeping in mind the rulers that govern the sport of tennis (i.e. the code of conduct), setting firm principles from the beginning can help prepare your player for future success. In other words, whilst some elite players can get away with poor behaviour due to the status and/or ‘fandom’ that they’re achieved, this isn’t the rule nor does it represent a normalcy to be condoned. By all accounts the rules can be bent, although not encouraged, but the player/athlete needs to be able to progress to these heights to begin with before they can independently decide if certain questionable behaviours resonate with their game.

More often than not the answer will be no due to the confines set by the coach and their parents and/or guardians during the developmental years. However, players do become more impressionable when these heights are later reached i.e. Top 100, Top 50, Top 20 when they’re becoming more widely known and can fall back into poor Player Behaviours and/or develop them if their coach and/or those privy to their inner circle do not continue to uphold these initial boundaries and reaffirm healthy behaviours. In other words, at no ranking and/or age is a player immune but it is the precedent set that allows for these behaviours to either be controlled or to be let loose.

Keeping in mind the ethics that bind our sport and communities as a whole, it is much more simple to align with these ethics opposed to potential fines and/or penalties later on that can tarnish the credibility of the player/athlete and their status in the sport.

You might not agree but there are rules in sport for a reason to ensure equality and respect all round. As a leader in the eye of the public, tennis players need to abide by these for the integrity of their sport. One of the all-time greats of our sport once said something along the lines of no sport is a person, the sport is bigger than one person, the sport will continue on without that person. Having amassed 22 Grand Slams to date, this exceptional player — one of two all-time leaders of these core principles continues to champion the code of conduct, ethics to the underlying principles to rulers of our game with the utmost integrity. If you don’t know who I am referring to, this player has never thrown and/or broken a tennis racket let alone put his integrity in question and is highlighted in Episode 47.

Of course, how does this tie into a player’s Mental Stability? This is quite simple and streamlined. If a player/athlete does not have the tools to manage their own mental and emotional health as they do their physical health, cracks will begin to show through their performance. This may have to do with the performance — not being satisfied with their results, and/or completely external away from the tennis courts — poor outcomes and/or scenarios that they’ve been exposed to and they do not know how to behave/cope. In either case, the player/athlete can show signs through their behaviours and their performance on their Mental Stability and a coach is in turn responsible for having the necessary conversations with the player/athlete to firstly ensure they’re doing alright, and secondly to be that trustworthy person the player/athlete can confide in. This is where the triangular relationship is even more powerful as it keeps the player/athlete front and centre and it allows the coach to keep an open line of communication with the parent/s and/or guardian/s to share any concerning Player Behaviours to get on top of as well as discussing the need to focus on Mental Stability in different forms — external conditioning that serves the players/athletes overall wellbeing.

The key reminder here is that signs will appear and will become apparent if you’ve built a solid coach-athlete relationship with the player/athlete. The same applies to the parent and/or guardian. Placing the player/athlete to child at the forefront and keeping tabs on Player Behaviour to their Mental Stability not only helps them reach their optimal state of play — progressively and continuously, but it allows for those peak performance cycles to be worked towards collectively and consistently. The same applies when something doesn’t go as anticipated for the player/athlete and for them to have the tools to cope and control their behaviour to avoid passing on less than ethical behaviours and/or those against the rules that govern the sport of tennis. By having access to these tools ensures players/athletes are better equipped to stay the pace of The Long Game opposed to being derailed as a consequence of less than conducive behaviours.

To learn more about Revisiting the Coach-Athlete Relationship Part 3: Developing an Elite Tennis Player, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 48. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTokTwitterThreads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.