After the summer grind be sure to find time to reflect on your tournament competition as a whole. What did you learn about yourself? What did you improve? What do you still need to improve to perform even better? What are new goals you will set moving forward? Similarly, coaches should do the same and be looking for ways to innovate and inspire their players. Below are 5 take-aways from the summer. Enjoy!
1. Be a better player on the last day as compared to the first day. When I travel with players to longer tournaments I am more concerned with how they are improving from day to day, rather than if they are winning or losing. After a loss, I want to see the player clean things up in practice, and then go out the next day and do better in those areas. The nationals provide players with plenty of opportunities to go out and fix certain areas from match to match; however, many players get hung up on the outcomes and neglect the process.
2. The best "player" does not always win. The best "competitor" does. There were some pretty amazing matches this summer and I was impressed with the skill-sets that players have at such a young age. From technique to tactics, most players at the national level have a solid foundation of skills. However, technique and tactics did not separate the top players from everyone else, but rather competitiveness did. Competitiveness is an intangible skill, yet it continues to differentiate the good from the great. How long are you willing to fight? Will you work through the adversity and continue believing in yourself? If you want to break through to the next level commit more of yourself to how you are competing rather than how you are hitting the ball.
3. Hold onto the wins longer; let the losses fade. It was interesting to see how the "wins" seemed to fade away too quickly, meaning that players were quick to move past the successes. However, "losses" remained for a longer period of time, and players were usually unable to move past them before going into the next match. Put the wins in the bank for confidence; use the losses for what you need and then move on.
4. Commitment to the journey and long-term process is key. I had some great conversations with coaches this summer while watching their players compete. The common thread was the emphasis on "playing the correct way." This can be very difficult for players and their parents to buy into, especially when the results are slow to come. However, tennis is one of those sports that require a systematic building process in which the player must go through a variety of things before progressing through the levels. Players are not ready to win until they are ready to win; failure is an indicator of the gaps that must be filled before success comes along.
5. Take more responsibility off the court to find more accountability on the court. When I travel with players I make them do a lot of things that they may not have to do when traveling with their parents. For instance, I always have players call for court time, buy a can of balls, call the tournament director for match times and locations, and even let the hostess know how big a table we need. While these things may sound trivial, these are opportunities for players to build confidence, get outside their comfort zones, and develop intangible skills that are often overlooked in today's society. The result? When we return a week later, parents comment on how their child has changed (AKA, matured). Players, pack your own bags, figure out your match schedule, and communicate what you need; in doing so, you will have a whole new outlook on your tennis.