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Player Advice
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
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As a kid growing up in the south, I used to listen to Skip Carrey on the radio calling the Atlanta Braves games on a local AM radio station. Even then at a young age, I had a strong appreciation for his dry wit and almost arid sense of humor.

Coach Thomson with his Drake Team
courtesy, Drake Athletics
Carrey did a wonderful job of painting a picture of the action. But one of the lines that he would say that I have never understood is, "And he strikes out on a terrible pitch." This statement was, of course, referring to a batter swinging at a ball in the dirt or way outside of the strike zone. To this day I have never understood why anyone would call a pitch that caused a batter to strike out a terrible pitch. Maybe the ball flew over the batter's head, ricocheted off the back stop, and forced the catcher to throw the batter out at first. But if the pitch fooled the batter - and he struck out - didn't the pitch do what it was meant too? Sounds like a good pitch to me. So why was it so terrible?

In tennis I see players frame or miss-hit balls for a winner all of the time. Players line up and take big swings only to have the ball tick the net tape and barely drop over the net to win the point. I saw Roddick miss-hit a service return recently in Atlanta that ended up as a twisting oddly spinning lob that dropped in for a winner as his opponent was coming in behind his serve. Roddick handled this well. More times than not, however, I see the reaction of juniors and college players as, "That was awful - how did I miss that so badly?" They shake or hang their heads in disbelief that they missed that poorly. What they sometimes don't take into consideration is that they won the point. Well, you won the point. Take the good with the bad and the ugly.

What's even more frustrating to watch, however, are players that beat themselves up for not winning every point. Or the players who react so negatively for doing everything right and playing well only to see their opponent win that point. Others, still, spend time worrying about style points and taking shots unnecessary to win points. In turn, they make errors and give points away they cannot afford to lose.

Brad Gilbert wrote a book and made a very good career out of Winning Ugly. Some of my best wins as a player and coach have been ugly wins. Those go a lot further sometimes in our growth and development as players and coaches than the matches where everything goes right. I think it is very important for players to take the "shank-you very much," "Shank-enstein," or "count-shankula" shots and appreciate their value just as much as the "clean winners." I have talked about creating our own luck, and sometimes the shanks and miss-hits that go our way are part of that luck.

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