Countdown: Paying Attention to What Is Important
With Signing Day right around the corner, high school senior tennis
players have lots on their minds. On and off the court, it can be hard
to figure out where to focus. Damon Valentino offers some strategies
tennis players can use to pay attention to what is truly important in
all facets of life.
Self Confidence - You Got This
Many college coaches would rank self-confidence as one of the most
important traits they look for in a recruit. But if we try to put a
number or a ranking on a self-confidence scale, it's virtually
impossible to do. So how do you demonstrate such an important trait
that is so hard to measure?
What Can You Control?
Junior tennis players looking to play college tennis work hard on and
off the court, and most of them set lofty goals for achievement. But
are they focusing on the right goals? Are these areas where you truly
have control? Choosing the wrong goals can sap momentum and damage
your confidence as well. It is important to pick specific things that
are 100% in your control ... and make those your focus.
After hitting with one of my players who made a series of bad
decisions, I contemplated why we so often try to impose our will. In
both life and tennis, it is not about imposing your will - but rather
about what you are willing to do. We are not privileged enough to
force a win, force a shot or force a point on the courts. Tennis, like
life, is about discipline, doing the right things, and ultimately
suffering to reach our goals and aspirations.
Fall Signing Week '15: Playing Your Best Tennis for Coaches
The more something means to players, the more pressure they put on
themselves to succeed. One of the most uncomfortable moments for
aspiring college tennis players is competing in front of college
coaches. To avoid underperforming, athletes need to focus on enjoying
their time on the court the most. Here are a few tips to help players
start the process ...
The Marathon Mentality: Developing a Mentally Tough Tennis Player
To achieve real results, junior tennis players need to change and
enhance their overall mentality. I often tell my tennis players that
success is not a sprint - but rather a marathon.
Why Junior Tennis Players Keep Failing
One of the biggest questions junior tennis players and parents who
have not had mental training is, "Why is their training and hard
work not transferring into more wins?" Patrick Albam of SPMI
takes on this question...
Controlling Emotions in Tennis: Maximizing the 20-Second Rule
One of the most common mental struggles I see with junior tennis
players is the inability to control emotions. When emotions are
negative they directly affect a player's focus and match performance.
Patrick Alban of SPMI describes a technique junior tennis players can
use to keep their emotions in check.
Master Your Mental Game with a Paper Clip
As a junior tennis player looking to maximize your game and get
recruited, the last thing you want is to let your passion turn into
anger. Anger is a type of emotion that often translates into poor
performance - and it can turn off college coaches. Patrick Alban of
SPMI describes a technique junior tennis players can use to work
on their mental game.
Fall Signing Week '14: Blended Learning and the Student Athlete
With the demands of high performance training and tournament travel,
many top-tier high school student-athletes are finding the balance
between school and sports extremely challenging. The traditional
factory-model setting poses difficulties for many students - but there
are challenges unique to student-athletes who require flexible
arrangements. Enter "blended learning" - which combines
online learning and traditional schooling...
A Word on Choking
When someone 'chokes' in a tennis match, there is an
assumption that the person is flawed in some way. This is very
misleading. Choking occurs when two separate and very unrelated parts
of the brain are in disagreement as to what action to take. The
ensuing stalemate results in an apparently inexplicable error. Ray Brown
of EASI Academy talks about the science of choking - and how to fight
How Much Should a Junior Tennis Player Train?
Many junior tennis players spend countless hours on the court. "No
pain, no gain" - as the saying goes. For juniors with developing
bodies, it is easy to overdo it. How much is too much? Valery
Yalouskikh of TennisConsult.com stops by to discuss recommendations
from sports scientists.
Fear in Tennis
Tennis is an eye-to-eye combative sport. Unlike team sports or
individual sports, tennis is an one-on-one combative contest of wills,
stamina and skill. In this respect, tennis stimulates a part of the
brain that is millions of years old and which evolved to ensure our
survival in a primitive hostile environment - and it causes Fear.
Dealing with Injury and Rehabilitation
One of the unsung heroes of any tennis facility is the rehabilitation
center. I actually witness athletes come in and in a matter of time,
they are back on the playing field. There are two individuals that I
have closely associated myself. Read the next part of my article and
ask yourself what you would have done if you were either Tommy Haas or
Finding Your Tennis Zone
After a great match, you often hear players say "I was in the zone!"
What is the zone? Although there have been many different
definitions, the most commonly accepted definition of the zone is a
state of optimum physical and mental performance. Everything appears
to be in flow and, in the end, everything appears to be "going their
way." In practice, the zone is something that takes a lot of hard work
Training Effectively vs. Just Training Hard - 10 Tips for Maximizing Your Training
When it comes to getting the most out of your training, working hard
is not enough. In order to see real results, you should focus on
training the way you want to compete. Hare are ten key strategies
for maximizing the effectiveness of your training.
Staying Out of the Way
I started teaching tennis in the mid 1950s. Not a day goes by where my
mind doesn't say, "here we go again." My toughest lesson is not with
my students - but with their parents. Parents, please read this
several times and be honest with yourself, and if the shoe fits,
please loosen your laces a bit and just be a mom or dad to your kid.
Let the coaches do their jobs.
Becoming a Mental Tennis Warrior
A warrior is defined as a brave or experienced soldier or fighter. As
competitive tennis players know, every match is a battle, with the
intensity of this battle increasing the higher ones level of play. At
any level of tennis, this battle is not simply physical, but mental as
Quality Provides Quantity
Over the years, I have developed a system for my players that stresses
simplicity - as well as quality over quantity. Keeping things simple,
knowing what shot you are going to hit before you get to the ball, and
hitting good shots at a single good target usually leads to fewer errors,
more victories, and fewer defeats.
The role of leader carries a great honor and responsibility.
Successful leaders embrace the power of teamwork and tap into the
strength that each member of the team brings to the table. A leader
must be the one that accepts success or failure - and never shifts
their role of being a leader.
Developing Positive Self Esteem
Self esteem boils down to one thing: what you think about yourself!
No matter where I go or who I talk to, your chances of any success
starts with you. You have two simple options. You can either be
positive or negative.
Show Me! Let Me See It!
No matter what you think, I have never found two students who are
exactly the same, and I've coached and worked with tens of thousands
of students. With this in mind, coaches and educators must find a way
to be successful that will often differ by student. Coaches vary in
the way they teach the game, but the most productive method I apply is
based somewhat on their ages.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
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. Some
juniors and college players shake or hang their heads in disbelief
that they missed that poorly. They should realize that they won the
point. Players need to learn to take the good with the bad and the
500 Sets a Year
I tell parents all the time - take one private a week and go play
matches. Sometimes I tell parents to take one private every two
weeks. It's just overkill to do anything more until you reach the
higher stages of the game. Players need to be playing eight to ten
sets a week - that's where the real learning happens.
Body Language - The Talk of Tennis
The fist-pump, the racquet toss, the stare. The slow trudge off of the
court, and the power-energized spring onto the court. The racquet bag
bludgeoning after the racquet toss, the chest bump, and the head hang.
All of these are familiar sites on the tennis court. But what are
these actions really telling us about the momentum and flow within a
match or, more minutely, within a single point?
The "I" in Team - One-Eighth of the Whole
We have all heard the old adage, There is no I in TEAM. Whether little
league, club soccer or the NFL, the phrase is always there. Team
sports utilize a number of players on the same field at the same time
all working in unison. Tennis, in the team format, is a different
Creating Your Own Luck
It's not a rabbit's foot in their pocket, nor the rituals they go
through before a task. It's simply that their hard work and effort has
paid off. Have you ever heard a player scream "this guy is so lucky,"
or "how lucky can a girl get?" Well in most cases, a person is as
lucky as how hard he or she works. These players on the courts and
people in life are creating their own luck.
The Importance of Teamwork
Nick Bollettieri has assembled quite a team at IMG Academies. Tennis
may be an individual sport, but Bollettieri knows a lot about
collaboration - and the kind of teamwork it takes to do something
profound. He did just that when he opened the IMG Bollettieri Tennis
Academy, and it is the team of people at IMG Academies that he credits
for making it such a wonderful place to train.
Know Your Stuff!
One of the most common questions people ask me is how I can relate to
so many different types of personalities on the tennis court. Well, it
ain't easy! Each player has their own way of dealing with everything.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with a
player at any level is that you have to know your stuff! If you don't,
you risk losing their trust and respect.
What a Feeling!
Have you ever been in the perfect zone, felt the mojo... or even just
been in the groove? It's a euphoric feeling that some never reach. But
those that do and can do it consistently are the ones who can take
their games to the next level. This zone comes from extensive training
and developing the ability to be comfortable in any situation. It's
done by the awareness and the sensation of the moment.
Sooner or later, you will play doubles. So, you should accept this
near fact and find a solution. For this, I can help you. The main
difference between doubles and singles is that doubles is a game of
court positioning. Doubles has two players on each side of the court,
which automatically means less open space. In doubles, the reduced
court space limits creativity and results in specific shots being hit
Up the Middle, Solve the Riddle
Tennis, like life, is a struggle. It's a game of discipline and of
choices. When a player is reckless or undisciplined the unforced
errors are certain to come back to haunt him. Tennis and life both
have ebbs and flows and ups and downs. Pressure, stress of performance
and dealing with tough losses and defeat are eerily similar. Tennis
and life are both challenges of "Doing the Right Things," and not just
"Doing Things Right."
Many years ago a tennis player came to the IMG Bollettieri Tennis
Academy to get back into shape and prepare for the senior tour. He was
one of the greatest players ever, and I asked him how he accomplished
so much.His answer: "When I walked on the court, there was only one
thought in my mind, and it stayed with me until the final point of the
match: I will hit the last ball over the net." Who was that person?
Why We Play and Why We Succeed
Why do we do what we do? Is it the thrill, the challenge, or the
reward? Is that why we push ourselves through the pain? I contend
that to perform at our best - and to experience the ecstasy that comes
with performing at a high level - the motivation comes from the
fulfillment of what we do. If we are to be truly rewarded in victory
or defeat, it must be solely for the love or passion it brings us.
Winning, Losing, and Learning
Life is going to kick us in the pants. It is. There is no
avoiding it. It kicks you, me, our players, our own children,
everyone. More than once, we are going to feel the wrath of defeat
and hardship. It's coming. But that wrath and defeat and hardship
does not have to translate into failure and loss. It can - and I
always hope it does - perpetuate learning.
The First Four Games
It's happened to everyone at one point or another. You lose a match
to a player that just seemed to be "in the zone" only to watch them
play terrible in the next round. It leaves you wondering; why didn't
they play like that against me? There are countless articles
detailing how to win a tennis match, but they often fail to mention
the most important part of the match itself: the beginning.
The Coach's Revolving Door
College coaches have many duties - building successful programs,
developing athletes, and winning contests. But they hold a deal more
responsibility than that. As a coach, I have a responsibility to each
player to push them towards being successful both on the courts and as
individuals. Coaches are like revolving doors. For four or five
years, they are under my guidance, developing at each stage before
exiting the door and entering the world.
Go For Every Ball
During my first practice sessions with Venus and Serena Williams, one
of the first things I noticed was that the girls would run for every
single ball, no matter where it bounced on the court, including some
that were out by several feet. When I asked them about it, they told us
about their father's rule: "When you see the ball coming over the net,
react to the ball with your feet and know that you can reach the ball."
That intensity and focus is one of the things that makes them special.
Two Simple Tips to Improve Your Game
As a coach I am asked all kinds of questions about the game of tennis.
People want to know how to fix anything from their strokes to their
anticipation to their movement - and, just about everything in
between. Here are answers to two questions that I am often asked
that can help you fix your game!
Becoming Aware of Yourself, Part II
The last segment of "Becoming Aware of Yourself" outlined the initial
evaluation process. I stressed honesty as the key component in
analyzing your strengths and weaknesses. By being honest with
yourself, you can successfully pinpoint the areas of your game you
need to improve upon. This article gets more concrete with
Becoming Aware of Yourself
Personal awareness refers to your ability to know yourself as a tennis
player and as a person. You can develop your strong points even
further. Developing a sound and thorough personal awareness will help
you identify your strong points, limitations and areas for
Growing a Champion
At any given time at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy we have
students attending from over 72 different countries from socioeconomic
groups that range from those on full scholarship to those of
incredible wealth. As diverse as the group is there are certain key
traits we look for in indentifying future champions.
Stretch Your Way to Better Tennis
The game of tennis is much more than just striking a ball. When you
watch matches you will see all types of hitting styles, various
strategies, and lots of variety in movement on the court! Unlike raw
natural ability and common sense, mobility is something you can
actually improve with practice. Here are some tips on things you can
do to improve flexibility and mobility.
Sizing Up the Opposition
One of the most important skills that any tennis player can have is
the ability to size up their opponent quickly and easily. Knowing how
to read their opponent starting at the warm-up gives a player a
distinct advantage. Whether playing for high school, college, a
recreational league or even in the professional ranks, the ability to
size up your opponent is a huge advantage.
Relationship Advice from a Pro
I am often asked to share words of advice to newlyweds at their
wedding receptions. It wasn't until I married Cindi that it dawned on
me how similar marriage is to playing doubles in tennis. Below are my
tips on how to increase your odds of creating a winning doubles
team... both on the court and off.
Observations from the 2009 US Open
This year's US Open was an exciting one! For the first time in six
years, a new men's champion was crowned... congratulations Juan Martin
Del Potro. Kudos also go out to Kim Clijsters who proved all the
naysayers wrong... Both players brought excitement and a renewed and
much-needed spark of interest to the game.
What's your Mental Game Plan?
Tennis players of all levels are used to the concept of 'practice
makes perfect'. In this search of perfection athletes will spend a
great deal of time, blood, sweat and tears pounding the ball on the
court and sometimes also in the gym. However, many of these players
are missing the most important muscle of all. The six inches between
your ears! This is probably good news to those of you who do take your
mental game seriously. Your opponents are giving you an edge!
The Perfect Athlete
When I think about the perfect athletes throughout history, a few
names come to mind. Jordan. Gretzky. Nicklaus. Palmer. Oh... and Tiger,
even though he missed the cut and collapsed at the two most recent
majors. History's perfect tennis player? I plead the fifth.
Managing Energy to Perform at Your Best
Seth Kaplan of Elite Performance Coaching talks about strategies to
reduce stress and recover energy so that junior tennis players have
the energy resources to compete at the highest levels - and perform at
Down, but Not Necessarily Out
Coming back from a serious injury is never an easy thing to do,
especially if your career depends on the health of your body.
Rehabilitation takes commitment, hard work, perseverance, and, most of
all, patience. Nick Bollettieri discusses inspiring comeback stories
Would I have Coached Rafael Nadal Differently to Prevent Injuries?
Since the French Open, I have been asked by the media, fans, friends,
and just about everyone else whom I've encountered about Rafael Nadal.
They all want to know if I would have coached him any differently as a
youngster and as a professional to prevent injuries. I can honestly
and definitively say, "Absolutely not!"
Questions and Answers with Fairfield Coach Ed Paige
Fairfield University coach Ed Paige has been involved with the sport
of tennis for thirty years as a player, coach, and writer. He has
been the editor of World Tennis magazine and Tennis USA. He has also
been involved with junior tennis, and his sons Nolan (16) and Sayer
(12) are nationally-ranked juniors. James Hill talks with Coach Paige
about the benefits of attending a traditional high school.
The Bollettieri Development System
In the early stages of my career, I realized that if I worked longer
and harder than anyone else and surrounded myself with loyal,
committed people, I could be somebody. I realized that if I learned
from my defeats and had the support of my friends, I could make an
impact on children. This has been my life's work, and it has paved the
way for what has become the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy at IMG
Visualization: Envisioning Success
Visualization is a mental preparation technique in which you create
positive performance images in your mind before practice and
competition. Integrating visualization as part of your
pre-performance routine can help you to perform at your very best.
The summer offseason is upon us. Maybe you played #7 on your college
team last year... or you just missed qualifying for the Regionals by
one spot. How can you make the most of your summer tennis regimen in
order to jump into the line up or achieve that national ranking? Here
are a few key elements for success.
It is a common phenomenon in the game of tennis for players to spend
the majority of their time and energy focusing on their serve.
Although I am not disputing the importance of a great serve, I like to
have my students practice and place more emphasis on developing a
great return of serve. The best professional players instantly put
pressure on the server with great return of serves. Let's delve a
little deeper into this crucial part of the game.
Goal Setting: A Path to Success
One of the best motivating factors for athletes, as they strive for
excellence in sport, is to set performance goals. Setting meaningful
goals promotes effort and enhances energy by giving you something to
shoot for. Seth Kaplan talks about how to define good goals - and
then attain them.
Nadal Does It, Why Can't I?
Rafael Nadal is an incredible player; his physical make-up, movement,
tenacity, and "will to win" have ensured his spot in either the #1 or
#2 spot in the world.Nadal's game is an extremely "physical" one,
which includes his heavy top-spin forehand hit with a full western
grip. People love to emulate the top players, so if Nadal hits with a
full western grip then they want to, too! But, before you make this
game style decision, let's examine the western grip a little closer.
Composure Under Pressure
To gain the mental edge for positive performance, athletes must have
the ability to keep their composure in pressure situations. The
ability to stay calm, composed, and focused in a fifth set tie-breaker
can be the difference between winning and losing. Coping with
pressure in those tight situations is difficult, but through mental
skills training, athletes can use pressure to their advantage and
perform at a high level when the stakes are high.
Building Confidence for Elite Tennis Performance
There are a variety of mental skills that are associated with elite
performance including motivation, concentration, perseverance, and
resiliency. One mental skill stands out from the rest: confidence.
Confidence is an internal belief that you can execute at a high level
in all situations. Here are three tools you can use to increase your
confidence and enhance your tennis game.
A scratch of the head, an eye-roll after a double fault, a painful
wince - children are amazingly perceptive and acutely aware of their
parents' reactions to their performance on the court. Nick
Bollettieri talks about the role of the parent with the tennis-playing
junior, and how parents can help children be happy, healthy, and successful
both in life and on the court.
The Legs Feed the Wolf
"The legs feed the wolf, gentlemen!" Herb Brooks hollered to his
team. As coach of the U.S. hockey team competing at the 1982 Olympic
Games, Brooks meant it for ice play, but the phrase holds true for
tennis, too. Paul Pisani talks training basics for tennis players.
Training for Perfection Can Be a Real Problem!
Most coaches, parents, and athletes are often in disbelief when I tell
them that they are heading towards failure when they train for
Perfection. The answer? Train for Excellence.
Racket-Head Speed: What is it and how do I get more of it?
The term racket-head speed is thrown around by tennis commentators,
coaches, spectators and players all the time. Generating this speed
consistently is the solution to a more powerful game. The faster you
can get your racket moving through the zone when making contact with
the ball, generally the more power you will have. Let's talk about
how to generate more racket-head speed without sacrificing control...
How Thin is Too Thin for a Competitive Female Athlete?
Recently, I have seen an increase in referrals concerning weight
management and diet. It may come as a surprise to parents that food
restriction and injuries are often related, and result from a
combination of factors known as the Female Athlete Triad.
When Do I Take the Split Step?
Nick Bollettieri takes a look at the serve-and-volley, identifying
what the best players do to get to the net effectively.
Playing Not To Lose: Recipe for Disaster
In this ultra-competitive world of athletics, one of the more critical
psychological myths to dispel is: Playing Not to Lose. What often
seems like a safe and sound way to prepare an athlete for success is
more often a recipe for disastrous disappointment. Here's why...
'Boom Boom' Becker: A Serve Built on Confidence
I've been bombarded with questions about service technique, asked to
analyze serve motions down to the quiver of a single cell, begged
relentlessly for that "miracle" tip that will send the ball 140mph
over the net and in the corner of the service box - No matter what the
magazines print in bold on their covers, no such miracle exists. A
good serve is a confident serve, and confidence is the payoff of
having a whole lot of self-discipline.
The Power of Protein
If you asked most athletes what the most important nutrient was for
performance, they would answer protein. They would be correct in
giving that answer. Why is protein so vital? It builds hormones and
antibodies, it is a component of enzymes, and it is also an important
part of our muscle, skin, blood, organs, brain, nerves and even our
genes. Laurie Wexel of HealthyTennis.com talks about this vital
Beat the Cheat - Part II
There will always be people who choose to cheat. Therefore we must
develop skills in our youth that heighten our ability to maintain our
composure in the midst of unfair competition - whether on the court or
off. Developing these skills will prove invaluable to young players
both in tennis - as well as in life.
Beat the Cheat - Part I
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes at a junior tennis
tournament knows how prevalent cheating and accusations of cheating
are even at that level of play. The questions we must address as
coaches and parents are: (1) What causes our youngsters to cheat? (2)
How do we teach our kids to handle cheating when they are on the
Master the Backhand Court
If you are like most people then your forehand is more dependable and
aggressive than your backhand. If your opponent attacks your
backhand, there are two ways to approach the problem: either improve
your backhand - or simply hit more forehands!
The Lost Art of the Drop Shot
Let's face it, today's game is all about power and hitting the tar out
of the ball. For the most part, the game of tennis is now
predominantly played behind the baseline. This evolution has brought
many advances to the game, including the need for increased physical
training, as well as requiring players to hone their mental games.
However, one skill lost in this transition has been the fine art of
the drop shot. If used properly, I believe that the drop shot can be
more effective than ever before.
Does Glucosamine Really Work?
Osteoarthritis is a wear and tear disease that robs cartilage from
joints. Known as a universal disease, osteoarthritis is a risk to
everyone, and especially the active junior tennis player. Laurie
Wexel explores the body's mechanisms for creating, maintaining,
and repairing cartilage.
What Really Matters?
As a tennis coach I have learned a lot by observing others both on the
court and off. There is one trait in people that is difficult to
define, but we all know it when we see it... a strong character.
Although there is no direct link between one's level of character and
one's level of ability on the tennis court. However, I can say
without hesitation that there is a direct link between the level of
happiness one enjoys and the quality of one's character.
Breaking Down Your Opponent (Part 2)
Last month I talked about breaking down your opponent both technically
and physically. The last way to do this is mentally, which often
starts before the match begins.
Breaking Down Your Opponent
There are some things that never change, whether it is on the athletic
field or in life. Some people may not be as good as others, some may
be better, and others are equal. But in every situation there are ways
to break down your opponent.
Whole Wheat, or Not Whole Wheat: That is The Question!
The title might sound a little funny, but it is a very important
question. The recommendation for teenagers is three to seven servings
of whole-grains every day. If eating whole-grains is so important,
then it makes sense to know if what you are eating is truly
whole-grain or not.
Nature's Rustoleum... Carotenoids!
So far in our discussions about nutrition for the junior tennis
player, we have covered the importance of basic sports nutrition and
the role of Omega 3 fatty acids in controlling the inflammatory
response. In this article, we are going to discuss one of the
athlete's biggest needs - and worst enemies - oxygen!
Fats... The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
Not all fats are the same. Good fats - like lipids, sterols and
essential fatty acids - are absolutely necessary to maintain good
health. Laurie Wexel talks about fats - and their role in the diet
of the tennis player.
Nutrition Secrets for the Junior Tennis Player
Our newest contributor, Laurie Wexel of Healthy Tennis, checks in
with a discussion of nutrition for the junior tennis player. Wexel
talks about appetizing ways to replace fast and fried foods with