Michael Shaw shows metal

Congratulations to Everyball player Michael Shaw who won last weekend's Grade 3 Winter Regional Tour event in Peterborough. In the semi-final he beat highly regarded Dominic West 6-3, 6-4 and then in the final he got the better of his training partner and Everyball player Sam Gough 6-2, 7-5. Michael said of his victory, 'I played as well as I could using all that I had on the day'. Nice competitive mentality Michael. Congratulations also to Sam Gough for a great run getting to the final. Sam said, 'I had some good opportunities in the second set, but Michael played a solid couple of games from 5-5 to close out the match.' Katy Dunne and Alex Clark compete today in the LTA British Tour event in Nottingham - good luck girls!

Stop, Challenge, Choose

Next time you are experiencing emotions other than neutral or positive (on-court or otherwise) - try this 2 minute drill.

1. Stop - step away (back of the court) and take 2 or 3 long, deep breaths. As you do this, center yourself by focusing on where your centre of gravity is and assume good posture, shoulders back, chin up. As a result of breathing and centering you give yourself the best opportunity to calm down and take on the role of an 'observer' rather than a 'performer'.

2. Challenge - in this new, detached role as an observer you're now in a position to 'challenge' any irrational thoughts relating to the current situation and your negative emotion. So often we 'make stuff up' rather than look at what the 'objective reality of the situation' is.

3. Choose - now is the opportunity to 'choose' a new response, one that is going to be helpful to you in achieving your desired result. Your new response may feel a bit 'phony' to begin with so it's important here to 'fake it until you make it' or act it out. The more you do this, the more you'll begin to believe!

Emotions/feelings can normally be summed up in one word - anger, fear, anxiety, excitement, etc, etc. If you have to take more than a word to describe an emotion, you're probably starting to define your 'thoughts'. Choosing a new response is likely to be linked to a new thinking pattern (self-talk). Remember, your thoughts drive your emotions and your emotions drive your behaviour. This then, becomes a hugely important mental skill, both in competition but also in everyday life.

For further reading on this please see 'Play to Win' by Larry Wilson (Chapter 10)

Increasing confidence

A key way to increase confidence is to put yourself at risk. In Mia Kellmer Pringle's Four development needs of kids she discusses 'new experiences'. New experiences take us out of the comfort zone, challenge and grow us - no matter what our age is. What 'new experience' can you have today to build your confidence?

Where are you placing the 'blame'?

I remember Sharapova coming off the court having lost a grand-slam quarter final. Can't remember when and who against, but her post match comment was great: 'I would've, should've, could've but didn't' Basically she was saying that she was not good enough on the day, full-stop. I hear so often whether it's around my own kids football club or within our own Academy, 'Oh, I/we should've won that match. The guy was such a hacker......blah, blah, blah.' Wouldn't it be really nice for players just to front up and say, 'I wasn't good enough today and couldn't answer the questions my opponent asked of me.' Yes, of course you 'could have won' but only if you had done some things differently, if only you had some more tools in your locker.

Brings us back to the rules of results again.

1. I can't control my results, only influence them.

2. The results I'm getting are the results I should be getting.

3. If I want to change my results, I'd better do something differently.

Blaming your opponent because they were a 'hacker' or 'had no skill but were just too physical' is lazy thinking and shows a lack of respect and won't lead you down the road of improvement. I like the athlete who's prepared to front up and say, 'wasn't good enough today and this is what needs to get better'. Full-stop.

A message from Guti

Over the last few years the Everyball Academy has taken a number of our juniors to train at the world famous Bruguera Academy in Barcelona. One of the top coaches there is a great guy called Javier Gutierrez or 'Guti' for short. He's been over to visit us at Halton and is a great supporter of what we do - one day we'll try and persuade him to join us!!

Anyway, Guti sent me the following e mail today. His English is so much better than my Spanish but I know he would have taken a lot of time to put this together - thanks Guti!

Mike, thanks to dedicate your time with your interesting blog. I wrote something that you could add in comments wherever you think is more appropriate.

“In final of Masters Series of Madrid (2005) Nadal was losing 3/6 2/6 against Ljubicic. Nobody believed this time Nadal could change the direction of match (nobody except Nadal, his coach and ... Ljubicic). The conditions were the worst for Nadal; hard court, indoor, altitude of Madrid (where the ball runs faster) and most difficult thing was Ljubicic playing his best tennis. Nadal had only one chance... to continue “fighting for every ball”. He was looking for solutions but nothing was working against so good level of Ljubicic. The only thing he could do it was tell to his opponent “Ok, you are playing amazing... but can you play so good till the end of the match? Remember that if you go a bit down... I am here waiting for you!!!”.
Obviously Nadal didn’t talk with words; but he sent this message to Ljubicic “fighting for every ball” with all his courage and determination. For all players is hard to know the opponent is waiting for your first signal of weakness. We could think even of the “magic” Federer.
Probably everybody knows, or can guess, that Nadal won the final (7/6 in final set).

Did he was sure of victory? No, he just was fighting for an opportunity. Nobody has warranty of success (what is success?) and this is why is interesting tennis competition and everything we do in life. We feel happy when we get something that we weren’t sure to get.
We can understand easily the way to see competition for Nadal with his words after match.

-Interviewer “Were you nervous? What do you think in so difficult moments?”
-Nadal “Yes, I am nervous. Then I think. If I am nervous, my opponent must be nervous as well”.

The next words of Nadal could be “...therefore, I continue fighting for every ball”.

Very simple, very clever. He don’t waste his thoughts around bad feelings, he just think how to win next point...”

I think Mike, Nadal is the perfect example of philosophy of your academy.

Best regards,

Guti

Laziness

My brother is a fan of Seth Godin who posts a daily blog and forwarded on some of Godin's thoughts this week.
Godin writes: 'I think laziness has changed. It used to be about avoiding physical labor. The lazy person could nap or have a cup of tea while others got hot and sweaty and exhausted. Part of the reason society frowns on the lazy is that this behavior means more work for the rest of us. When it came time to carry the canoe over the portage, I was always hard to find. The effort and the pain gave me two good reasons to be lazy.

But the new laziness has nothing to do with physical labor and everything to do with fear. If you're not going to make those sales calls or invent that innovation or push that insight, you're not avoiding it because you need physical rest. You're hiding out because you're afraid of expending emotional labor.

This is great news, because it's much easier to become brave about extending yourself than it is to become strong enough to haul an eighty pound canoe"

Hmmm...What does this mean for us as coaches and players? Do we hide because we're not willing to expend emotional labor? And what exactly does emotional labour mean? I think that links really nicely into some recent thoughts around being competitive - the ability to choose one's response (responsibility), attending to 'errors', choosing helpful 'attentional' material and working hard to overcome negative self-talk. Yep, laziness can definitely take on a new meaning here - an emotional one rather than a physical one.

Being competitive - helpful attentional material

What is attentional material? Well, very simply it's the object of our attention at any given time during the day or during competition. Our attentional material can simply be broken down into 'helpful' or 'unhelpful' categories. Helpful in that it will assist performance and unhelpful in that it will hinder performance. Attentional material can either be internal or external. The internal most often refers to the verbal monologue going on inside our heads - what we commonly refer to as self-talk. The external refers to something more physical - what's happening on the next court, the conditions, etc. Sound ok so far right? The key of course, is developing the ability/awareness to recognise when you are focused on poor attentional material and do something about it.

Let's just focus for a minute today on the internal side of things. Negative thoughts will come into your head - that's natural as we're all fallible human beings. The toughest competitors however, exercise great responsibility in this area. I love the word responsibility - break it down and you have the 'ability to respond'. When negative thoughts creep in, having a positive 'A grade hit' (an antidote to the negative thought) is so important and needs to be trained. For example a poor call/decision by a referee or umpire can lead us down a very negative pattern of self-talk. 'I always get hooked on big points', 'it's so unfair!', 'what's the point of trying - he'll just cheat again', 'I can't believe it, I should have been a set up by now'. Developing and arming yourself with strong A grade hits to some of these statements is going to help you remain focused on the job that remains at hand: 'C'mon it's ok, there's a long way to go yet', 'one call never changes a match', 'hang in there and keep fighting - I know there's always a way back.' Remember, our thoughts move our emotions and our emotions move our behaviour so keep checking the quality of your attentional material, both internal and external. Where attention goes, power flows!

Drogba's attention is fixed on ball and target as he scores this penalty. After placing the ball on the spot last night (Champions league match v Spartak Moscow which Chelsea won 4-1) were there some feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety whilst he was waiting for the whistle to blow? Of course. Did he overcome them with the trained mind of a competitor? His clinical finish into the corner out of the goalie's reach proved that.

Everyball players excel

A number of Everyball players excelled this past week in competition. Scarlet Hutchinson won her second event of the week, a two day county event at Bucks Indoor Tennis Centre. Toby Rogers won the Boys 12&U's at the Riverside Grade 3 event in Bedford, and then followed this up with a great 5th place finish at the season's first 12&U Grand Prix in Tipton (an event involving the top 12&U boys in Great Britain). Sam Gough was a finalist in the Boys 12&U in Essex, and Daniel Dean had a great run to the finals of an Orange Winter National Tour Event, whilst Darcey Roe was also victorious in a Mini Orange Grade 3 event. Congratulations to all players involved. Good luck to Alex Clark who competes this week in Belgium and to Victoria Pisani who heads off shortly to Sweden. Katy Dunne has returned from a two week tour in Asia where she has gained valuable experience and further ITF points (her world ranking now stands at 208) and now looks forward to a trip to Mexico in 3 weeks time.