Quote for today

'....but to understand the risks, perhaps even to flinch at first, but then summon the strength to face them down - that is the most commendable form of courage.' (Robert Harris, Lustrum)

Behaviour change

I was on court this week playing some points against 16 year-old Alex Clark, one of our full-time players here at Everyball Halton. As a consequence of having spent many hours with her on court, her shot-making has become predictable to me and I have a very good idea what she will do with the ball in most situations and therefore I'm already one step ahead of her in my anticipation (now all the coaching secrets are coming out of the bag!). Points continued in this fashion for some time, until a moment arrived where Alex managed to execute exactly what we had been practicing for some time, and it caught me totally off guard and left me stranded nowhere near able to track her shot down. I was thrilled at losing the point in this way - these are the great coaching moments, the ones that make it worthwhile, the ones that suggest the work that both player and coach are putting in is making a difference.

But it has to be the same in all walks of life - as you seek to change and improve, are people noticing? Very often, it's not until you make an external impact with your behaviour that you know change is taking place. Not that this should be the motivation in itself, but it's a very powerful indicator as you seek to move forward in whatever area you have identified to work on. A new year is of course the time to think about change and setting new goals; rather than outwardly declare what you're going to do, why not 'just do it' and see who notices the difference. Could be fun!

Katy edges closer to world's top 100

A big congratulations to Everyball player Katy Dunne who today won her second ITF title in Botswana in as many weeks, bringing her 2010 haul to 4. This will bring her current ITF 18&U Junior World ranking ever closer to the world's top 100 and victories in the heat, rain and altitude of Gaborone will provide a great platform as she pushes into 2011 with the goal of making a serious impact in the very top grade ITF events. A major thanks to LTA Coach Jane O'Donaghue who has guided Katy over these past two weeks. Thanks Jane and great job Katy or as Halton coach Jemima Hayward put it, 'team Dunneaghue'!! Pictured below is Katy receiving her winners medal/trophy. Katy also picked up the doubles title as well.

The absurdity of it!

I did something this week on impulse - sold my 'sensible' car (Skoda Octavia!) and went for something completely absurd and impractical - a huge 4X4 Mitsubishi Warrior truck. Could quite easily be mistaken for a tank, possibly even one of those 'Hummers'. Nothing flash mind you - 6 years old with 70K on the clock, 0-40 in about 30 seconds, and I'm praying now for the snow to come back. But you know what, it was fun doing it, its fun to look at sitting there taking up my whole driveway, and behind the wheel, well it's that liberating, back to the open roads (even if we're in middle class Berkhamsted) Bruce Springsteen 'Born to run' kind of feeling.

Anyway, got me thinking about tennis. Tennis being a game. Tennis being fun. Those of us who are wrapped up in the 'performance' world, in the 'professionalism' of it all, lose sight of this very quickly and it can all start to weigh a bit heavy. So my 'Warrior' has come to represent that fun side of things - let's not take ourselves and our sport too seriously hey. The work has got to be done, results will get posted, and tennis will go on with or without us, so if you find yourself in a Skoda Octavia, step out for a bit and learn to enjoy the ride. It's only a game and you may find this way you play it better anyway.

Fear of losing

Pete Sampras wrote in his autobiography that fear of losing is a terrible thing. Nelson Mandela has also been quoted with similar views paraphrased below:

'Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond our measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. And as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we our liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

Yes, fear of failure, fear of losing, is a terrible thing. Best effort is all we can give and when the race is done we can hold our heads up high and say, 'I gave it my all'. Was it Abraham Lincoln that put it this way?: 'Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor souls who live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat'

No nonsense response

A few years ago we had 'Play the game, no excuses!' printed onto our Academy T shirts.  Why?  Because if you step out onto that match court, you do so by choice - you know what you're getting yourself into and what the potential consequences are if you don't perform to your own expectations.  I doubt Nadal performed as he wanted to yesterday against Federer, but just look at his response: 'What I'm going to say and what I feel is I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer on one of his favourite surfaces, and when he's playing like this it's very difficult to stop him.'  That's a quality no nonsense response from a great Champion.  Nil excuse, just got beat by a better player on the day.

Adult and Child Tournament in the snow!

50 players braved the snow and ice to play in the ever-popular Adult & Child Tournament at Halton on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Halton's 6 indoor courts the weather didn't affect play – pairs were put into boxes according to the ages of the children – from Mini Red/Orange for the Under 9's, Green-ball matches for the Under 10's and yellow-ball matches for the older juniors. The format was 10-minute timed matches which added an extra edge to everyone's play. In the Red/Orange group brothers Ethan and Will Rose came out on top – Ethan and his dad Craig were runners-up to older brother Will and his partner Paul Henry. In the Green group father and daughter Mark and Anna Hosking won 4 out of 5 matches but were beaten by father and son Gary and James Fuller who were very consistent and won all their matches. In the yellow-ball group competition there were two groups and after the round-robin matches the 2 semi-finals were contested between Peter and Annabel Westermann who beat Sean Strong and Bridget Andreas and Rob and Thomas Pain who beat Olivia Ray and Andy Maclean. In the Final, the format was a match tie break and was extremely close with some excellent rallies, but Rob and Thomas emerged as the winners.

Everyball International Academy is a holding a free Mini Tennis Fun Taster Session this Saturday from 12 noon to 1.30pm for children aged 4-6 years old. To book just email Mike at mike@everyball.net or ring 07958 008312.