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.  


Being competitive - running down every ball

Continuing on with 'what it means to be competitive'....I was watching Wozniacki play Schiavonne play last night. Wozniacki's commitment to run every single ball down and make her opponent make some 'play' on the ball was superb to see and testament to her fitness, resolve, and competitiveness. In fact as the match went on she began to apply pressure onto Schiavonne purely for this reason alone - she had made so many great 'stay ins' that Schiavonne began to over-cook her finishing opportunities and began to miss badly. Having said that, Schiavonne also showed her ability in this area - even when she was well down in the third set, she demonstrated that competitive desire to keep fighting no matter how bleak the score was - a good practitioner of knowing 'there is always a way back'!

A superbly 'competitive' Wozniacki finishes the year as World's Number 1

Scarlett Hutchinson wins Mini Orange title

Halton and Everyball player Scarlett Hutchinson today won the Orange Grade 3 Event today at Riverside, Bedford winning all 5 of her round-robin matches by some superb serving and net play. Lara Hill also played the event and had a number of very close competitive matches showing real hustle and determination as well as some positive attacking play and lethal drop shots. Great job Scarlett and Lara.

Mike and Scarlett discuss her performance today having braved the cold - no wind or rain though!!

Fighting hard from tough positions.......

Imagine a game of football that plays to the following scoring system. Team A wins the first half 3-0, but at the beginning of the second half the scores are put back to 0-0. If team A wins the second half, they win the match because they have now won two halves to nil, but if team B wins the second half, say 1-0, then the match is tied and a third half has to be played to decide the outcome. Sounds a bit crazy right! Well, that's pretty much the scoring system in tennis, but even then tennis is different because there is no clock. There is always, always a way back into the match, no matter if you are 6-0, 5-0, 40-0 down. Your opponent can't run the clock down, they can't waste time, they've got to put the nails in the coffin and finish you off. And we all know that's a tough job don't we? What an amazing scoring system! One to embrace and one that encourages us to keep fighting, to keep putting our very best effort out on the court no matter what the score because there is always a way back.

There are so many examples in the game of amazing comebacks, but probably the one that sticks most in my mind is when Ivan Lendl came back from two sets down in the final of the 1984 French Open against John McEnroe to win his first Grand Slam. McEnroe was playing unbelievable tennis that year, the best of his career, and coasted through the first two sets and was leading 2-0 in the third. He managed to lose that but recovered to 4-2 in the fourth and was serving at 40-30 on the absolute brink of victory. McEnroe as usual had gone wide with his first serve and Lendl replied with a chip backhand cross-court. Mac came in behind it: 'My first inclination was to hit a drop volley and go for the winner, but then I decided, no, no, just play it a little safe.....I decided just to float the volley deep, make him pass me. I went against my gut. And I missed the volley. I pushed it the tiniest bit, and it floated out. I don't remember the points after that. It goes in a blur.' (John McEnroe, 'Serious')

So, keep fighting hard from tough positions - there is always a way back into the match and just when you start thinking it's a lost cause, your opponent, just like McEnroe in that '84 final, may be battling with his/her demons just to get over the finishing line.

Being competitive - going as far as you can using all you've got!

In the mould of Brad Gilbert's Winning Ugly, I love to see a player come through a tough match when not performing at their best. It means they have been resourceful, smart and pragmatic, showing an ability to understand what tools or weapons are at their disposal on a given day, and putting those to best use.

Gilbert writes: 'When I go into a match I take my lunch bucket, my hard hat, and expect to work for my pay.' I love that - effort based language that suggests when it's not all flowing on the day I'm gonna roll up my sleeves and figure it out. For me, those are the real triumphs - the ones to treasure, the ones where you've really had to compete.

International update

Everyball Players compete in Europe and Asia on the ITF Junior Tour.

Tor Pisani writes about her first ever ITF match - Grade 4 in Andorra, Spain over the weekend:

Second match on centre court against a Spanish girl also without a ranking (ITF). After a close first set, with very short rallies and far too many unforced errors on my part, she took it 7-6. Realising that I needed to make more balls, make her play, and generally take it to her helped me to take the second set comfortably 6-1. So nearly two hours on court and we were heading in to the third. I got off to a very good start, went up a break straight away and started taking control. She was losing it mentally and not long after I was 5-1 up and she was serving to stay in it. An awesome service game on her part and I was serving for the match. I wasn't feeling at all nervous. Much. A tight, sloppy service game and it was 5-3. A quick glance at phil sitting in the stands and a little encouragement (not coaching!!) was enough- a solid service game and I took the match. Woop woop!!

Katy Dunne wins first round of Thailand Grade 2 but loses a tough second round against seeded player Katharina Lenhert from Germany in 3 sets - still in the doubles.

Alex Clark won her first round against a tough Czech opponent today at a Grade 4 in the Netherlands - going strong and has to play her doubles partner tomorrow in second round.