Greetings this morning from Budapest - Junior Fed and Davis Cup Finals 2018

For the next few days I'll be blogging from Budapest, Hungary, where alongside colleague Luke Milligan, I'm leading an LTA Awareness of Standards trip (part of the LTA portfolio of LTA Performance Coach Education programmes) for 10 Performance Coaches to the 2018 Junior Davis and Fed Cup Finals.

The ITF's International Team Competition for players aged 16 and Under was launched in 1985 as the World Youth Cup. This event was re-branded in 2002 as the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and the Junior Fed Cup, and then again in 2005 as the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. 

This age bracket was chosen as a critical period in a player’s development and provided an opportunity for young players to enjoy a taste of the special demands of team membership in a competitive environment. 

A number of past participants have gone on to make their mark on the WTA Tour / ATP Tour:

Jim Courier (USA 1986) Jennifer Capriati (USA 1989)

Michael Chang (USA 1986) Lindsay Davenport (USA 1991)

Goran Ivanisevic (Yugoslavia 1986) Amelie Mauresmo (France 1995)

Marat Safin (Russia 1995) Daniela Hantuchova (1998)

Roger Federer (Switzerland 1996) Agnieszka Radwanska (2005)

Andy Roddick (USA 1998) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2006)

Rafael Nadal (2002) Sloane Stephens (2008)

Bernard Tomic (2007) Eugenie Bouchard (2009)

The competition is open to all member nations of the ITF and sixteen teams of both boys and girls, who have emerged from regional qualifying events in all parts of the world, contest the finals in one venue during one week.

The exciting news from yesterday is that GB Boys Team have qualified for the quarter-finals, so looking forward to getting behind them today and getting a feel for how some of the top 16 year olds in the world are playing.

More to follow later.

Team bonding over our (tennis) balls....

A great team bonding session for our Everyball coaches today sorting through all our balls.

Barnsey was particularly ruthless and many (balls) hoping for one last tour of duty didn't make the cut and were confined to the 'dog ball bin'.  Ed enjoyed the spray paint - our 'black dot balls' being the lowest grade, Seb and Sam not yet trusted with the can.  Christian quietly indulged in some 'new can' fumes, and Neale and Elliott made stellar contributions in the domes - we think....

Tim showed up like a blister (after all the hard work had been done) but made a little comeback towards the end once he understood the complexity of the process that Mike was attempting to coordinate.  James, not to be seen through the whole process (wink, wink), was however clearly delighted on the job Hutch and Roy did in the shed (see below).  Camilla had some 'admin' to do, Danny needed his car fixing (good timing Dan), Dom was keeping warm in the gym (it was 11am and still a little chill in the air), and Jemima, still on maternity leave, was no doubt putting Noah through his own paces at home!

Anyway, customers, you'll be delighted with the quality of balls to play with this week and please do compliment the coaching team on their superb work!

A few interesting thoughts on early years development - before hard work comes play!

'Before hard work comes play.  Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and re-triggering interest.  Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice.  But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better.  They're not thinking years and years into the future.  They don't know what their top-level, life-orientating goal will be.  More than anything, they're having fun.

Encouragement during the early years is crucial because beginners are still figuring out whether they want to commit or cut bait.  Accordingly (psychologist Benjamin Bloom) and his research team found that the best mentors at this stage were especially warm and supportive: "Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding.  Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game."

A degree of autonomy during the early years is important.  Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation.  Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion.  

Sport psychologist Jean Cote finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences.  In his research, professional athletes who, as children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run.  The early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others.  Sampling also provides an opportunity to 'cross-train' muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training.  While athletes who skip this stage often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialised peers, Cote finds that they're more likely to become injured physically and to burn out.

(All passages above taken from 'Grit'- Angela Duckworth)

Quote of the day

'Never make perfect the enemy of good' -  Environment Secretary Michael Gove was recently heard using this expression.

A lot of things we do are 'good'.  Striving to be perfect in the things we do should not be at the cost of already being 'good' in those areas.

A little akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, let's strive for CANI (constant and never-ending improvement) but searching for or comparing everything to a utopia can can carry a cost.

P.S - This is a non-political post.   A friend advised me of the quote (thank you for this!) and it was one I appreciated beyond the realms of Brexit!