Getting closer to the right answer for that particular athlete at that particular time

Seth Godin writes today: 

Science is a process. It's not pretending it has the right answer, it merely has the best process to get closer to that right answer.

Made me think that this can be said about coaching.

Coaching is very much a process.

It's not pretending to have the right answer, but on on-going process/discussion/experiment to get closer to that right answer for that particular athlete at that particular time.

Fila Senior Indoor English Championships (6) - Final post

Finals day.

Up at 7.00 am for a half hour mobilise, stretch, roll and cup of tea!  Out of the house by 8.30 to hook up with Chris for a 9.15 hit and was ready to go.

Nick started well and held to love first game making clear his intent to get to net, serving and volleying and sneak attacks from the baseline. Points were going to be relatively short and in some ways I was quite relieved that it wasn't going to be another long physical battle with drawn out rallies, although this probably would have favoured me.  

I held comfortably second game and then managed to pinch an early break followed by another hold to lead 3-1.  Nick's forehand was misfiring slightly and a few unforced errors from him off this wing enabled me to win the first set with relative ease, 6-2.

An immediate break first game second set and I was now in the drivers seat, but I played a poor service game (not positive enough) and we were back on level terms.  With confidence now building in my opponent his game picked up and he began to find the spots on his serve and came up with some really very impressive volleying.  We each held serve but a 4-5, 15-30 I was in some trouble.  A couple of clutch points including an ace out wide and a diving cut off volley helped with get through this sticky patch, and from there the momentum seemed to shift back my way and with a break and and a hold the job was done, 6-2 7-5.  A good match played in great spirit against a very worthy opponent - well done Nick Boys on a great tourney if you read this!

It was great to see the Bright family and Calum and Kevin Fairey there to support - thanks so much guys and for the excellent charting Josh!  You guys helped loads and thanks Chris Evans as well for all the encouragement over last few days and sorry you couldn't quite make it over the line today - all development work for those Inter-Services this summer Chris!

The thing that struck me the most this week has been the expenditure of 'emotional labour' during a tournament, both on and off-court and how much of a journey into oneself this game really is.  The simple fact of not really being able to talk or engage with anyone but yourself through 2 hours of play leads to a whole range of emotions and thoughts, often in that order.  The emotion kicks in very quickly, and it's a question then of whether one's self-talk can take you to a better place when those emotions are less than helpful or just downright chimp-like negative! There have been times over the last few matches where I've just wanted to give up, stop fighting and go home but another voice kept tugging away saying, 'no, stick at it, hang in there and it could just turn.'

Been a great few days.  A super reminder for me as a coach what our Everyball players go through on a regular basis and hopefully my coaching will be sharper and more insightful as a result.  Thanks also for all the support via text/social media etc...makes a massive difference.

Match point, filmed by Chris attached below.

Until next time, Mike.

Fila Senior Indoor English Champs 2017 (5) - update on semi-finals

Ok so on to semis today.  Opponent Stephen Jones ranked 37 in the world 40s and 44 in the world 45s (he can play both as turns 45 this calendar year), so felt like it was always going to be a tall order and not quite sure how the legs would respond after long 3 setter in the quarters.

Arrived for 10.45 hit with Chris Evans who was also playing his semi in the Mens 35s (Well done Chris on another routine win and into the finals tomorrow and thanks for your fantastic support today, once again my match outlasting yours for time!) and felt surprisingly good.

Took this feeling onto court and although I could see Stephen's pedigree he was missing enough to enable me to get a couple of breaks up and close out the first set 6-2.

0-40 on his serve in the first game of the second and had I converted one of these break points I might well have been away but it was not to be and we each held serve over the next several games.  He was playing much better, finding the corners with his backhand and I had gone a little passive, not coming over the ball enough to take time away and was more or less hoping that he'd just go on and 'lose' the match for me! Oh how the mind works!  At 4-5 me serving, Stephen came up with a couple of great passing shots (he liked the target of me being at net) and ended up breaking me to win the second set.

So into the third and a good hold from him first game which was replicated by me.  By now I had got rid of the tension I was feeling in the second set and began to play with a little more authority and freedom.  Again, rightly or wrongly, I also felt I was just that little bit stronger than him physically and was feeling more and more comfortable in the long rallies, soaking him up with my slice and then changing the pace to be more aggressive to force the required errors from him.  A couple of key points where I chased just one more ball down and I could see him beginning to wonder what he had to do to put the ball away!  Truly living it out and fighting for every ball!!

This extra bit of physicality and belief helped me across the line to take out the number 1 seed 6-1 in the third.

Final tomorrow 10.00 am against unseeded Nick Boys from Beds who has played a cracking tournament so far and took out 2nd and 3rd seeds.  Should be fun!!

Plenty of hydration, re-fuelling, rolling and stretching ahead this afternoon/evening and hope the legs have it in 'em tomorrow!

Fila Senior Indoor English Champs (4) - today's quarter final update

So, poor preparation my end by assuming that I'd be playing 4th seed Philip Worsdel today.  WRONG.  He was soundly beaten by Andrew Cresswell yesterday, so my scouting and homework on Philip was rendered useless!!

So Andrew and I took to the court at 1.00pm today, half an hour earlier than expected but I was grateful as whatever the outcome I could meet the family in time at Wembley Arena for a meal and the fantastic Harlem Globetrotters!

Staffordshire's Andrew Cresswell loomed pretty large opposite the net at several inches over 6 ft, but just a genuinely lovely guy, sporting and totally calm throughout what turned out to be some battle.

Andrew played a big serving front footed game, no hanging about and it was to be a contrast in style with me hustling balls down mixed with some serve and volley and attacks at net off the backhand slice.  The first set was tight, I was tight and so was the score but I managed a break mid-set which led me to 5-3, 40-15 only to dump a sitter of a forehand volley into the net.  Feeling the pressure of not being match tight, it was a classic choke and led to a mini collapse with Andrew reeling off 4 straight games to win the first set 7-5.

After giving myself a stiff talking to I found my game and rattled off the second 6-1 and felt pretty confident of rolling on through the third in the same way, but Andrew had other plans and played 3 games of super tennis to break me twice and take a 3-0 lead.  It was do or die time for me and I dug deep from somewhere in the memory bank and slowly started to put some points together with a hold followed by a break back.  Still, I was in deep trouble as Andrew, though it seemed visibly tiring now, stepped up to serve out the match at 5-4 but I managed a couple of clutch passing shots to break back and even things up for 5-5.

I felt pretty strong down the stretch (Hutch, I thought of our 'hill' many times!) and managed to hold for a 6-5 lead and then hustled like my life depended on it to force a final break and won the match 5 in the third.  Length of match 2.5 hrs.

Superb match.  Went through every emotion and feeling, amazing that the sport still conjures this all up at the age of 49!

Number 1 seed Stephen Jones tomorrow at 11.30 am in the semis.

Evo, I'll be there for a hit at 10.45 (no sign in until after this time!)

Just back now from the basketball, had a good stretch and foam roll, a few ibuprofen to hopefully do a job overnight and back at it tomorrow.

Hope to be able to take it on through to Saturday, let's see what tomorrow and this crazy sport throw up.

Fila Senior English Indoor Champs 2017

So, a tighter match today against Robert Slack. 

Started well and broke early to go 3-1 but then I played a few loose points, lost a little confidence and tightened up as he came back to even things at 3-3.  A tentative hold by me and followed by another break took me to 5-3 only to be broken again, this time with some good returning and passing shots from my opponent.  I managed to force another break to take the set and began to relax a little to take the second set without loss of a game.

4th seed tomorrow - was scheduled for 9am but Philip Worsdell still on court playing doubles so may well be later.

Keep you posted and thanks for the support ;-)

Match preparation - conducting a pre-mortem

Came across this expression yesterday thanks to Northchurch Cricket Club 1st team captain Tom Vila in an excellent players meeting last night in preparation for the upcoming season.

We've called it inoculation in the past, but it's around the idea that prior to a season or a match you conduct an inventory of what could go wrong and develop strategies to combat them when they do.

When they do.

Because things will go wrong

No match or season ever goes, 'good, very good, great, shake hands.'  There are ups, downs, mishaps, mistakes and just plain bad luck.  That's the nature of competition, that's what we've signed up for!

As I prepare for my own match today I know that:

  • my opponent could play lights out tennis
  • he may hit a let-cord winner on a key point
  • I may break a string on a key point
  • he may make a mistake or two on line calls and he may well accuse me of the same!
  • the lighting may be poor and the balls not to my liking
  • my match may be delayed for some-time
  • I may pick up a niggle/injury 
  • I may struggle for timing/form or start badly
  • I may lose a set from a winning position
  • I may find myself getting really nervous/chocking and slow on my feet
The list goes on.

Of course, my strategies to cope with these possible scenarios are mainly mental and geared fundamentally to my self-talk.  Remember how important your self-talk is, primarily because you are listening!

Key phrases I'll be using:

  • "It's ok I can handle it'
  • Hang in there and wait for your moment
  • Who's doing what to who?  How and why are points being won and lost?
  • Slow down, relax, breathe
  • It's ok - I knew that could happen.  This is competition.
  • I can turn this around, keep working.
  • Ok, accept this and move on
  • Use what you've today - stay competitive
  • C'mon; expect good things to happen
Conducting a pre-mortem sounds a little negative I know.  The argument is that we should be staying positive and looking for good things to happen.  I agree, but conducting a pre-mortem should be an integral part of great preparation and being 'real', understanding the nature of competition and the challenges it will present.

The flip side of the coin of course is being intentional about what you would like to happen, visualising success, having a clear plan and processes to follow.  

Fila Senior English Indoor Champs (3)

Well there was supposed to be some text in front of that video!

Job done today, good to get on and feel the speed of the court.  Opponent played some good points but just lacked the some rally tolerance which enabled me to control things and ultimately deny him a chance to post a game on the score-board.

Game felt pretty good.  Came in whenever possible but also felt pretty good moving at the back.  Struggled to find the slider out wide and down the T although the video courtesy of Matt Rogan watching on caught a good one on match point!  Thanks for the support Matt and best for tomorrow!

No doubt sterner tests to follow but good to have first round out of the way and feel my way into the event.

Also had a smiley Sarah Tricks as referee just to make me feel right at home ;-)

More tomorrow.