Conquering the court(house) - words of wisdom from the judge

Great high school buddy Judge Roger Rogoff (we played set after set after set against each other for years!) has gone on to a super successful career, first as a trial lawyer and now as a Judge in Seattle, Washington.  Still swings the racket I'm pleased to say!

See here some great words of wisdom as he lectures on 'Conquering the Courthouse' - hugely applicable in all walks of life, especially for those of us wanting to conquer the court!

The enemy within.....(extract from 'The Grind')

Came across Nike's 'Welcome to the Grind' earlier this week. A great description of the inner battles we all face.  Hope you can be motivated by this today:

You are in a fight against an opponent you cant see but oh you can feel them on your heels can’t you, feel them breathing down your neck. You know who that is? That’s you. Your fears, doubts and insecurities lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky. But don’t loose heart. While they aren’t easily defeated they are far from invincible. Remember this is the grind. The battle royal between you and your mind, your body and the devil on your shoulder who is telling you this is just a game, this is just a waste of time, your opponents are stronger than you.

Drown out the voice of uncertainty with the sound of your own heart beat. Burn away your self doubt with the fire underneath you. Remember what we are fighting for and never forget momentum is a cruel mistress. She can turn on the dime with the smallest mistake. She is always searching for the weak place in your armor; the one little thing you forgot to prepare for.

So as long as the devil is hiding the details, the question remains is that all you got? Are you sure? And when answer is yes and you have done all you can to prepare yourself for battle then it’t time to go forth and boldly face your enemy. The enemy within.

A few days at Les Petits As, Tarbes, France - Tennis Europe Category 1 tournament

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a group of LTA Level 4  Senior Performance Coach Candidates out to 'Les Petits As' in Tarbes, France with colleague Simon Jones.

Les Petits As (English: small champions) is a premier junior tennis tournament, often considered the unofficial 14&U world junior championships, or at very least, the European equivalent of the junior Orange Bowl in Florida, U.S.A.  It is held in Tarbes in the South of France, very close to the Pyrenees and Spanish border.

With a main draw size of 64 and 48 in qualifying, roughly 7,000 players enter the pre-qualifying tournaments held across France, with that number being narrowed down to 350 for the final qualifying stage.  Surface is Green Set hard courts and the event is held in the Parc des Expositions in the town.

Due to the relatively restrictive age range, few players have won the title more than once, although Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky have both done so.  Also upcoming Spanish player Carlos Boluda recently became the first boy to do so.  Previous main draw players in the event went on to make up a 'who's who' of current Grand Slam champions and top-10 ATP and WTA players.

A few observations

  • Pretty much all recent Grand Slam champions and top 10 ATP/WTA players were main draw Tarbes players, not necessarily winning it, but getting through to quarters and semis.  Take the 4 finalists of this year's Australian Open: R. Federer 1/8 Finalist, Marin Cilic 1/4 finalist, Simona Halep 1/4 finalist, Caroline Wozniacki 1/4 finalist.  This gives us some pretty strong indicators that to become one of the very top players in the world, you need to be pretty darn good by 13/14 years old!
  • In the main, both boys and girls showed great commitment to coming forwards, finishing at net with volley/drive volley combinations
  • There was plenty of variation, change of pace, slice
  • The best players had weapons, very clear idea of how they wanted to 'win' points
  • A wonderful example of one highly competitive girl who got to the semis with a slice FH only, average serve and loopy backhand, but was a fantastic athlete, ran like mad and absolutely maximised what she had!  A great example of FAWTW (finding a way to win!).  On evidence, perhaps not one for the long-term but certainly re-enforced that tennis is a game and within it's rules we can choose to play how we like!
  • Performer (mental and physical) first, tennis player (technical and tactical) second.  For semis and finals, centre court was packed with what must have been over 2000 spectators making all sorts of noise.  The ability of 13 years olds to handle this was incredible to see.  Superb resilience, emotional control, maturity.  Top performers, delivering the goods under pressure.  Technique not perfect, especially the girls (serve) and breaking swing lines on ground-strokes, but absolute performers who managed themselves fantastically well.  
  • The French can put on a tournament! Great buzz, whole town came out to support, hundreds of school children baying for autographs of the players at end of matches!

Girls winner

Alexandra Eala (PHI) beat Linda Noskova (CZE)

Boys winner

Victor Lilov (BUL) beat Mikhail Gorokhov (RUS)

Doubles Mondays launched this week in our Aspire to Excel programme

In preparation for the summer season where doubles really kicks in, whether it's club, county, or in tournament play, we launched Doubles Mondays in the Aspire to Excel Academy programme this week.

Both Jemima King and myself were recently involved in a 2-day course with world doubles guru Louis Cayer (coach to Jamie Murray) on the British Doubles system that has generated a huge amount of success over the last few years and we are bringing this learning back to the programme every Monday night.

The importance of doubles:
  • Doubles makes up 25% of singles ranking on the ITF tour, but also influences singles rankings at junior domestic level
  • Being successful in doubles keeps you in tournament play longer
  • Doubles often decides the tie, whether Fed Cup/Davis Cup, County, Club or University tennis (both US and GB)
  • At pro level the money is increasing - a viable option to singles
  • Its a destination we all share - majority of competitive tennis in adult life is doubles
  • Social aspect - it's fun playing as a team and with friends
  • Skill development - confidence and competence in net-play especially increases as only 1/2 court to cover.  Development of lobs, passing shots, reactions
  • Nice variation from singles

As an overview the British Doubles system is about making players lose because they:

  1. Attempt low % shots due to our positioning
  2. Feel pressured through our movement
  3. Feel uncertain because of our variation

This week we are looking at 'When serving and staying back'.  Currently on the WTA tour 10% of players serve and volley in doubles and 66% of men serve and volley, so you if you serve and stay back, you are playing proper doubles!! Don't be made to feel inferior!

Key points:

  • Serving position that gives you access to both wide and T serves
  • Repositioning after serving based on servers territory to cover and use of the forehand on ball 3
  • Engaging the cross-court battle (breaking doubles sideline)
  • 3/10 times go down-line to create uncertainty

Keeping their dreams alive! (KTDA)

Fun times and smiles had by all at our KTDA (Keeping their dreams alive!) session with members and performance players fun doubles afternoon at HaltonUK on Saturday.

At least 50+ club members invest a monthly sum into a fund that we use to support our Everyball performance players, effectively keeping their dreams alive, whether that's competing on the lawns of SW19, going to the U.S to play college tennis, or simply performing as well as possible at their next event! Thanks members for your support and for Izzy Marshall, Beth Grey, Oliver McCay-Brown, Erika Dodridge and coach Ed Taylor for playing!

Pictured below are Izzy Marshall and Beth Grey having just trounced Mike James and Rob Pain!! 

For further involvement in KTDA and how to contribute, please contact Mike James on

Soon to come, our PRO AM with our club members and performance players - watch this space!

The glory has got be in 'getting there'

Yep, the old cliche is true: 'you find when you arrive that the journey was the prize.'

It's happened to me and I'm sure its happened to you.  There's a thrill when you achieve the goal, win the tournament, get into the top 10, win promotion.  But that thrill, that moment, is fleeting and then you realise that the real joy, the real glory was in the journey to get there.

So revel in the 'glory' of today.  It may be just another practice, another meeting, another email, phone call.  But when you get there, wherever there is for you, it's days like today that got you there.

Responsibility keeps you in the 'cause' side of life

Staying in the 'cause' side of life is an incredibly powerful mental tool.  Both on and off the sports field.

It promotes autonomy, the idea that you and you alone are the captain of your ship.  Slipping into 'effect' means leaving yourself open to be blown around by the vagaries of life and it's easy to slip into 'victim' behaviours and attitudes.

That why we hold 'responsibility' up as such a key life-skill at everyball, and one we can continue to develop through our unique sport, it's scoring system and structures.

Take these two statements;

'I lost the match because my opponent hooked me (cheated) on a line call at that key moment in the third set'

'I lost my concentration when I thought my opponent made a mistake on a call in that key moment in the third set.'

Practice staying in 'cause' today - there will be plenty of opportunities I can promise.

The push-you, pull-me battle.....

The push-you, pull-me battle.  

As parents, how much do we push/nudge/shove our children toward sporting involvement and achievement.  Can this be measured against how much the child pulls the parents towards what they want to be involved in and the goals they want to pursue?

I was once told by a very wise man, 'pay attention to what your kids are passionate about'.

Ok, but this begs a few questions among many others I'm sure:

Does passion come as some lightning bolt out of the blue, or is a parental push towards things part of the 'developing passion' equation?

Is there some sort of sequential order that moves a child from interest to passion?

Is the mark of true passion an intrinsic motivation that is demonstrated by what an athlete is prepared to do alone in pursuit of developing their skills - an excellence happens when no-one is watching phenomenon?