Les Petits As 2020

So, for my first blog of 2020 - had a little sabbatical in January!  I hope you are all well and have made a great start to the new year!  

In the early hours of Monday morning I returned back from a fantastic 4 days in Tarbes (Les Petits As, 14&U tournament) where alongside co-tutors Kris Soutar and Simon Wheatley, we delivered Module 4 of the current LTA Senior Performance Coach Level 4 qualification to 13 candidates from across Great Britain.

The vision of this module was to enable coaches to have a clear understanding of the demands of international tennis at 14&U and to motivate coaches to raise the level of British players and performance programmes creating an over-supply of top 14&U international junior players.  

During the trip coaches created enhanced profiles of top players across all performance factors linked to the LTA's 'What it Takes to Win' Player Development Philosophy.  They identified personal blind spots and gaps in their knowledge, observation and analysis skills, through watching a multitude of matches and participating in facilitated discussions.  Charting matches and interpreting data for clear coaching recommendations alongside a hugely insightful question and answer session with USTA coach Jon Glover added to the curriculum of the module.

It was my third year in a row running this trip and each year I come away inspired.  For me personally I gained a number of take-aways - here are just a few:

  • Talking tennis - I was reminded how valuable it is simply to 'talk tennis', to put yourself in a different environment with different people and wrestle with ideas and concepts with a healthy level of disagreement!
  • Non-judgemental observation - we can be so quick to judge a player.  It's so important to spend good time (several matches in fact) in 'non-judgemental observation' before drawing conclusions about strengths/weaknesses/areas of work etc.
  • Best way to improve your players is to improve yourself!  Vital that as coaches we are constantly bringing 'fuel' to the relationship
  • Creative adaption rather than slavish adoption - at the same time, we don't have to slavishly adopt new/different ideas but would be foolish not to creatively adapt according to our own programme and player needs
  • The best players do the basics brilliantly as opposed to having brilliant flashes! The are constantly in a state of 'athletic readiness' to move and compete.  They relentlessly 'beat the bounce' by getting behind the ball on balance and then 'beat the hit' by efficient recovery to the appropriate position before opponent has hit the ball.  They fight like hell, never slow down until the ball has bounced twice and live out the belief that 'if I touch it I make it!'  
  • Resilience can mean to keep putting your game out there, no matter what.  If things are going badly raise your game by 5%.  If your opponent drops theirs by 5% that's a 10% shift and often enough to turn the tide.  Your 'B' game is your 'B' game because it's not as good as your 'A' game!  This doesn't mean sticking stubbornly to one thing - bringing in the use of the drop shot for example changed the course of the girls final from a 2 set drubbing to a nail-biting 3 setter.
  • In the big moments, the best players will more often than not go for it.  They are more positive, more aggressive, more committed to their shots and game-plan than their opponents

There's a whole heap more besides, but for any coach out there looking to develop young players, I would highly recommend getting yourself to Les Petits As 2021!  I'm sure I'll see you there as there's nothing quite like year on year seeing some of the very best in the world come through.  Linda Fruhvirtova who won it last year at 13 years old is now 14 in the world in the ITF junior rankings.  Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva who lost in the second round last year just won the Australian Open junior title and is now ranked 2 in the world.  Tennis moves so fast - particularly on the girls side.

Enjoy the rest of your week! 

Everyball Tennis Coach Ed Taylor gains his LTA Level 4 Senior Performance Coach qualification

Well done Ed on recently receiving confirmation that you have gained your LTA Level 4 Senior Performance Coach qualification.  This after an intense year involving 9 x 3-day modules covering all aspects of player development across the 4 performance factors (Mental, Physical, Tactical, Technical) as well as successfully completing over 20 projects demonstrating his coaching ability across a range of hard and soft skill competencies.

Ed continues to be a huge asset to the Everyball Tennis coaching team at HaltonUK (Halton Tennis Centre) and no doubt both he and our players will reap the benefit of the investment he has made into his coaching this year.

Super job Ed!


Hard-boiled eggs and the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude

I've got this thing with hard-boiled eggs at the moment.  I often boil one or two up in the morning to take to work in my packed-lunch.

And come lunch-time I go through the lottery of de-shelling them.  I say lottery because sometimes the shell just peels off with that kind of inner lining of soft skin falling beautifully off the egg leaving it super smooth ready to eat.  Other times I'll take off half the actual egg with a hundred bits of shell leaving the egg, well not egged shaped.

I've pondered this and wondered what the secret is to a consistent egg de-shelling performance - maybe you know and have got this down to an art but I've even followed google advice (there's a lot of information out there on how to de-shell a hard-boiled egg!), but still my daily lottery continues.

Anyway, I've chosen not to invest too much more time worrying about my egg-shelling challenges.  For the moment it appears to be an issue outside my control until some good soul provides me with the golden bullet solution.  It did make me think about what other areas in my life are outside my immediate control and influence and how much time and energy I give to worrying about them and that my choice today is to focus on areas I can directly influence, if not even control. 

And fundamentally that seems to boil down (get the pun?) to choosing my attitude and energy levels.  Yes, this serves up a reminder that we can choose our attitude and energy levels.   In chapter 9 of my book 'Everyball' I reference the story of Victor Frankl.  His career as a psychotherapist and neurologist was interrupted by the Second World War and the Holocaust.  He spent three years in four Nazi camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering lll, and Turkheim.  He lost his wife Tilly, and his father, mother and brother in the camps.  Surviving, he wrote Man's Search for Meaning and I quote a paragraph to you:

'We who live in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the hut comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offered significant proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one's own way.  And there were always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you will become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become moulded into the form of the typical inmate.'

5 ways to well-being....try these today to take control of your well-being!

1.  Connect with others - social interaction with your family, friends, colleagues

2.  Be active - walk, sport, gym, whatever - get going!

3.  Take notice - of the moment, your surroundings, nature

4.  Keep learning - read, write, research, memorise something, listen to a pod-cast, take a course

5.  Give - of yourself and your time

Taken from Jayne Wright's (Flourishing Futures) 'Curious Cow' talk recently held at HaltonUK

'Earned and deserved'

Learning from past greats to help shape us in the present.  Coach John Wooden affectionately knows as the 'the wizard' was the greatest college basketball coach in U.S history with his UCLA teams winning an unprecedented and never to be achieved again number of NCAA Division 1 Championship titles.

There was nothing magical about the 'wizard' however.  It was his commitment to meticulous research, hard work, strong old fashion values and discipline that won him so much success for his teams, many of which had no 'stars' to speak of.

Take for example his approach he called 'earned and deserved'.  

'Coach Wooden is also a stickler for fairness.  But for him, that did not mean treating all of his players and students exactly alike.  In the 1930's, he came up with an approach he calls 'earned and deserved'.  "I believe, in order to be fair to all students, a teacher must give each individual student the treatment he earns and deserves.  The most unfair thing to do is to treat all of them the same." (From 'You haven't taught until they have learned' by Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore)

Over the last 30 years as a coach in my sport of tennis and as a parent of football, basketball and cricket playing boys, I've witnessed a growing cultural trend in sport (particularly grass roots and schools sport) that everyone has to be treated the same.  However, fairness does not equal 'same'.  Fairness does not always equal opportunity, playing time, selection, reward and recognition, or the same form of discipline or treatment - this needs to be individualised according to what is 'earned and deserved'.  

Like Dash said in the incredibles, "If everyone is special, no-one is special!"

Let's let children discover for themselves the arenas in which they can be special, where they can feel good at something that is of their choice whilst understanding that there is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work, time and commitment to get to that point and that there is always going to be someone at some point who does it better.  That's kinda how life works.

Do we leave our students with an evaluation or a solution?

'Good job' or 'no, that's not the way' are evaluations.  Helpful to a degree, but not overly if I was the student.

A solution on the other hand, gives me somewhere to go.  Correcting in this sense, is a positive approach especially when the correction comes in the form of giving a recipe for future action.

'Don't swing so much' provides a solution of course whilst 'keep your hand and racket closer to the impact point' is arguably even better.

Focus on 'do's' rather than 'don'ts' for powerful coaching interventions.