A few quotes out of the Pete Sampras autobiography A Champion's Mind
'To us, it was about playing the 'right' way, trying to develop a game that would hold up throughout my career......some of those juniors didn't think long term, they lived and died by their daily results, ignoring the fact that what worked in the juniors wouldn't necessarily be useful on the pro tour.'
'By putting pressure on myself to develop a great game, I had less pressure to win. These days, I tell kids that the way I grew up, it wasn't about winning. It was about playing well, about playing the 'right' way. That approach helped me enjoy the game and develop mine to its maximum potential.'
'....I learned to lose. A champion is supposed to hate to lose, and it wasn't like I was ever crazy about the idea. But I learned to deal without having my spirit or confidence broken, which would help me immensely over time, not just in the big picture but even in specific matches when I found myself in a jam. Fear of losing is a terrible thing.'
How do these relate to the current competitive climate in junior tennis and the practice of working the system by getting your wins (to go up a rating) and then opting out of competition until the next rating run.
Whilst understanding the motivation behind this (needing the rating to get 'into' quality competition) it seems to fly in the face of developing a winning culture in British Tennis and in fact re-enforces a 'play not to lose, fear of failure' mentality. You've got to learn to lose and the value in competing when there is more on the line (ie: your rating) is massive. Performers are those who meeting their own expectations under pressure. Stepping out at this point robs you of the opportunity to learn and develop further and sends out the wrong signals about what competition is all about. Interestingly enough, by opting out of competition when you've got your 'wins' also robs you of gaining further 'ranking' points which internationally is a much more relevant currency (and now gaining greater importance in the UK with things such as the LTA Player Matrix).
The rules of results might help in this:
1. You can't control the results you get - the real world is full of outside influences, multiple variables, and random events. Try as we may, we can't control anything 'external' to us, although we may be able to 'influence' such things.
2. The results you are getting are the results you should be getting - when a player says, 'I should have won', he/she actually means, 'I could have won if I'd done something differently'.
3. If you want to change the results you are getting, you have to do something differently
Particularly relevant to this is rule number 2 - the results you are getting are the results you should be getting. In other words, if you're good enough, your rating and ranking will improve and it's vital to put yourself and your game on the line in this regard.
Ultimately, we would like to develop competitors who are trying to develop 'great games', without fear of losing and who view competition as an opportunity to test their skills on a consistent basis. Yes, improving rating and ranking has to be a goal, but the manner of how that goal is achieved has great implications on a player's future mindset, both on and off the court.