Their are so many guru’s / coach help / athlete help / mentors / motivating quote pages / etc / etc out there, claiming they know, this, saying they know that, it can get a little baffling and confusing who to listen to and who to believe. In all truth, there is no right or wrong, but every time we read a comment, a quote or see another coach with their athlete, you can take the good on board, improve what is needed, and disregard what you don’t think is important or relevant.

I enjoy coaching, whether it be a team sport or an individual sport. There are lots of positives and a some negatives, but the good far outweighs the bad.

There are a few quotes I keep coming back to on a daily basis. They have been spoken by coaches and athletes all over the world over and over again. Why, because they are relevant to what we do!

“The comfort zone is a great place – but nothing grows there”

“Performance is mandatory”

“Reward for effort”

“Failure is not the opposite to success – it is part of it”

“I can accept failure but I can accept not trying”

It is really interesting the way the human brain works. A younger child will hang on your every word and will do and learn whatever is taught. This season we have had players resume tennis after a year out, and take up again right where they left off. Fundamentals are there, a little bit of timing and repetition and Bang – we are back to being supremely confident on court.

Older athletes, (especially teenagers) can be a little more impressionable, a little more focused on the main goal, but sometimes give little thought to how to achieve it, or understanding the work that needs to go with it.  It is all very well writing a goal down……but how do you get to that goal – well with a lot of hard work and effort. “stupidity is doing the same thing incorrectly and expecting a different result each time”, when problem solving is a huge part of tennis. It’s a big part of life. I’ve learnt in the last fortnight alone, that athletes have to be challenged when times are tough and need to learn to problem solve for themselves. Usually it is just simple attitude (and another quote) “Either you can or you can’t – both are correct” attitude. I’ve written on this before.

I’ve had athletes hit 10 balls and flatly say “I can’t do it, I failed last time and I can’t do it now”. As a coach I have to know how to get this kid back up and firing. If that means challenging them to explain, to go off, to stop and reset, each athlete responds different, so knowing your student is the key to getting the athlete back on track.  Some might argue, that it’s just a bad attitude from the player, and it is, but as a coach, you have to be able to turn this around. It gets back to I can or I cant – and both are right, it’s which one you chose to be or feel.

Things aren’t always roses on court. Media has been pretty crazy about our 11yr old girl who works on court with us a few times a week. She recently won the 12 and under school sport junior singles championship (we are pretty sure it’s the first time it has ever been done by a Western Australian). We have a great support group for her, and she works extremely hard on and off court. At 11 she doesn’t always fire. We have ups and downs on court (and away from the court). But what I love the most is that when she hits the courts, she is coachable, listens and puts in. Sometimes shots just miss the line, sometimes she’s a little flat. But we know with a flat session once a month, a good solid group of lessons is just a round the corner.  We train and work towards peaking for the upcoming tournaments, which usually works a treat. Yep we have moments where we aren’t all at 100% firing – it’s part of the process. But we never quit, never stop, and we know that it is all part of the journey!

Interestingly with some of our younger 9-13s, we use reward for effort all the time in our lessons. No we aren’t talking giving a lolly away, its ensuring the athlete realizes, that good footwork, good preparation, good leg drive and balance and contact will 99 times out of 100 be a good shot, and as soon as any part of that breaks down, the quality of shot goes down and our chances of winning that point are lowered. (I think I’ve summed up our sport in one paragraph). This is where repetition and positive self talk and fun drills really develop an athlete.

Also tactically, once a match is under way, decision making with confidence wins in those tough situations. I took a group of boys away last week. Our no 1-5 are all very close in ability, no standouts (unfortunately in this case) to get us wins in the big team matches, but a very strong and solid team of 5. We talked after one matchup about why our players where constantly hitting the ball to their net players instead of cross court. I counted about 11 volley winners in 7 minutes by our opposition and knowingly that our team was struggling to win that match. The players (one or two main culprits) couldn’t really explain why, but it was obvious to me that the team A) hadn’t played enough together, B) hadn’t had the confidence to communicate with each other, C) didn’t trust the basic cross court angles or have patience in a rally. We talked about this and the kids came out firing in the next match. It seemed basic to coaches, adults etc, but to a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds, their problem solving skills hadn’t come through. But they will with age and experience!

So as we all hit the courts this weekend. Attitude is everything, and if you put in the work, you’ll reap the rewards. We are stoked at our 11 year olds efforts at the recent National Singles Champs.  I think you would struggle to find a kid that works harder on court and off court. But if there are players that work harder, I know they will be at the top of their game in no time. It is simply “REWARD for EFFORT”