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Ash Barty and the Independent Athlete Myth...

 

 

Watching Ash Barty's journey to becoming Wimbledon champion was an amazing example of the crucial nature of having the incredible support and guidance from a fantastic team and family.

The trend of the very best players in the world building bigger, more long term, support teams contradicts the theme in player development involving the goal of creating independent players.

Unfortunately, the goal of player independence and complete responsibility underestimates the importance of the support teams' relationship with developing players, and is sometimes designed to absolve those not suitably skilled to build effective relationships from responsibility in player development.

And brain research has shown that it’s not possible to create an independent player anyway....

Since most players are not in a position to have a support team, let's focus here on the coach-player relationship.

So how can we balance players’ best interests by simultaneously encouraging...

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One Crucial Lesson From Federer's Wimbledon Loss...

 

 

Almost universally, coaches and parents report to me their advice to players regarding competing effectively includes the aim to control uninvited match related thoughts and feelings like nerves, frustration, and helplessness. For example, statements like: "Believe in yourself", "Stay calm", "Don't worry about the outcome", "Accept errors", Don't get frustrated at the wind", etc, etc.

While this is well-intentioned and sensible on the surface, a crucial question to reflect on in trying to help players improve is this:

How well does it work?

For example, when Roger Federer went down a break in the third set against Hurkacz, do you think his dominant thoughts and feelings were more reflective of self-belief or helplessness.

He let us know in the press conference that he was feeling helpless: "Well, in the last few games I could feel that I wasn't going to come back".

And I strongly suspect that based on the situation he was in, and the point he is currently at in...

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Krejcikova and Djokovic's Negative French Open Thinking

 

 
One thing I discuss a lot with coaches, parents, and players is the importance of normalising the difficult mental experiences that are part of competing.
 
In almost all cases we fail to adequately empathise with just how challenging a sport tennis is mentality, and understand how hard it is to reduce or avoid the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that show up throughout matches.
 
It was absolutely fantastic therefore to see both French Open singles champions describe their lack of self-belief...their conflicted motivations...their 'negative thoughts'...their outcome thoughts, so well throughout the tournament.
 
It is a great lesson for all of us to realise that the reality of competing is frequent difficult thoughts and feelings.
 
And it is in fact not the player who has some special power to experience less uninvited 'negative thoughts and feelings' that is the mentally toughest.
 
Rather it is the player who is most accepting of these...
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Why Novak is the Greatest...

 

What a privilege its been to watch one of the all time great mental performances from Novak Djokovic to win Roland Garros for the 2nd time.

Coming from 2 sets down when really struggling with the pressure of playing young gun Musetti in the quarter finals...

Then coming up huge when down set point in the 3rd, and a break in the 4th against Rafa to become the first player to ever beat Rafa after losing the 1st set at the French Open.

And finally again coming from 2 sets down against Tsitsipas who was playing at an insane level to win the final.

Moving forward, there's one underestimated reason that, barring injury, Novak Djokovic will end up winning several more Grand Slams than either Roger or Rafa.

And that is that he has taken the dedication to off-court mental fitness training to a level never seen before in the sport.

Love him or loathe him, he will earn his place as the greatest male player ever in part because he has worked harder than any other player in developing mental...

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How Much Control Do Players Really Have Over How Much Pressure They Feel?

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Often when coaches and parents explain to me the challenges that a particular player faces regarding mental toughness they say something like: "He/she puts too much pressure on him/herself".

But how much control do players really have over how much pressure they feel?

In my opinion, usually a lot less in the reality of competition than ideally we would hope that they have.

This is because the pressure a player feels is largely based on the situation they are facing.

For example, players tend to feel more pressure as they commit more of their lives to becoming the best player they can be...

And players naturally feel a lot of pressure before playing an opponent who they expect to beat, but who they fear it is possible they could lose to...

And this pressure can be magnified if the player is younger than them, or if they are very close socially to their opponent...

And players feel more pressure when they are leading as compared to losing...

As you might recognise by...

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How Tennis Helped Save My Life...

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About 6 years ago my wife Cathy and I were out for our regular run.

After running at the same pace for a little while, being an avid and healthy runner at the time training for marathons, I would usually go off ahead and see if I could catch her on our return to our starting point. 

But this day was different….As we ran I realized I was struggling to keep up with her. 

We thought this was pretty funny at the time but over the next few days I felt increasingly weak, and on Friday the 13th of November, 2015, my life changed for the worse in a way that I could never have imagined.

I woke up to find that I couldn’t walk across the room…

Long story short and over the next 3 years I found myself in a brutal battle that is simply impossible to comprehend for those that haven’t experienced something similar.

Stanford researchers who have studied about 60 patients with similar symptoms to me have hypothesized that the illness is what they...

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A Great Learning Lesson From Jenny Brady...

 

 

 

I was interested to watch Jenny Brady's Australian Open semi-final victory press conference to see how she described winning such a tight match...

It was super refreshing to see her describe trying to finish the match so honestly. 

The intensity of the nerves...

Her wandering mind which wanted to focus on the outcome...

The doubts...

The difficult physical sensations...

Far to often we live in fantasy land when it comes to our expectations of being able to control difficult emotions and unhelpful thoughts during matches.

This is not reality!

It's much more effective to recognise and normalise the fact that our human mind means that in competition, difficult thoughts and feelings will show up frequently and trying to reduce or avoid them typically won't work, especially when we most want to.

And so it was for Brady when she was trying to make her first Grand Slam final.

The most important lesson- she had all these difficult internal experiences and won...this is...

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Djokovic vs Medvedev: Some Thoughts on Medvedev's Mental Fold

 

 

Novak Djokovic is still the undisputed king of the Australian Open and with each new Slam victory the likelihood that he will end his career as the all time male grand slam leader becomes more likely.

And for Daniil Medvedev what seemed like a possible changing of the guard yesterday now appears like more of the same old story- the young guns still have quite a ways to go.

In Medvedev's case, the capacity to cope with the greatest challenge took a significant hit as he mentally folded from about the middle of the match.

Here are my 3 main mental reflections from the match...

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Nadal vs Tsitsipas and Why We SHOULDN'T Aim for the Zone...

 

 

 

With has comeback for the ages Tsitsipas became only the 2nd player to come back from 2 sets down to win against Nadal at a Slam...

A truly incredible effort! 

First to hang on when in terrible trouble against a surging Nadal...And then himself achieving a mind boggling level throughout the 2nd half of the match...

Having listened to Tsitsipas's post-match press conference, I have 2 important reflections.

You can hear my thoughts here...

 

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The Most Powerful, Predictable Way to Improve Junior Player Results

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Given that registration for our Parenting Healthy Mental Toughness Project closes in less than 3 days today I want to be very straight forward with you.

I can tell you with GREAT certainty that if you want  your mentally weaker players to win more matches, the most powerful, predictable way to do that is to help parents of those kids do a better job of what I call the 3 C's: Choice, Competence, and Care.

Here's how I know this...

About 10 years ago as part of my PhD I worked with a group of tennis parents with the goal of improving their parenting communications to align with this style.

As part of this the parents' kids filled in a questionnaire called the Sport Climate Questionnaire (SCQ) which asks kids to consider the following 15 statements about their tennis participation:

1.) I feel that my mum and dad provide me with choices and options

2.) I feel understood by my mum and dad

3.) I am able to be open with my mum and dad while engaged in tennis

4.) My...

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