I hope you had the chance to enjoy the festive season!
I spent a great couple of weeks with family before a busy start to the year working at the Aussie Open.
It was also great to see my colleague at MTT Pat Flynn experiencing being a member of the winning Canadian ATP Cup Team in Sydney.
It's sure great to be back in the thick of things in 2022 :-)
With that in mind, let's start this year's communications with what I believe is one of the most important understandings we can achieve when trying to respond well to difficult situations.
And it comes from a simple Aussie Open post match comment from Rafa Nadal. He said:
"Everybody has doubts, everybody feels frustrations....the most important thing is how you react"
So why are these comments so vital?
Well, usually when we think about the word 'acceptance' we are considering the skill of overt/external acceptance.
An example of this is when a player makes a mistake and 'accepts' the mistake and move on to the next point.
Or another example would be when an opponent is taking a long time between points (which frustrated Shapovalov yesterday about Nadal) - 'accepting' these conditions would have been the ideal response for Shapo.
Helping players become more accepting of challenging circumstances is something that coaches and parents typically focus a lot on, which makes sense.
But there is a vital 2nd form of acceptance that we are typically very poor in understanding and communicating.
And in my experience this is the most important form of acceptance, because it aligns more with our nature as humans.
It can be called internal/experiential acceptance and applies to a greater acceptance of difficult thoughts, emotions, urges and memories that come when we don't achieve acceptance of the situation itself.
When competing in tennis, because of our competitive nature, it is normal that at least some of the time we will not do a good job of 'accepting' the external challenge that we face.
Making mistakes for example...Or losing... Or uncontrollable challenges in general.
And so, as Rafa stated, we often experience frustration and doubts among many other things.
And so a vital skill to develop as players, and communicate as coaches and parents, is that of normalising and accepting the internal difficulties that come when we don't achieve external/overt acceptance in a challenging situation.
Because when we expect pure external acceptance, what typically happens is that when players don't achieve it, not only do they get the normal internal difficulties as a result, they also experience an added layer of self-judgement for not achieving what coaches and parents expect - e.g., "Why can't I accept these things, I suck!"
But as Rafa says - as part of being human, everybody feels all sorts of difficult thoughts, feelings, urges, and memories when competing in tennis - and learning to be more accepting of them is crucial to competitive effectiveness.
So my first hope for you in 2022 if you are a coach or parent, is that you can more successfully encourage the normalising and acceptance of difficult internal states - I Promise this is one of the most helpful things you can do for your players/child.
And if you're a player, please recognise that any difficult mental experience that you have in a match is normal based on you own personal journey. Your job is to accept this and work on reacting to that internal experience better over time.
Here's to a great 2022 :-)
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