When Novak Djokovic lost to Stan Wawrinka in the final of the French Open last year, I wrote this in my post-match review:
“His (Djokovic’s) efforts strongly indicate that his march towards becoming a master competitor is complete…Quite simply, his ability to maintain consistent competitive effort throughout the challenges of both his semi-final (in which he beat Murray in 5 sets) and final was hugely impressive…With the histrionics and hitches that were a feature of his early career play becoming almost nonexistent, unless players can repeat Wawrinka’s incredible level, it looks likely to become a Slam fest for Djokovic in the coming years.”
Funnily enough, it was the way Djokovic lostthat convinced me that he had overcome the final barrier (his occasional low stress tolerance) to becoming virtually unbeatable in the Slams…
And He Has Improved Since Then…
To understand how far Djokovic has raised the bar, anyone...
Typically, when players miss a ball during practice, they tend to feed the next ball in quite quickly (generally a couple of secs) without intentionally refocusing before the start of the rally.
When players do this, however, they miss out on a great opportunity to develop basic competitive skills.
Here are 2 activities I complete with players regularly to help them practice intentionally refocusing and committing to a helpful process for each new rally.
Activity 1: 5 Secs Between Rallies
When players miss a ball they must take approximately 5 secs before they are allowed to feed the next ball
Players are instructed to use this time to ensure that they are explicitly focused and committed to a helpful process before starting the next rally.
The Benefit: Although players actually hit less balls during a session, they will actually hit more with quality during the same amount of time.
Additionally, this activity helps players partially practice their discrete...
Serving and returning are obviously 2 of the most important areas of the game...
But serving/returning practice can be quite time consuming.
So it's important that players find ways to develop other skills while practicing serves/returns.
With this in mind, here are 3 serve/return activities that also promote player competitive skills/mental toughness simultaneously (you can also watch the video above to see examples of me completing the activities with 2 players above...
1.) Serving Set Play
In this activity players play service games/sets while hitting only serves (where if they make a first or second serve they win the point, and if they double fault they lose the point).
To add difficulty to the task:
i.) The player nominates the 3rd of the service box (tee, body, wide) that they will hit their serve into and if they miss the correct third of the service box it is considered a fault
ii.) The player starts each game behind (e.g., 0-15, 0-30, 0-40)
#So, for a player...
In 2011 when Angelique Kerber arrived at the US Open, she was nearly 24 years old, had been on the tour for 7 years, and had passed the first round main draw of her previous Grand Slams on just 5 of 19 attempts (and had never been past the 3rdround).
From the outside looking in, most experts I am sure would have already pigeonholed her career as a journey woman destined to be a perennial early round Grand Slam loser until career end.
That she went on to make the semis at that 2011 US Open was surprising…
That she slowly but surely built herself into a regular top 10er was superb….
That she won her 1stSlam yesterday against perhaps the greatest women’s player of all time after 12 years on tour is simply remarkable.
When Shuai Zhang arrived at the 2016 Australian Open her parents had come to watch her for the 1sttime at a Grand Slam tournament…
Well, Zhang was considering retirement and she wanted for her parents to see...
When coaches get this communication style consistently right, it's about as powerful a mental toughness promoter as there is...
That's the reason that we all should focus on it until it's fundamental to our helping style (especially when players get frustrated after missing a shot/losing a point during practice).
But because of our competitive brain it's hard not to fall for the trap of doing a poor job of this when working on improving an area of a player's game....I know I catch myself not doing it very well regularly.
And I'm guessing if I watched you coach I'd see you regularly trip up on this one as well...This video is about how to gradually boost your players mental toughness by using this simple communication style.
One emerging theme in player development involves the idea of creating independent players.
But this goal underestimates the importance of the coach-player relationship. And brain research has shown that it’s not possible to create an independent player anyway.
So how can we balance players’ best interests by simultaneously encouraging the coach-player relationship while also supporting their developing autonomy?
Let’s take a look.
The Independence Myth...
It’s important for coaches to incorporate non-directive coaching methods that encourage players’ ability to problem solve, make sound decisions, take responsibility for actions, and behave in a more self-determined manner.
But these goals must be balanced with the recognition of the importance of strong coach-player relationships.
It is, I believe, a trap to emphasize player independence to a point that we ignore what research has revealed about the social nature of our development.
There is NO more simple, powerful way for players to develop the 4 mental toughness foundations than through off-court attention activities.
Watch this video to see me complete a simple 'Sounds Attention' activity with USC All-American Jack Jaede...In the video I also explain to Jack how the activity relates to his development of mental toughness.
Coaching requires a degree of explicit/directive approaches, especially when a player lacks knowledge/skill in the area being coached. Due in part to ease of delivery, it's tempting as a coach to focus our communications solely on this explicit style of advice relating to task improvement (E.G., "This is how you should do it".)
But over time, players can tend to switch off to continual explicit instructions from coaches, and we need to have more communication strategies in our 'kit bag'.
If you're working with a player who you feel is doing a poor job of listening to, and implementing, explicit advice that you find yourself continually repeating, here are 6 simple strategies that you might find improves player implementation of your advice...
1.) Check For Understanding
When you're giving a player direct/explicit advice, frequently check the player's level of comprehension.
You might do this by asking for understanding or you might look for situations in which...
Before this match, I was curious to see many good judges predicting a Federer victory. And with Djokovic looking below par in the 3rd set, Federer had his chances to grab the match by the throat earning 2 break points at 3-4. But why did I feel, that even in these moments, Djokovic was a heavy favourite to go on and win the match? To answer this question, it’s important to first reflect on the dynamics of that commonly used word: CONFIDENCE.
What is Confidence?
Confidence is simply the triggering of implicit memories of past outcomes in similar circumstances.
Implicit memories? What?
Implicit memories are memories that are created without us knowing we're remembering something (as opposed to explicit memories where we are aware that we are 'remembering' something).
For example, one type of implicit memory is called ‘procedural’ memory that relates to skill development...
An example of procedural implicit memory is learning...
Mental toughness occurs when players intentionally bring their attention into the present at the start of each rally/point, then actually commit action to a helpful process during the point.
But how do we know if players are actually committing to their chosen attention?
And how can players practice this Attention + Action combination?
One simple way is to get players to verbalise the attention they are committing to as they do it...Watch this video to see an example of USC All-American Jack Jaede verbalising a strategy attention...
And if you would like access to our Committed Actions Worksheet which we use to encourage players to more often do processes that increase the chance of success You Can Get It Here...
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