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2 Powerful Communications That You May Not Have Realised Develop Mental Toughness...

If I could choose one attribute that I believe most supports player development of mental toughness I would choose emotional intelligence. But what is it and how can we nurture it in young players?

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to respond flexibly and intentionally to difficult emotional experiences like frustration and nerves.

This ability allows us to choose actions that serve our best interests even when we are experiencing difficult internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, body sensations, urges.)

So, for instance, when faced with a match situation that evokes anxiety, emotional intelligence would allow players to recognize anxiety, be able to accept the normality of that reaction, and continue on to face the existing challenge.

And when engaged in the challenge, frustration will naturally arise after an error.

An emotionally intelligent response would see players recognize the feeling then refocus attention on a process that...

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How Does Physical Training Increase Player Mental Toughness?

 

 

 

Less Physical Discomfort…First, fit players tend to experience less physical discomfort than unfit players in the same match circumstance. Therefore, fit players are better placed to focus their energy and attention on helpful processes that increase the chance of success, whereas unfit players are more likely to start taking actions based on their experience of physical pain. 

But there are also other reasons for the link between physical fitness and mental fitness that have to do with how our brains operate.

Stronger Bodies, Stronger Brains…

It turns out that physical pain and emotional pain are housed in the same brain area.

So what this means is that when players evoke physical discomfort through physical training they are literally making their brain stronger in coping with physical pain.

And because this part of the brain is also largely responsible for coping with emotional pain, physical training makes players fitter at coping with...

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How Joao Monteiro Became the Biggest Improver in College Tennis…

 

 

In 2015, I was privileged to be invited by Head coach Jim Thompson to work with the Virginia Tech men’s tennis college team…As part of this, I worked with the players directly and Assistant Coach Stephen Huss also participated in a PhD project throughout the season designed to help develop his skill in coaching mental toughness…During the season the returning players were able to achieve an average 25% improved singles win rate and an all-time best school ranking…

And one of those players was Joao Monteiro…

Joao completed his college journey in May as the most improved player in College tennis…

In this post I want to give you a summary of Joao's story which Coach Huss first told a couple of months ago....But also give you a glimpse of how Joao's development was in part a result of him embracing my 4A Cycle process and the VT coaching team's improved skill in helping him develop mental toughness…

Joao’s Freshman...

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SPECIAL REPORT: Control Traps Explained...

 

 

About 10 years ago I was frustrated and helpless regarding what I thought were my own failings in trying to help players achieve ‘ideal performance states’…But after some great mentoring from a psychology supervisor of mine, I underwent a process over several years of discovering that the ‘ideal performance/zone state aim was deeply flawed…As well as discovering the better way to develop mental toughness for tennis.

And I’m going to share with you examples of how to coach this better way in just a minute…

But first I have to explain how the field of sport psychology has failed us with some misinformation about how to help players become mentally tough.

 How Sport Psychology Has Failed Us…

For a long time the field of sport psychology has mistakenly held on to the view that the path to playing mentally tough tennis involves the ongoing search for the zone.

This means that we’ve usually been taught that...

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How I Discovered A Better Way To Develop Player Mental Toughness…

 

 

In just a minute I’ll tell you about the experiment that led me to discovering the better way to coach mentally tough tennis, but first I’ll give you some important background…

 Early Career Learning…

In 2003/2004, a couple of early coaching failures taught me quickly that I simply didn’t have the coaching skills to handle the competitive challenges that many players face.

And these early coaching experiences fuelled a desire in me to become better skilled in helping players reach their competitive potential.

To do this, I spent a couple of years working for my former sport psychologist Michael Fox (this is Allen Fox’s brother who has been a very successful sport psychologist in Australia). Time spent with Foxy further inspired me to become a sport psychologist myself and although I enjoyed working across different sports, I naturally found myself spending most of my time as a psychologist working in tennis.

During those...

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What Makes USC’s Peter Smith Such a Great Coach?

 

 

A couple of things compelled me to write this article…First, when coaches find out that I played for Peter Smith when he was at Pepperdine, they often ask me about his coaching qualities. Also, last week I had dinner with Jack Jaede…

Jack is a player who I worked extensively with over several years as a junior and when he finished high school in 2014 he had a tough decision to make…

Tennis Australia coaches believed that Jack should forgo college and turn professional and therefore offered him an incredible scholarship opportunity to train at the Brisbane Academy among top 100 ATP players.

But I believed that there were a couple of colleges that could provide an even better environment to help Jack develop both his personal and tennis qualities, and so I strongly recommended he consider these pathways.

One of these recommendations was Peter Smith and USC.

In the end Jack chose to go to USC, and after talking with him about how happy he is...

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What Parents Can Learn From Federer's Mental Attributes...

 

 

With Federer serving at 2 sets down, 3-3, 0-40 against Cilic I’d resigned myself to having seen the last of his Grand Slam runs. ‘Father time was finally having its way’ my mind was saying. But of course I should have known better…

After all, perhaps because of his physical genius, Federer’s mental prowess has always seemed undervalued.

That he was able to perform perhaps his greatest, most important escape act, this late in his career, once again serves as a strong reminder of how great a competitor he has been, and still is.

And it got me reflecting on his greatest career mental traits, and what parents can learn from this…

For me, yesterday’s quarter-final match was a snapshot of what I believe are his top 3:

1.) Resilience

In summing up the match, John McEnroe said it well, “Everything was going against him and he figured out a way to win.., It’s one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen”.

And if 1...

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Developing Emotional Fitness vs Emotional Control...

 

 

 

One of the major ideas I focus on is the importance of helping players develop 'emotional fitness' rather than 'emotional control'...

Understanding the difference between these concepts and increasing skill in helping players develop 'emotional fitness' is usually the easiest and most powerful way that we can better help players develop long-term mental toughness...

So here's a clip of me discussing these ideas during my Tennis Australia Coaches Conference presentation...

Wherever you're watching this, scroll down. Leave us a question or comment, and all the best for the week ahead :-)...

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Seeing Tennis Through Your Child's Eyes...

 

 

Isn’t it amazing how tennis seems a lot easier to play while watching from the sidelines. But it’s just not that easy in the heat of battle. So for your child, whose brain is still developing, it can be incredibly challenging to respond well to match challenges like nerves and frustration under stress. This is true even for world class performers. So if he/she does face difficulties in tennis that are hard for you to understand, it’s important that you begin by trying to see the situation through his/her eyes.

Responding With Empathy

I rarely work with a parent who has anything but the best of intentions for their child. But often in our attempts to help someone we can overlook their experience because we judge the situation from our own point of view.

This can lead to miscommunications...

But by being empathetic to your child’s difficult tennis experiences you successfully join with him/her in seeing the situation through his/her eyes....

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What Should We Say to Players Pre-Match? (Includes audio example…)

 

 

I often get asked by coaches for advice regarding talking to players pre-match…The pre-match chat has obvious importance as it’s our chance to positively influence players’ chance of committing to actions that both develop their game and increase their chance of success.

While I’ve never had a formal structure to my pre-match chats with players, I decided to review some audio files and discovered that there are 5 elements that I generally include when doing so.

So I’ll briefly summarise these 5 elements and their importance for you in this article...

Then I’ll share with you an audio file of me talking with recent Virginia Tech graduate Andreas Bjerrehus before his 2015 match with Virginia’s Ryan Shane…

## I swear in this recording so please don’t listen if you’d find that offensive…

## A couple of terms that I used during this example will likely be foreign to you as they come from a story that I...

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