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Responsibility and Accountability

The following post is an excerpt from Emotional Aptitude In Sports NOW available through most online retailers!  Click Here to Order

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In athletic competition, accountability is two-fold.  It’s not only what we choose to do but what we choose not to do.

Coaching an athlete isn’t only about teaching the techniques of the sport. It also involves motivating athletes to drop their “conditions.”  These are their creative excuses for not training the way they should be training. It’s their escape mechanism. Competitors of all ages use the excuse of injury, time restraints or simple arrogance for not training properly. It’s their way of liberating themselves from responsibilities.

In our continuing observational study, I asked Evan and Jarrod about some of the creative excuses they’ve used for not training properly. Here’s what they came up with:

  • “I would go for my run today but it’s raining outside.”
  • “I would train but my friends are coming over tonight.”
  • “I can’t work out before school because there’s no time.”

Another common creative excuse is blaming others. Here’s what the twins have to say about the blame game:

  • “My teacher gave me too much homework this week and so I can’t train today.”
  • “It’s not my fault I can’t train, my trainer worked me too hard and now I’m injured.”
  • “I can’t play points again today after practice because I’m hanging out with my friends.”

 

Stop Defending Old Bad Habits

When athletes stop avoiding the work and begin to rise to the occasion an emotional break through takes place and confidence is born. Daily accountability separates the dreamers from the doers. I’ve found that some athletes have to be trained to stop defending their old comfortable bad habits. If they’re still defending them, they have no motivation to quit them. It takes honesty and courage to walk away from self-destructive, unproductive behavior. What is stopping most of us from incredible success is the unwillingness to drop the old, bad habits.

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ATP Stevie Johnson Interview

 

Dear Stevie,stevie and steve

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It was an honor to have known your father, Steve Johnson. Someone so special can never be forgotten. Wishing your heart and soul will find peace and comfort during this difficult time. Sincerely, Frank Giampaolo

 The below post is an interview with ATP Professional Stevie Johnson in 2015.

STEVIE JOHNSON ATP PROFESSIONAL

Stevie Johnson was a top US National Junior, 2 Time Singles CIF Champion and 4 Time Team CIF Champion at D-I University of Southern California (USC) and currently a top 30 ATP Pro tour player.

 

Frank: What qualities should a parent look for when hiring a coach or academy?

Stevie: The coach has to truly care about the student and sincerely look for what’s best for the student in both tennis and life. I feel it’s important to seek a positive learning atmosphere where both tennis skills and character skills are continually emphasized.

 

Frank: Looking back on your illustrious junior career, what do you attribute your success?

Stevie: Even though I was #1 in the 12’s and 14’s, that style of game wouldn’t take me to the top in college or in the pros. I had to refocus my development in the 16’s and 18’s. I was a bit lazy with my off-court training early on and relied on my talent and strong competitive nature, but to continue to grow and improve, I had to make fitness a priority. Honestly, I don’t even remember my 12 and under trophies.

 

Frank: It sounds like focusing on improvement versus tournament wins/rankings is a theme of yours. Why?

Stevie: In the younger divisions you can win with a limited moonball game because the rest of the field isn’t fully developed. This winning tactic is not successful in the older divisions. I really don’t see pushers in the pros. The professional athletes attack. I believe it’s important for the parents and players to be “ok” losing while developing the whole game. Just being satisfied with a limited game that wins to at the lower levels will limit your career.  I recommend seeking weekly improvement versus having to always win.

 

Frank: When should parents, players and coaches begin to develop the mental and emotional components of the game?

Stevie: I think it’s a maturity level, not a certain age. Different people allow their mood to affect their performance more than others. If they struggle with crazy emotional ups and downs, they should focus on improving their emotional stability. The key is to develop and continually improve every component so the player can stay engaged and competitive in every circumstance.

 

Frank: What are the primary differences between playing national level juniors and D-1, NCAA ball?

Stevie: If you choose the right college coach and program, there’s a heightened level of dedication, developmental structure, and focused off-court training. Coaches, teammates and even the international opponents push each other to train harder.

 

Frank: What are the primary differences between NCAA tennis and ATP pro ball?

Stevie: It’s not so much strokes but the addition of all the seemingly smaller intangibles. The mental and emotional components are better. They include longer-deeper focus and competitiveness. They don’t give away any free points and the athletes physical, mental and emotional endurance is stronger day in-day out.

 

Frank: I’ve known you and your folks forever but from your side, what makes your folks’ such great tennis parents?

Stevie: Balance! On court, my father was the coach. Off-court, he was just my dad. After matches, my dad didn’t banter for 30 minutes about the performance. My mom played tennis as well so she added great perspective.

 

Frank: Can you share a few words of wisdom for the parents, athletes and coaches reading this book?

Stevie: Have fun with the development of your game. Remember even though it feels like “life or death” at the moment, the wins-losses in the 10’s-14 don’t mean much. It’s a blessing to play so laugh and enjoy the process.

 

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Game Day Performance Anxiety Solutions

The following post is an excerpt from Emotional Aptitude In Sports NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

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Game Day Performance Anxiety Solutions

Pre-Event:

  • Arrive early, stretch and undergo a thorough physical warm up routine.
  • Recognize that pre-event anxiety is normal. Excess adrenaline can be burnt off by going for a run before competition.
  • Prepare mentally and emotionally by visualizing your peak performance plays and patterns.
  • Discuss performance goals and not outcome goals. Performance goals include running the correct plays and patterns the moment demands. Outcome goals include the ramifications of winning or losing. By pre-setting the correct performance-based state of mind, athletes have a much greater chance of performing in the zone.
  • Avoid poor performances by utilizing proper nutrition and hydration.

 

During the Event:

  • Focus on your performance goals rather than the outcome of the event.
  • Choose to stay in your optimal performance state of mind.
  • Fake it until it becomes natural. Replace negative thoughts with positive visualization.
  • Perform in the matter you’ve been trained and to choose to stay on your performance script for the duration of the event.

 

Post Event:

  • Relax and recover. An athlete needs to recuperate. Downtime wards off burnout and is essential for long-term progress.
  • Review the event when emotionally ready to accept constructive criticism. Juniors, remember that the game is an information gathering mission to aid you in long term growth.
  • Agree upon a time to review the performance and make a developmental action plan to improve strengths and weaknesses.

 

Positive Game Day Inner Dialog for Athletes

Staying on your script requires constant positive self-talk.  In the heat of competition, an empty mind is susceptible to becoming contaminated with unwanted, negative thoughts. Staying in your optimal, peak performance state of mind requires the management of your inner dialog/thoughts. Positive dialog examples include:

  • I’m Shooting For Excellence, Not Perfection
  • I’ve Got Strokes, Athleticism, Mental & Emotional Skills
  • I’m So Grateful That I Get to Participate
  • I’m Performance Oriented Not Outcome Oriented
  • I Love Solving Problems in Competition
  • I’ll Walk into the Club Like I Own the Place
  • I’ve Morphed into An Athletic Warrior
  • I Admire My Courage to Compete
  • My Optimism Is Contagious
  • This Is My Favorite Part of the Week

 

I suggest picking a few positive statements from the above list and rehearse your own inner dialog. Research shows that performing in the future, as the “Alpha Competitor,” stems from continuously, nurturing your inner belief. Emotional aptitude is a learned behavior.  An athlete’s optimism and growth mindset should be molded daily.

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Proper Preparation Rewards Emotional Aptitude

The following post is an excerpt from Emotional Aptitude In Sports NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

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SOLUTION # 7: Prepare Properly

If you want to make your own good luck, look towards your future athletic competitions as opportunities and bring to these opportunities exquisite preparation. When proper preparation and opportunity meet, the athlete will shine. The solution to developing one’s emotional muscle stems from copying one of the twins. I bet you already know which one it is. In case you are still unclear, let’s review a typical match day- starring our friend, Jarrod.

Spectacular Preparation Preceded Spectacular Performance

Jarrod, Evans younger brother by 9 minutes, is a very gifted athlete but a bit unevenly developed.  Emotional aptitude is his most unnatural component and so far he’s not interested in improving it. Jarrod would sabotage his tournament performances before they even began. Of course, Jarrod believed that his poor starts weren’t his fault. They were just plain bad luck.

The night before an away event in Indianapolis, I called Jarrod to discuss the incoming storm and the news reports of the morning flood-like conditions. “Jarrod, let’s plan on leaving earlier tomorrow.” He replied “Nah… I want to sleep in…We’re good”. Fast-forward to the next morning. The plan was to meet in the hotel lobby for breakfast at 8:00 am.  It is now 8:158:30 … and still no Jarrod. It turned out he decided to skip breakfast before his day packed full of 6 hours of intense National competition.

So, we began the hour drive to the site. Visibility through the windshield was about 20 yards due to the pelting storm. All we saw for an hour and forty-five minutes were break lights. This, along with him deciding not to put fuel in his gas tank caused unnecessary unspoken anxiety. An hour into the drive Jarrod said, “I’m so hungry”.

Thirty minutes away from the event I gently reminded him to begin his visualization routine. Leaving the “normal” teenage headspace behind and morphing into the character of a warrior. As I began to remind him again about the emotional benefits of pre-game visualization Jarrod talked over me saying, “I’m fine,” as he decided he didn’t need it and reached over from the passenger seat and turned up the rap station on the SUV’s stereo. Memorizing rap lyrics and tweeting friends were more important to him than the mental imagery of ensuring a peak performance in his upcoming match.

Arriving on site late meant that instead of casually enjoying a relaxed 45 minute warm up. Jarrod now had only 15 minutes to rush through his fundamentals. This brought about feelings of being under prepared which is a confidence killer. As the tournament director blew the whistle for the players to gather, I asked him if he remembered to prepare his equipment, drinks, ice, towels, etc.  Jarrod said, “Oh, can you get me a water… And find me a towel?”

Preparing properly for battle doesn’t guarantee victories, but choosing to neglect proper preparation sabotages one’s chance of performing at peak potential.

Jarrod’s athleticism didn’t cause another loss. The loss was caused by his lack of emotional aptitude, as seen in his distorted thinking and behavioral patterns in preparing for his event. Needless to say, Jarrod’s game was off from the beginning. He never recovered and went down in flames.

 

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Emotional Toughness is Real Talent

 

The following post is an excerpt from Emotional Aptitude In Sports NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

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Emotional Aptitude Is a Skill

At the start of a Southern California junior tennis tournament, the referee calls Kristen Michaels and Jenny Scott to court number four for their match. Kristen seemed to be a super fit, committed athlete with poise and solid fundamentals.  She was dressed from head to toe in the newest Nike gear with her hair braided to perfection. She walked onto the court, unpacked her Wimbledon tournament towel, Gatorade, and water bottle as she meticulously lined them up next to her chair. She then selected two rackets from her Nike tour bag as she “pings” them together to listen for the perfect string tension. Deciding on one, she immediately started shadow swinging and shuffling her feet as she waited for the umpire to perform the mandatory coin toss.

Jenny, on the other hand, did not appear to be as polished. In fact, she looked downright amateur in her California board shorts and surfer T-shirt. At the coin toss, Jenny was still wrestling through her tennis bag looking for a hair tie as the umpire yells “heads or tails?” Jenny grabs the only racket she brought and calmly saunters towards the net. She lets Kristin choose to serve or return. Jenny couldn’t care less.

The 5 minute pre-match warm up started and Kristen looked like a professional.  Her movement and strokes were flawless.  Jenny, on the other side of the net, looked unorthodox, as she scrambled to return the ball back Kristin’s way.

The referee called time and the match started. Most watching were sure Kristen was going to blow Jenny off the court. But to the spectator’s surprise, Kristin was struggling, down 0-2 within the first 5 minutes of play. The beautiful strokes we had witnessed in the warm up were gone. By game 3, Kristin reached her maximum frustration tolerance level. She couldn’t keep a backhand in the court as Jenny profiled her opponent and systematically hit every ball to Kristin’s ailing backhand side. Kristen was angry, stomping around, yelling at herself, screaming at her racket, her coach, and her mom.  Jenny, on the other hand, was a composed warrior relentlessly picking on Kristin’s weakness. Within 45 minutes, Jenny went on to win 6-2, 6-0. After the match, Jenny’s mom was overheard only uttered three words “Who wants Taco’s?”

As illustrated above, emotional aptitude isn’t typically identifiable until after competition begins. What separates the elite competitors from the emotionally fragile athletes is their ability to thrive under perceived stress. Emotional aptitude is the ability to overcome hardships and to de-stress situations rather than magnify stressful situations. Athletes struggling with poor emotional aptitude lack confidence, composure, suffer bouts of self-doubt and possess an overwhelming fear of being judged by others. These performance meltdowns often go unseen in practice but shine in all their glory on game day.

Elite competitors are confident that their superior emotional strength will override any hardships and physical limitations. The emotionally weak athletes are convinced that the unfair hardships and their perceived limitations will override their peak performance and catastrophe will once again occur.

An old school word used to describe emotional aptitude is Grit. In regards to high achievers, researchers have come to the conclusion that successful individuals possess traits deeper than the mastery of athletic ability.  Grit is persistent courage, resolve, and strength of character. Grit is the learned ability to have “nerves of steel,” fortitude and determination. Interestingly, some athletes are pre-wired to have these essential components and some are not. For those athletes who are not natural combatants, developing emotional aptitude is critical.

 

 

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Optimal State of Mind Blunders

The following post is an exceblack_ebook_design2rpt from the Second Edition of The Tennis Parent’s Bible NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

 

Ignoring Your Non-Verbal Communication

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, he shares an interesting insight regarding surgeons who make medical mistakes. The bottom line is that the surgeons with top credentials, but poor bedside manners, are more likely to get sued then are the surgeons with the same credentials, making the same mistake, but with terrific bedside manners.

 

A parent or coach with a condescending tone of voice, a disgusted facial expression or even negative body language, is often the trigger that sets your child into a defensive position. Studies show that up to 70 percent of communication is nonverbal.

 

We initially believe that we are helping our children by spotting every single problem and bringing it to light. This “tough love” isn’t in their best interest. Instead, parents, if you want dynamic results, along with a happier child, try adding positive power words to your tennis talks.  Examples include: Great attitude; You’re so brave; Terrific energy, You’re playing fearless; It’s so fun watching you perform; You have guts; You motivate me; You look strong out there; I’m so proud of you!

After all, isn’t that what you wanted to hear from your folks? Every child needs to hear these positive statements from their parents.

 

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Does Your Child Need Mental/Emotional Training?

What’s the true cause of your athletes match failure? Is your child non-athletic? Do they possess flawed strokes?  Or do their match failures stem from mental or emotional deficiencies? Take the below quiz to see if a lack of mental, emotional training is keeping your athlete from the results they deserve.  All the Best, Frankblack_ebook_design2

 

DOES YOUR CHILD NEED MENTAL/EMOTIONAL TRAINING?

Understand mental/emotional training is the practical application of finding solutions to common pitfalls. We often hear, “My child has trouble closing out a 5-2 lead”, “My child plays terrific in practice but horribly in matches”, “My son can’t beat a moonball, pusher”, “My daughter can’t handle cheaters!”, “My son has trouble focusing for the whole match!”

Essentially, the mental component consists of the X’s and   O’ of strategy. The emotional component refers to the athlete’s ability to navigate through performance anxieties that many athletes see as challenges. Often, these two component are intertwined.

Parents are often hesitant and a bit unclear about the role of mental or emotional training. This type of instruction involves more than simple fundamental stroke production. Developing the “hidden” skill set within your child’s game is crucial for peak performance. It is a myth that only children with abnormal behavioral problems need mental or emotional guidance.

 

Do we have to change primary coaches to begin working on these issues?

 

No, not at all! A mental training coach can assist your primary coach and become a part of the team. In fact, the most intelligent coaches will encourage their players to seek out such training. It’s a win-win situation for both the client and the professional.

 

Is a lack of Mental/Emotional training holding your child back from getting the results they deserve?

 

TAKE THE QUIZ

The following questions can be used to determine whether your child is in need of mental/emotional training. Good Luck!

  • My child plays incredible on the practice court but often falls apart in matches. Yes/No
  • My child avoids playing full practice matches most week. Yes/No
  • In matches, my child’s focus is only on winning versus actual performance goals. Yes/No
  • My child doesn’t apply proper change over and between point rituals in matches. Yes/No
  • My child is unorganized in planning their weekly training schedules. Yes/No
  • My child has not yet developed his/her secondary strokes. Yes/No
  • My child has super high expectations and expects to perform perfectly every match. Yes/No
  • We haven’t yet put together our entourage of hitters, teachers, and trainers. Yes/No
  • My child hasn’t developed plans or patterns to beat moonball/pushers. Yes/No
  • My child hasn’t developed plans or patterns to beat hard hitting baseliners. Yes/No
  • My child has problems managing their stress, anger, and mistakes. Yes/No
  • My child hasn’t yet developed their groups of proactive patterns. Yes/No
  • We do not understand or utilizes periodization training. Yes/No
  • My child has trouble dealing with external and internal distractions. Yes/No
  • My child doesn’t spot mega points and mini mega points. Yes/No
  • My child doesn’t know the difference between a positive mega point and a negative mega point. Yes/No
  • My child lacks confidence in his/her abilities. Yes/No
  • My child has trouble coping with cheaters. Yes/No
  • In matches, my child’s mind often wanders to the past or the future. Yes/No
  • My child’s training has primarily focused on stroke mechanics. Yes/No
  • My child wants to win so badly it affects his/her performance. Yes/No
  • My child freezes under stress and plays “Not to lose” instead of playing “to win.” Yes/No
  • My child words, “I want to be a pro”, don’t match his/her actions. Yes/No
  • My child doesn’t know how to spot the opponents tendencies in match play. Yes/No
  • My child hasn’t spent time identifying his/her mental game strengths and weaknesses. Yes/No

 

ANSWERS: If you or your child checked “Yes” to any of the above questions, you may want to consider mental and emotional training.

 

Peak performance under stress is not reserved for the gifted few, it’s the “software’ that needs to be developed along with the athletic hardware. Simply put, being mentally or emotionally tough under stress is a learned behavior.

 

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Jelena Ostapenko French Open Champion

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2017 French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko

 

Jelena Ostapenko demonstrated how mental, emotional aptitude is often more important than technically sound strokes.

Any high-performance tennis coach viewing the 2017 French Open Woman’s finals surely picked up on some interesting technical “flaws” in Jelena’s strokes. She chooses to use an eastern forehand grip on her two-handed backhand, she severely falls to her left on her serve, her forehand’s backswing is consistently 6 foot too long and her two-handed backhand volley is struck with a severe downward flight pattern.

So… how does someone with such glaring fundamental deficiencies win a grand slam?

The answer is…by not exclusively focusing on changing her strokes year in and year out.

With imperfect yet efficient fundamentals Jelena customized a beautiful game plan- accentuating her court speed, fitness level, patience and her fine motor skilled flat ball striking ability. Jelena’s obviously trained differently. Instead of grinding back & forth all day, my bet is that she focused on the art of winning.

She’s magnificent at changing the angle of the ball. I call this “playing keep away versus playing catch”. Even on the slow red clay, her strategic focus was to dominate with shorter points by utilizing pattern play. Jelena is brilliant at time management- essentially taking away the opponent’s recovery time. She does this by moving into “no man’s land” and taking short balls on the rise and fearlessly spotting when the opponent’s vulnerable and moving inside the court to knock off swing volleys.

Best of all was her emotional strength to attack relentlessly from the first point until the last.

Maybe we should learn from Jelena and apply positive coaching.  This is done by letting go of ONLY focusing on the athlete’s flaws and instead, focusing on the athlete’s unique strengths as well.

 

Frank Giampaolo
www.maximizingtennispotential.com

 

 

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Great versus Perfect Performance

The following post is an excerpt from the Second Edition of The Tennis Parent’s Bible NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

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Perfectionism

Perfectionists are often unwilling to learn and improve because their shortcomings may be exposed. Their overriding primary concern is to prove that they’re always right. They are referred to as “un-coachable.” Does this antagonistic defensive behavior hurt their chances of success? You bet, in tennis and in life.

 

“Parents and athletes must accept the fact that the road to the top will include failures, painful emotions, obstacles and setbacks, which are inevitable parts of the journey.”

 

Constructive criticism to a perfectionist isn’t seen as a positive step toward a better performance.  It threatens to expose their flaws, which is a catastrophic assault on their self-worth. Sadly, they don’t want the truth…They want to be correct.

 

“The perfectionist will find fault in paradise.”

 

If you have a perfectionist athlete, spouse or coach, ask them to be open to suggestions, be willing to discuss options and be interested in feedback and teamwork.  Maximizing potential at the quickest rate depends on a growth mindset.

 

“Success is more of a function of persistence than perfection.”

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One Set Wonders?

The following post is an excerpt from the Second Edition of The Tennis Parent’s Bible NOW available through most on-line retailers!  Click Here to Order

Frank Giampaolo

Encouraging “One Set Wonders”

First of all, I congratulate any juniors that actually play full practice matches. Across the country, most juniors hit for 20 minutes, maybe finish a set and then leave. They become accustomed to being “one set wonders!” This is especially true in the intermediate levels of junior tennis.

Winning those tough three set tournament matches require practicing whole matches. Rehearsing the art of closing out full matches versus a single set will improve their mental toughness.  If time is of the essence, I recommend that players play 3-sets, starting at 2-2 instead of the typical one set routine. Handling the stress of closing out the set is a big advantage.

 

“There is a huge difference between mechanical confidence and competitive confidence.”

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