Lessons from the Tour
The I don't care/ I care approach
Over the past year and a half I have written primarily technical articles on TennisOne and there I primarily focused on the fundamental commonalities of technique. Today, however, I will move on to the mental game, my favorite part of the game to teach. I will share with you one of the most important elements that one will need to master on a daily basis in order to play more consistently at your optimal level.
I currently coach four professional players on tour, two women, my wife Lindsay Lee-Waters and 20-year-old Ashley Harkleroad, and two men, 22-year-old Alex Bogomolov Jr. and 18 year old Rubin Statham. All four players have had many successes and failures throughout their tennis careers both in the juniors on up through the professional ranks. Three of the four have been ranked top 100 in the world or are currently ranked top 100. All four have sound technique and are currently moving up the ranks under the ACE System of coaching, but one does not merely move up the ranks based upon sound technique. How high one climbs is predominantly determined by their mental approach to the game on a daily basis. Today I want to talk about perhaps the most single factor that keeps most players from achieving their fullest potential … “FEAR."
Every athlete in every sport, whether it is at a professional level or at the amateur or junior level, has to deal with fear on a daily basis. The only difference between the professional level and the junior or amateur level is the stakes one plays for. The professionals are playing for money and the junior or amateur is playing for a trophy or bragging rights. I can assure you, however, that the little boy or girl playing for that trophy at 10 years of age feels the exact same pressure and fears during a match the professional player feels. The 10 year old wants that trophy as badly as the pro wants the title and the money and prestige that go along with it. We have all been there and experienced it and it is no different at 10 than at 30. So now that we know that it exists and will always exist, the key is to understand how to deal with it.
After winning a $50,000 challenger, Lindsay Lee-Waters is currently in the top 90 on the WTA tour.
The key to overcoming nerves, tightness, heavy arms and legs, etc., all of which inhibit optimal performance, is how we approach fear. How we deal with these thoughts when these thoughts enter our mind is crucial. Thoughts of fear such as losing, of winning for that matter, of dropping in the ranks, of falling further down on the club ladder, of letting your USTA team down, and so on are common thoughts we will face. Every level of athlete faces these fears on a daily basis and if we are to succeed we must embrace these fears, surrender to them, understand they are there, and simply approach the game with what I call the “I don't care/ I care attitude.”
The “I don't care/ I care attitude” is a state of mind where one approaches the competition with the mindset as if they really “don't care” whether they win or lose but they actually are playing full out as if they do “care.” The only person that can actually put pressure on you is you! No matter what the expectations anyone else puts upon you, you're in control of your own mind and how you filter these expectations. Therefore, your focus should be to control where you put your mind because where your mind goes so does your game.
The “I don't care” approach simply will induce relaxation and will in turn allow for you to hit and move full out as if you had no care in the world. But wait…in the back of your mind as you are telling yourself that “ah…who cares if I win or lose I am just going to grip and rip,” the “I care” part comes into play and although you are telling yourself “I don't care,” you are actually trying your hardest, giving 100% and just letting instincts take over on the court. So in essence you are convincing yourself that you do not care if you win or lose but you are still trying your hardest on each and every point. Roger Federer is the master of this technique. I am quite certain he wants to win as much or more than anyone else in the world but looks extremely relaxed on the court as he is doing so. For us to play our best tennis in competition we must be able to be relaxed enough to enable what we have practiced so hard in training to come out instinctively during our matches.
After an extended absence from the tour, Ashley Harkleroad is climbing back up in the rankings.
This mental approach works at all levels and will be a constant battle within you to master on a daily basis. You will find this approach is easier to adhere to when you have had a slump and feel you have nothing to lose. Your goal should be to reset your mental approach to this frame of mind each and every day. To be sure, it takes much mental discipline to do so but the rewards will be well worth it!.
Last week my pro players had a good mental week. Lindsay Lee-Waters won a $50,000 tournament, and Rubin Statham, my 18-year-old male player, made his first finals of a $10,000 tournament, and this week Ashley Harkleroad reached the finals a $50,000 tournament. We will see how she does…but guess what was one of the focal points for this whole week before each and every match? You guessed it…the “I don't care/ I care attitude.” Try this mental approach out. I guarantee you won't regret it!
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Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training,and much more froma hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from theconvenience of their own home.
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Feel you're playing tentatively and know that you have greater potential than you're demonstrating in tournaments? This one of a kind, double- CD audio program, FearlessTennnis: The 5 Mental Keys To Unlocking Your Potential, will help you compete with confidence, close out matches and is a great way to get the mental edge en route to a tournament.
Schedule Jeff Greenwald to Speak
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