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Setting Goals: High or Low?
David W. Smith, Senior Editor, TennisOne
As a teaching professional, and tennis coach for over three decades, I’ve been fortunate to learn a great deal about how different teaching and coaching philosophies pan out for players, students, and instructors alike.
For a coach, instructor, and especially a player, the issue of developing goals is one of the most important elements to becoming successful. However, there is a lot of diversity in what exactly goals should encompass for different levels of players
For example, we often see coaches and instructors approach this concept of establishing goals with kid gloves, thinking that if they set goals too high, the student will be discouraged or won’t pursue the goal with sincere belief or intensity. Other instructors and coaches set lofty goals, believing that if the student shoots for the stars, they will land somewhere beyond mediocrity.
The question of too little or too much (or anything in-between) should be looked at carefully, in order to understand how the choice can have extenuating circumstances for a student and his or her eventual level of play.
Coaches of inexperienced or unskilled players often establish minimal goals to help players “believe” the goals are achievable and make them “feel” successful. Unfortunately, no matter how noble this intention, a minimalistic approach can be detrimental to a player.
If, for example, a coach sets a goal of winning 50% of the matches played, it might seem modest and reasonable for a team or individual just starting out or one who may be competing in a more experienced or more competitive region. However, looking at this type of goal from a different prospective, you can see where it can easily fail a student or team.
Quite frankly, the obverse of winning 50% of the matches played is losing 50% of the matches. So this goal can easily be interpreted to mean that it is okay to lose half of the time. Even if this "glass half full" scenario seems reasonable on some level, there lies a bigger problem: Which matches do we "allow" ourselves lose?
Once we allow ourselves to pre-prepare for losses we create the mental condition in any given match to accept the loss as part of our goal. This approach inhibits players from, not only making a comeback (if behind in a match), but it sets up a mind-set from the start that this match is “one of those” we can expect to lose.
These thoughts or perceptions may very well be subliminal, yet they are always there, if we set this predetermined goal.
In my experience, I’ve never seen where a lofty goal was detrimental to a student or the team. Realistically, setting high goals may not always be achievable, it provides a student or team with the perception of possibility, rather than the permission to fail. In countless examples, I have seen inexperienced coaches who prescribe to the idea of lowered expectations fail not only in helping students reach potential, but literally languish for years with players and/or teams who never learn to compete at higher levels.
There is an unspoken sentiment established by coaches who set low standards for their students: “You are not good enough to compete at higher levels.” Unfortunately, for many coaches, setting low standards can be a conscious or unconscious way to protect the ego. Obviously, low standards are much easier to achieve than high standards.
High standards may not be met within a given season, but the real benefit from this attitude is the long-term gain. The drive, the ambition, and the subsequent level of practice or intensity provides for far more progression over time.
I have never seen a team or player reach high levels of success or accomplishment through the practice of setting mediocre goals. While a coach may lose a small number of individuals who simply resist the idea of higher goals (because such players sense they will have to “work hard” to even consider such goals), in reality, those players will usually drop out anyway over time, or, they will drag the team down if allowed to project their perception of mediocrity within the ranks.
Understand, however, that coaches who indeed set lofty goals must be as responsible as their students. They must develop coaching patterns, methodologies, and practice routines that help students master the game so that they can reach those higher goals.
Many coaches may establish high goals, but then sit back and let the kids take responsibility for their success or failure. Here is where coaches who study the game, both from a technical standpoint and from the concept of team strategies, motivation, conditioning, and player-development, are usually the most successful.
As the Poet Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”
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Open, Closed, and Neutral Stances: Pros use them All
It is common to classify “modern” forehand groundstroke techniques as those that incorporate an open stance with regard to footwork patterns. But that implies the open stance is an integral and essential part of the modern forehand and the only footwork pattern applicable. Though many teaching pros consider the closed stance forehand “old school,” at the highest levels of the game, there are many situations where the closed stance is not only useful but preferable. Dave Smith
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Ever since Andre Agassi burst on the scene a couple of decades ago and began swatting balls out of the air like flies, the swinging forehand volley has become an integral part of the modern game and continues to be one of the most exciting shots in the game. Here, Doug Eng takes you through a four step, simple progression that will allow you to play this great shot and add it to your offensive repertoire.
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This tour veteran is now 37 years old. A ferocious competitor with a career high ranking of #2 in 1996, Michael amassed $19 million dollars, captured 34 singles titles, and was one of the big four American players who dominated the game some years ago – the other three being Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras. Michael played a relentless baseline game, using a deadly two fisted backhand, tremendous speed, and a dogged determination and consistency that wore down opponents.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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