Hello 2017! It’s the start of another exciting year!
2016 was a great sporting year for the U.K. – Team GB excelled at the Olympics and Sir Andy Murray and Jamie Murray, both World Number 1’s, have kept the flame alight for tennis.
But beyond gold medals and trophies, our 2016 sporting triumphs showed something else too, something that we can learn from in tennis and as tennis people. I’m using this learning to be my personal best in 2017.
I’m going to set the scene:
- What percentage of the athletes won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics (or even at the 2012 Olympics)?
- What percentage of athletes tried their hardest?
You see, one of my abiding memories was of countless interviews with exhausted Olympians who had not won medals but who were elated because they had achieved a personal best at the Olympic Games. In other words, they had personal goals to challenge themselves and their performances, and when they achieved or beat those goals, they were winners.
So let’s take this back to tennis. I heard a great quote from someone at an ITF tennis ‘think tank’ meeting recently, when one of the delegates said “kids love to compete; adults love to compare!” It’s a thought-provoking quote, because it suggests that as parents and coaches perhaps we are looking for the wrong things from of our players. Of course, winning is great, but winning what? In a draw of 64 players, technically there will be 63 losers, but I would never call your child a loser! Comparing one child to another is a pointless and unproductive exercise, but it’s a favourite occupation amongst many parents. Let’s focus instead on helping kids to be better competitors, competing against themselves in the challenge to be better.
Can every child be a winner? Absolutely, as long as they have something to aim for and something to beat! So, don’t make the primary goal of our young players to win the tournament. Better examples of a player’s personal goals could be to:
- Try their hardest, by running hard, by trying hard to stick with something the coach is trying to develop in their game but which isn’t quite working out yet,
- Try to play in a certain way, using a particular tactic or game to take the match to the opponent.
Both of these goals are within the control of the player. The conscious decision by a player to try as hard as possible is entirely controllable, as is the decision to play a certain way. So, these are valid goals. Going out to win a match or to win a tournament contains too many variables and external factors, cannot be guaranteed, and therefore doesn’t make a good goal in most cases.
So, think again about those Olympians. They will have no doubt dreamed of winning a medal, but all of them will have focused on achieving their best performance, because that is within their control.
This applies to every aspect of our own tennis lives – not just our players. Set out to try hard and achieve a personal best. It’s the best you can do!
By the way, less than 5% of the athletes won a gold medal.