Title: Tennis: Taking Responsibility
Chase (who is only 8 years old) recently played in a JDS tournament at Innisfail TC. He won his first match but had his following matches washed out. In his one match he won 2 sets to nil BUT both sets were resolved via tie breakers. At times he played very well , but other times he played some strange points. Loose concentration, very poor decision making, lacking attention to detail etc How can someone play so well for some games but then put in a batch of loose points ?
In my opinion it has to be a result of some sort of loss of emotional control. When it goes bad for Chase it is like he has switched off and he plays as though he has never had a lesson before (and I know this is not the case). This type of play is also looking like it has already become a habit (not good). He has to be careful that this does not become a permanent habit which is there for the rest of his life.
I think I will make the comparison to Goran Ivanisevic (who eventually won Wimbledon after many attempts ). A fantastic serve (it seemed like he could serve an ace at any moment, unless Bad Goran stepped in ), and bullet like returns.
Maybe you remember the Three Gorans. The following are notes on Goran from August 19, 2008.
Ice-cool as the legendary Bjorn Borg and just as talented, this is the deadly unplayable Goran. His serve is as fast as it is pinpoint accurate, and his returns are so sharp that you could cut into a rock-face with them. This Goran is devastatingly charming as well as being undeniably sweet. He watches the Teletubbies to calm his nerves and is not afraid to admit it. Also, in a match versus Mark Philipoussis, he turned to a ball-girl behind him, got on his knees and implored her to save him from receiving the thunderbolts that Mark was sending down. The sight of a 6’4 man humbly begging to a girl a whole foot-and-a-half shorter was an unforgettably sweet moment. Quite the opposite of Bad Goran.
First it was Jimmy Connors. Then John ‘The Brat’ McEnroe. Now Bad Goran can join them in the black-book of the umpire. This Goran does all the following and more:
Insults line staff
Screams profanities at everyone
Screams at the umpire
Smashes his racquet
Kicks the net and so on
These events can occur all at once, or spread throughout a match in any order. When the going gets really bad, so does Goran. Unfortunately, he may have been Good Goran to this point, only to lose the whole match to a rash moment of insanity. This is his main flaw, and paradoxically, also his main attraction. Crowds around the world love to see him lose his cool, and when he does, he does so in spectacular style.
Finally, when his back is really up against the wall, and there is a psychologically important point that he needs to win, Emergency Goran makes an entrance. A great example of this is in the semi-final of Wimbledon 2001 versus Tim Henman on an especially greasy Centre Court. Tim plays a good volley which Goran runs for and looks as if he might make an even better return. However, he slips, falling to his knees. The ball bounces, and the crowd as well as Henman thinks that Goran has lost the point. Only Emergency Goran kicks in, and he plays a vicious passing shot from his knees, winning the point. Neither the crowd nor Henman expects that, and after Bad Goran kicking in and losing a set 6-Love and several rain delays; Goran wins the match.
The Goran Mystery
Combine this split personality with a fierce determination to win, a purity of spirit rarely seen among sportspersons, stripped-to-the-waist posturing after matches, patriotism and a fierce loyalty to his family; you come up with an unpredictable three-dimensional character who the crowd will always love.
Now do not get me wrong, Chase’s emotional state is not the same as Goran’s (thank goodness). But the different personalities and different match behaviour of Chase certainly make me see a connection between Goran and Chase.
Chase seems to have Chase 1 and Chase 2, but they pop in and out during any one match !! So what is going on ?
I am very suspicious that Chase’s problem stems from his family structure. He is the third of three boys (the baby of the family).
Now, being the youngest in a tennis family has some sweet and sour elements. The great advantage is this. Historically in the world of tennis, the younger sibling almost always does better in the long run than the elder siblings. This is quite understandable of course. Who does the younger sibling practice with much of the time ?…..an older sibling. Over several years the older sibling tends to be looking back over their shoulder. In the meantime the younger sibling has only one place to look……..forward.
The downside of being the younger sibling is for this younger sibling to receive more attention, to have things easier and to be a little spoilt.
Do not get me wrong here, I am not talking about emotional parents spoiling their baby to such an extent that the child grows up to be a complete brat. I am referring to the normal family where practical matters dictate that the younger sibling will get some normal spoiling from the other siblings, relatives and the parents. If the younger sibling does embrace this normal spoiling , it is almost certainly not the fault of the parents. It is probable that the fault of the younger sibling stems from the inherent mind structure which the younger sibling had adopted when it first came into this world. This inherent mind structure would entice the younger sibling to embrace the spoiling.
Embracing the spoiling would lead to some disadvantages.
And the main subject matter here is this……can Chase make maximum improvement in his tennis ? And we know that anytime a player cuts corners or is distracted or is scared, afraid, nervous, over confident or has a chip on their shoulder ………they will never lift their came to the level they are capable of.
Players who do not have their mind on their absolute main task (maximum improvement) usually do not get the most out of their match losses. They often miss valuable learning opportunities in lessons. They often do not like being told “what they are doing wrong”. They tend to sweep things under the carpet.
It is always difficult for a young child to correctly see themselves. And children like Chase will sweep many things under the carpet, and have a picture in their mind of how they play and who they are (this picture will be quite different from what the outsider sees !!). In reality they are dreaming. This dream supplies the picture to them of who they are and how they play. “I’m playing pretty good…..maybe a bit like Federer”.
This then leads to them not taking full responsibility of their actions, their beliefs and their behaviours. And of course their tennis improvement.
So when things go wrong with their tennis game /match /career / improvement, they will tend to slip into spitting the dummy or poor me or bring on the Drama Queen.
They are looking for attention v taking responsibility for their own actions.
Now I have already mentioned that an eight year old has great difficulty accepting and seeing their true behaviour (haha…..even some adults as well ), so it is up to the parents and the coach to help the child to recognise these behaviours. Eventually the child has to start helping themselves.
But for now the role belongs to the parents and the coach.
It starts with awareness on the child’s part. The child needs to realize that he/she is behaving in this manner. (This is one of the main reasons for this blog). The child needs to understand as much as possible how this thinking/behaviour works. The child then needs to observe themselves at matches and/or practice/lessons. The child then needs to be on the lookout for this type of behaviour emerging during their tennis sessions. The child then needs to become master of nipping in the bud any negative behaviour.
To me, I saw Chase play at two different levels. Chase 1……making good decisions, staying disciplined, having correct technique and tactics. And then Chase 2………..undisciplined, making poor decisions and a little bit of out of control emotionally.
His match play and behaviour in my opinion fit in perfectly with what I have explained and described earlier in this article.
I believe Chase would be a better tennis player by at least 50% if he learns to overcome these weaknesses.
The specific transference of his emotional behaviours onto his tennis technique comes out this way.
He must pay more attention to detail. Like hitting the ball at waist height (not lower).
Many times in the match he spaced out. At these moments he had absolutely no reading of the ball. Where will the ball bounce ? What speed is the ball travelling ? Where do I have to go to find the perfect point of contact (height included) ? How much time do I have ? When do I need to get going ? etc etc Again do not get me wrong, Chase did these mechanics perfectly many times in the match, so when I saw him break away from his good technique I knew there had to be some form of emotional block.
Often he does not get up to the short ball properly, with the result he lets the opponent off the hook. He has to learn to punish the short ball (not necessarily hit a winner !!) and then go to net.
And overall, he must take responsibility for his actions and behaviour.
His mind is very loose. He needs to be 100% focused.
Chase has the makings of becoming a great player…..but only if he accepts and sets his goal……..maximum improvement
On a smaller note (although is this connected to Chase’s loose mind set ? ) …..he needs to have his hands touching on his backhand. No gap.