Mike Flowers blog: Control the controllables

April 20, 2017 12:54 PM

Mike Flowers is currently the head tennis professional at Court One Athletic Clubs in Michigan. Flowers played collegiate tennis for four years at Michigan State University and then began his coaching career, first as the head pro at MVP Rockford and then as the High Performance coach at the Midland Dow Community Tennis Center, before moving to Court One. In addition to serving on the Western Michigan Competition Committee, he is also the co-director for the 10 & under WMTA District Training Center for elite players. Flowers is writing a blog for PlayerDevelopment.USTA.com for the next several weeks. In his third entry, he talks about important characteristics coaches can instill in their players, including a good attitude, work ethic and personal accountability.

By Mike Flowers

There are many things coaches look for and try to instill in their players. For me, a great attitude, work ethic and personal accountability top the list. I want my players to “control the controllables” to the best of their ability. All three are completely within the player's control and are great qualities to possess throughout all aspects of their lives.

Children need to understand that the goal is to maximize their potential, and that comes from hard work and great effort. It doesn’t guarantee they will be the greatest player in the world, but it does guarantee they will become the best they can be. That's something to be proud of, no matter what level you reach. John Wooden said it best: "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Attitude is the second key component. It is important to me that the player has a positive attitude and shows good sportsmanship. It isn't always easy when working with children – they are young and irrational at times – but it's something to strive for and hopefully develops over time. This is where parents can really help... place behavior and sportsmanship above winning. I remember, around age 10 or 11, my coach pulled me off the court during a USTA tournament due to my behavior. The message was clear, my attitude improved, and I know I became a better player and person because of it. Let’s use tennis as an avenue to bring out the best in our children, not the worst.

Personal accountability is another important characteristic I hope for in my players. Personal accountability is when the player takes ownership for the situation they are in. For better or worse, the player should view their current situation as a product of decisions and actions they made leading up to that point. Holding yourself accountable tends to lead to “I” statements... “I need to hit more serves,” “I should spend more time on my fitness,” or “I need to be better prepared for my matches.” A player who holds this trait will look inward for solutions, not outward for excuses.

The overall goal is that the players have a well-balanced life. Tennis may be a big part of it, but I hope it isn't at the expense of other aspects. Getting them to understand the significance of a good education, living a healthy lifestyle, as well as developing meaningful relationships with family and friends will be extremely beneficial to them, no matter how far tennis takes them. It's important to remember we are not just developing a player but, more importantly, a person.