Taking Compete-Learn-Honor Mental and Emotional Training to Court with Dr. Peter Scales

Dr. Peter Scales joins the team for round two to discuss how to apply mental training to the court. The discussion goes into the importance of loving the game and how to "lose the self." Dr. L, Coach Johnny and Dr. Scales then detail practical ways to apply mental skills on-court as well as teaching methods. Dr. Scales shares his self-discovery approach and how to engage players in the Compete-Learn-Honor method.


Hi, I'm Irina Falconi, WTA Tour player, and you're listening to Compete Like a Champion.

J: Welcome to Compete Like a Champion. You're here with Dr. Larry Lauer, Mental Skills Specialist, and coach Johnny Parkes with USTA Player Development. Today we've got the second part to our interview with Dr. Peter Scales, who is a US Professional Tennis Association certified teaching pro, an internationally known scholar in positive youth development, and author to the book Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete, Learn, Honor. Dr. Scales, thanks for coming back and joining us.

P: I'm glad to be here Johnny. Look forward to the second part of our conversation.

J: Brilliant - so you know we, at the end of the first part, we were starting to get into the "compete, learn, honor" framework and we you know, you took us through the honor and a little bit of the learn part in some detail. I was wondering if you can, before kind of diving into that a little bit more, and especially the compete part, if you can frame your philosophy a little bit for us first and then we could talk a little bit about that.

P: Yeah, sure. Well, compete, learn and honor, real simple: if we give 100% effort at all times, if we're open, curious, and humble learners, and if by how we behave and act we bring credit to ourselves, teammates, opponents, officials, coaches, family, school, and the game of tennis, then guess what we're winners, regardless of our w-l record. So that's the foundational philosophy. That doesn't mean we don't want to win. We're training to win, we're competing to win. We want to win. But the winning is a byproduct. And that's not the goal. The goal is improvement, as a player and as a person. So that's the nutshell explanation.

L: It makes less sense, Peter. And again, I think you and I share a similar philosophy. And that's why I enjoyed your book a lot. Because it made me feel like I knew what I was talking about, on some level. No, but honestly, you know, there's this idea of focusing on the process, right, of the way you do things, on learning, and how you treat others and bringing it to that. How does that impact the players' anxiety? And I think we may have touched this on the first part of this series, but I wanted to go even maybe go back through it again. If someone's focused on competing, learning, and honoring, what does that mean for things like anxiety and fear and how does that impact those things?

P: Right. Well, you know, we talked last time a little bit about where fear comes from. And generally we call it the ABCs. Some sort of a loss of autonomy or control, feeling threats to belonging and relationships and C: competence - feeling like Gee, you know, I'm going to look like a complete idiot out there if I keep playing like this. So the fears, the anxieties, surround those ABCs. And what I'm trying to tell players is, look, all of those emotions are normal. They're natural. We're not trying to get you not to have those feelings. Because those feelings of nerves and stress and fear, that means you care about the moment you're in, you care about this. That's a good thing and a little bit of that can be energizing, as we know physiologically and psychologically. We don't want it to get to be paralyzing. We want it to be energizing. And so I think all of what I do with "compete, learn, honor" is to help players change their perspective from seeing threats to seeing challenges, and then even further to seeing opportunities. So it's not denying what's there. I don't want to pretend that we're not going to judge ourselves, we're not going to have emotions; we're going to have these feelings. Accept them, name them, release them, learn how to work with them, and move on. So  it doesn't replace the anxiety, it massages the anxiety, and allows quicker recovery and more creative ways of, I guess for lack of a better word "Judoing" the situations. I was a judo player in high school. So um, you know, I wasn't a big guy and I'm still not a big guy. So I'm always looking for how can I use my opponent's strengths or the things that are happening quote to me to my advantage? And so that's a lot of what we're trying to do is get a reframing going that this threat is a challenge, and eventually even an opportunity

L: That's a definitely an interesting way to put it. And it sounds a lot like this positive psychology approach that you hear a lot now these days, which was going on in sports psychology for 40 years, but that's another story. But you know, I, it's interesting because if you're able to normalize it, you're able to accept it, you're much easier able to let things go right. And then you can open your mind to the possibilities, right, to problem solve, to actually pay attention to what's going on the other side of the court, and what's happening with your opponent. Have you seen that in the players that you work with that, you know, when you've helped them to focus more on the process of learning and getting better honoring the game, honoring themselves, honoring others and just competing, you find that this is opening up their mind as well to what's happening and freeing them to play the game and enjoy it more the way you were able to personally? 

P: Yeah, I mean, it happens. But as you know, it happens over a period of time. And it happens with with progressions just like, you know, stroke production, we work through progressions, and it's not going to be a snap of a finger. So what I like to - how I like to illustrate it is that we want to get a player going from negative to positive, but they have to go through neutral first. The same way that in our stroke production in our movement, if we're pulled out really wide, totally on defense, we're probably not going to be smart to go for a winner from that position. We're trying to get it up high and deep down the middle, get back into point, get it to neutral, then we can think about positive. So it's this progression from get the negative to neutral and then the neutral can become a positive. Cheating, for example, is you know, people making bad line calls is a problem that everybody faces. And so, you know, the first reaction is, you know, perhaps anger. And so we're not going to get from anger to acceptance of that opponent as a positive human being, a child of God, in a split second; we've got to go to neutral. So what I'm teaching them is in that kind of a situation, you may have to lose a few points the same way that in doubles, you might get burned a few times down the alley, because you're doing the work you have to do to protect the middle. So you accept those - you don't, you don't start going over to protect the alley because now your whole plan is shot. So if you react if you allow yourself to make that reaction and continue the anger and not accept that, then that takes over your game. So acceptance. And then once they've understood that they can choose to accept these moments of adversity, then we can talk to them about and you know what, if somebody's cheating on the line calls, guess what that tells you: they're afraid they can't beat you playing straight up. They have fear. So that should give you confidence. So that's the positive but it takes a while to get from the negative to the positive. So I want to get to neutral first. And that's a lot of what we do with wording. I worked with a player recently and I had them take take the time to record, in practice, and all their practice matches for a week. Record what your reaction is after every point. And so with the cooperation of the practice partner, they did, and they made 150 voice recordings over the course of the week. And we saw patterns, right? And part of the pattern was that there was this immediate negative reaction of this player saying, "that's bad. That's good," making these judgments that were very final and, and very personal. And so our first step was let's try and figure out what language you could use that's a little more neutral. And we settled on instead of 'bad', 'ineffective' or 'didn't work', you know, instead of 'good', 'effective', 'worked', 'do that again'. So, yeah.

J: And that's a great comment you just made there about recording our reactions. And it brings me, well the first thought that came to mind took me back to when I was in high school and my tennis coach actually did it with us. More so in particular there was one player that would just do some ridiculous things after - he'd get highly emotional, lose a point. One time you know he threw his racquet on the floor, got up in a press up position and went and just started head butting his racquet in a press-up position on the floor, and it just got me thinking about that a little bit because then it that sprouted on my coach, starting to record our reactions and having those watch those back to basically say, "are these helpful or are these not helpful?" If they're not helpful, we need to change it. And then also then brings me forward to some of the work that Dr. Bob, Dr. Bob Neff does about where there's charting and charting reactions, whether there was a positive reaction or a negative reaction and being able to take the athletes through their charts on negative and positive reactions according to how the flow of the match goes. Which is a great look and a great spin of how you view your matches, which we don't always get into the details of. You know, when we talk about our emotions, we generally talk about it from a general perspective. Well, in this match, overall, you're pretty good. There were moments you were highly, you know, reactive and emotional. There were times where you pulled it together, but we don't actually look at it into the details of how it affects you from point to point. And I think it's an absolutely fundamental - and it's something that I think both coaches and parents can do when watching their kids play or watching any players play. It's something that they can do is chart that so that was a brilliant point you brought up there. I don't know if Larry, you want to elaborate on that because obviously Dr. Bob Neff is is part of your mental performance team and something that he's brought to the table a little bit more

L: Yeah, no, we definitely think that's a great technique, and it's something that our whole team uses. And we do it in different ways. We may look at reactions, we may be charting their routines and how consistent they are, time between points, what happens during the point, and then what's happening with their reactions or what they're doing between points. So there's a number of ways, but I think you kick it back to Peter, I think what we're talking about here, you know, going off for your comment about recording the reactions. What you're talking about is creating awareness. P: Exactly. L: Awareness. And once you have awareness, then you can begin to understand and accept.

P: That's exactly right. And there's a bit of a paradox here because in the book, one of the things I talk about is the importance of losing the self, because humility allows you to learn. But the paradox is that before you can lose the self, you have to really understand yourself. And so we do a lot of assessing of strengths and areas for development throughout the whole, you know, range of important tennis skills, not just the mental and emotional, and then using that to build goals and plans. But it's exactly that learning about what your patterns are. We all have patterns and that goes hand in hand with helping the players understand that they're making choices every second off the court, on the court. They're making choices. Things aren't happening to them. They are choosing how to react in each of these situations. And I think a lot of players really don't, they honestly don't understand what their patterns are. They don't, they don't know. And so that very first step of 'we've got to record this, you have to see it,' and I think it's really helpful for them to be doing it themselves, and the self discovery of it. Because of course, then they, they own it more. So I mean, we're guiding the self discovery, but it's better than me saying, "you know, I watched you and you did this and this and this." That's why I want them to chart it themselves. And then we can talk about well, what patterns did you see in yourself? And there's these light bulbs going off of wow, I didn't realize I did that. And yeah, I do.

L: Yeah, that's some of the best work we can do is on court than anything else. If you get that awareness and you find acceptance, then we're talking about earlier, what you control right? And you don't control honestly what's happening in the past or what's happening in the environment. You control your response to it. And typically, what I've found is when a player takes responsibility for what they control and accept the things that they don't control, now you really start to take off now you can move from neutral to positive, I think.

P: Right and we do something that really tries to drive that home: that winners are not people who win the most sets or games or points, winners are people who take responsibility for what they do. That's the bottom line. And so one year I was so tired of the excuses that my guys were making on our boys team that I made up this box called the excuse box; I wrote "excuse box" on it. And I put it out on the court right inside the gate and it's like when you come out on the court, drop your excuses into that box because this has to be an excuse-free zone. A mistake-friendly zone. (break in connectivity) -free zone and I had one guy, look at that and he said, "coach, I got more excuses than are going to fit in that little box." So I got a bigger one. And then subsequent years, the girls team decided that my handwriting was ugly, the box had gotten shabby. They may be a nice, nice box. So now we have two excuse boxes, you know, for very average size excuses and then supersize excuses, and sometimes they just sit in the box, right? So it's a kind of a teenage excuse sauna. And they come out of that box, feeling like okay, I'm cleansed. No more excuses. And it really gets the point home because as soon as we introduce that excuse box, then when people start saying, "Oh, you know, I, I messed that up because the sun was in my eyes." Excuse box! I mean, you can hear people yelling it around the courts, so they own it. And it's just a little thing, but it really drives home the point that you make choices, and you're responsible for the choices you make. And that means you can make different choices. You're not stuck. Get out of the excuse box, right?

 L: I like the excuse box. We need one for this podcast Johnny.

J: It would be filled with all of your post it notes, Larry.

L: Yeah, I don't want that shabby one. I want that pretty, well done one.

J: Amy, do you think? I think we, Amy I think we need to work on getting an excuse box. Maybe when we're back into normal civilization, we could put it on the table in the studio.

A: Maybe Isa, that can be Isa's crafting project this week.

J: I'll her on it. L: I thought Mick's podcasting chateau was the excuse box - the whole room.

J: Sorry, Mick, we love you!

J: So Larry, this is absolutely great. And you know, we're touching on a lot of things, especially like routines and creating habits. And obviously, a lot of what we've talked about with compete, learn, and honor is about framing habits that last a long, you know, that last for the long term. But what I found particularly interesting was you said obviously, all these principles are important for athletes to develop into habits but two especially are non-negotiable. So I wanted to have you take us through those two non-negotiables that you talk about, you know, when you're working with your players, or when you're speaking to people around, you know, around the country.

P: Yeah. The two, I think they're all important that are in the book, but the two that I think are the foundational ones are loving the game more than how you perform and losing yourself, your focus on yourself. Humility allows you to learn. And they're obviously correlated, they're connected. Loving the game more than how you perform is a real challenge for most people because we live in a culture that prizes achievement, winning, and you know, we're not really spending a lot of time talking about process. And coaches are under a lot of pressure to win. So it's parents, players, coaches, the media, all of it is focused on winning. So it's not easy for a coach to counterweight that, whether it's with a coach who's a pro at a club, or a coach on a high school or college team. It's hard to do. But here's the thing. If we can get those players to understand that the game was here long before you, the game will be here long after you, the game doesn't owe you anything. Okay, it's bigger than you are. That actually takes pressure off you. It takes pressure off you. If you're playing for the love of playing, which is why, you know, one of the great exercises and I think, Larry, this is in your book and I use this a lot too, is having players write down what they love about playing tennis; what they love about being a tennis player, because we lose sight of that. And the higher up the ladder we go, the more pressurized, the more winning becomes, you know, so obviously important; the greater the distance sometimes, or oftentimes, between that kind of mindset, and the total heart feeling we had for our sport when we first fell in love with it. So a lot of this is trying to recapture those feelings and say, 'you know what, that's why you're playing. That's why you're playing.' If you're only enjoying yourself and having fun out there, when you win, then you're guaranteed to be having a terrible time, a lot of the time out on the court. I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I lose a lot, you know. And so you're either gonna, it's, again, it's a choice, you're either gonna learn to learn something about those losses and, you know, enjoy that aspect of it or not. So it's really, really important to do that for both competitive reasons, and for mental health reasons. And losing the self in the same way. But if you're focused on yourself, and performance, again, you're not focused on flow. You're not focused on seeing what you're doing to your opponent, and how everything, how the pieces are moving. If you're focused on winning and losing, okay, that part of the self, you know, that Old Yogi Berra quote "you can you can observe a lot by watching." Well, yes, you can, in his head-scratching way. You can observe a lot by watching, but not if you're focused on yourself because that's all you're going to see. You've got to see, it's not how beautiful your forehand was. That's irrelevant. What's relevant is what did that forehand make your opponent do? And the joy of the back and forth of that exhilarating point, when you're both playing really well and trying to solve the puzzle. So you can't solve the puzzle if you're consumed with having to be the first one to solve the puzzle, to win the puzzle. It's about solving the puzzle, not about who solves it first, and that's a very tricky re-architectureing of the mindset to do. But if you can lose yourself, like that, like a doctor, like a surgeon okay, surgeon in the operating room, she sees the blood, but she doesn't emotionally react to it. She's moving for the next instrument she has to have to take the next step. So, okay, you see something happening but you're not emotionally reacting to it. You're moving to your next step. And that's for between points. That's for in the flow of a point and it's all impossible if you're focused on yourself and winning and losing.

L: That's great, Peter, that's great. And where were you when I was 15?

P: I wasn't playing tennis, I was playing judo.

L: You're doing judo. Yes, you're playing judo.

P: I was getting thrown onto mats and getting knocked out and having to have smelling salts to get me reawakened to go back in the match.

L: And this is how you learn this, okay, so one of the things that makes me think is when you talk to even pros they'll say you know, when they've maybe been struggling or lacking motivation, I need to have fun again, I would need to be having fun on the court. Usually when people are struggling, it comes back to fun and fundamentals. Right? Yeah. where it all started: having fun and learning the game.

P: Osaka said that after Australian Open that for six months after that she wasn't having fun. No, it you know, she had to get back to that. So, you know, and not to be pollyannish about it, I mean, this is not easy, and we're still trying to win; we're competing to win; we want to win; it's okay to have those feelings, right. But if we have a purpose that is more connected to the love of the game, to solving the puzzle, the enjoyment of it, and to be taking it less personally, that's where the losing of the self comes in. Looking at it more clinically, like that surgeon. You know, we've gotten good research that's come out of USC and other places, showing that the athletes to have more of that kind of purpose-driven than outcome-driven orientation to things don't have any less failure or disappointment, but they deal with it better. They recover more quickly, right? I mean, that's the big difference in the pros and the rest of us - their recovery, They make mistakes at a faster speed, they recover from them at a faster speed, but they're the same mistakes we all make. We just recover way more slowly, and we make more of them.

J: So what we're talking about is the ability to adapt quickly, right?

P: Yes.

J: So the ability to adapt in those situations has come from that that love of the game. Would you say that's because of just that innate, need to want to be as good as they can be at all stages, so even when they lose or even when, you know, it always comes back to that love of the game of going how am I constantly gonna get better. So, if you now, if we start talking about the teaching part, how do we help our athletes learn that? How, what are some of the strategies you've put in place to help your athletes learn that component?

P: Well, I think for starters, we, like our athletes, coaches have to make a choice about how much emphasis they're going to give to the mental and emotional game. You know, when I do coaches workshops, first thing I ask is what percentage of tennis is mental? And usually you get, you know, 50% to 90%, you know, all of it. Okay? And you know where this is going. Then the next question is, well, what percentage of your practice time do you spend on the mental? And there's like, awkward silence.

Right? And so what I say is, look, if you if you have a two hour practice, right, and you're spending 12 minutes, intentionally, explicitly, in a systematic way, on mental and emotional strengthening, that's just 10%. You are way ahead of your peers as a coach. So you can't expect your players to magically get it when you just say, "love the game." You have to love the game more, you know any more than you can expect them to get it if you just say, toss hire, but you don't show them how. So you have to show them what that actually means. And part of doing that is putting them, I think, in intentional stresses in the practice, and of course, I mean, you don't do this on day one with a new student or a new team. You build your relationship, but as you've built the relationship of trust now, you can put in more intentional stresses into practice. And show that how you can react and look at this more clinically, objectively. And I do that a lot by, you know, again, guided self-discovery, we freeze a lot. And Okay, did you like what just happened in that point? Not particularly. Okay. What could you have done differently? Tell me some things you could have done differently and let's have a conversation about that. So it's getting them into the process without, you know, lecturing them about, you know, you have to love the game more. I mean, I put that up on posters. We put all these slogans up on posters, laminated posters, and we talk about them at the beginning of practice. And I ask them to describe what that means in your own words. So we have, you know, again, ownership of it at the beginning of practice, but I don't lecture about it after that. The rest of is reinforcing the point through guided self-discovery, through helping them come up with routines to deal with adversity and rehearsing those things behaviorally; it's not enough to write out your routine, you have to rehearse it like an actor, you know, like a musician. So it's a combination, I think, of doing that, of modeling. As a coach, you know, you have match locations get changed, match times get changed, sometimes even your opponent changes from whom you thought you were going to be playing. How in-stride does the coach take that? Does the coach frame that as, hey, this is an opportunity, you know, because this is an opponent who really likes to serve and volley so you know, here's what we're going to change up our game plan we thought we were dealing with a baseliner. Now we're dealing with somebody else. So how could wow this is great opportunity. What can we do with this? So I think you model it as a coach. And then the last thing is when how coaches deal with defeat and losses that their students are, you know, experiencing. I love you know, Billie Jean King's story, you know, when she was distraught over losing, she's told us at many places, but I heard this at the Women's Tennis Coaches Association last fall before the Open. Hopefully we'll have another conference and another Open this year. But she was saying, look, she was so upset when she lost and she'd come home and her parents would simply say, "how did it go?" "Well, I lost." "Well, but how did it go? Did you give your best effort?" "Yeah, but I lost." "Well but if you gave your best effort, that's good enough." So how we react and what we focus on when they tell us or we've seen them because we accompanied them to the match, we saw that they lost. You know, praise the effort, praise the attitude, praise the learning and the honoring, praise the effort of competing. The last thing is been talking about, okay, what can we change up? What can we reinforce that really worked well? And what maybe needs to change up a little bit to give you a better chance to compete at even a higher level next time? You can do the whole thing without even mentioning the word win and lose. So, yeah.

L: I like that, Peter. And you're really giving us a ton of ideas of how to bring this to practice, this framework, and I think that's very useful to our listeners. And really what you're getting into is how do you set up the environment and the messages, the expectations you have: compete, learn, honor is very clear, and it's defined and you put these things up on posters, and I love that. And then you allow tennis to happen, right? And you look for teachable moments and then you intervene, you communicate. And then I'm assuming at the end of practice, there's some debrief or reflection on how it went.

P: Well, we do a little bit of that, but it's mostly we like the players to reflect before practice, reflect on a goal for practice and on what you're grateful for today. Not in tennis, necessarily, but just, you know, 1 to 3 things you're grateful for, thankful for. What you're trying to learn today, what your goal is today in practice. And then afterwards, what did you do that helped you learn? What did you learn today? I mean, it's just like at the end of any individual lesson, you're gonna say, what did you learn today? Right? You want to check out with your student whether, you know you actually taught them something. You said things to them, you demonstrated things to them, but did they learn it? You don't know that unless you ask them what did you learn today? And I ask them too not just, Larry, not just at the end, but while practice is going on, or a lesson is going on, I'll ask them if I'm doing something, is this working? Is this working for you? Is this working for the team? And sometimes I can tell it's not. And sometimes I think it is, but I'm gonna ask that anyhow. And then I discovered that for some players, or at that moment for this player in an individual lesson, you know, that isn't really working. Well, how can we change it to make it work better for you? So that also models my openness to feedback and humility and adapting and adjusting. It's not about 'it has to be right'. 'I have to be right'. 'It has to be my way'. And it also gives some autonomy and control and voice and choice to the players. So again, they're part of it. One of the themes that I emphasize constantly to the players is, I am your advisor. You are the boss of your tennis career. I'm not the boss of your career, you are. You make the choices, you make the decisions, I guide you, but you have to make the choices. So tell me what you want from me. Tell me. I have a plan. I have a lesson plan. I have a season plan. But I want to know what your plan is, tell me what you want. And then together we can find something that is going to really maximally work for you and for our team.

J: That's brilliant Peter. I mean, what you've hit on there is a big component of how we set up practices and how we, the preparation reflection is essentially what you've hit on there. And the reflection is yeah, reflecting on that practice, but it's also a tee up to the next practice. And then you go through the cycle of preparation reflection. I guess my question would be in terms of your actual session itself, do you often set up drills or practices where you know that certain exercises might draw out higher emotions? Or in which case, how would you go about doing that? And when you do go through that, do you tee it up as to say right here, this is going to be a very tough drill, this is going to be challenging your emotions, or do you just see how it plays out and then when it when something does happen, do you use as a teachable moment? how do you go about the actual practice itself?

P: It depends, Johnny great question. It depends on the students, the student athletes that I'm working with. You know, just like you can use some joking around and sarcasm a little better with some players and others, I mean, you've got to know your players. And with some players, it takes more of a tee up with look, this is gonna intentionally probably make some of you uncomfortable, because I want you to get out of your comfort zone, because if you're just stuck in your comfort zone, you're not going to grow. Right. And with other players, you can just do okay, here's what we're going to do for the next eight minutes, 10 minutes. And not a whole lot of teeing it up, other than to say, I always give a reason. There's always a reason for a drill. We're doing this because... you know, so I mean, I don't do anything without explaining what the rationale is. But more or less of that, depending on the character of the person I'm working with, or the nature of the team that I have, or you know, how much they can handle. I do want to make it as real as possible to mimic the stresses of match play. And so one of the things that in a team environment that works really well is every scoring variation, every rule variation that we do that puts stress on them, that counts, the match counts, you know. They're horrified when they find that out the first time in the season. When I say you know, you only get one serve, or the returner gets two returns, or once during a set, you can cheat on purpose - you can call a clearly good ball out one time and you know that's, you're gonna have to deal with that right? And so we'll see what happens, but the score, the match counts and we record it. It all counts.

J: Larry is that the game you're playing in your head when we play often? You're allowed to take a point?

L: That is made up by the way because we don't play, because he won't challenge me. But I think you know, this idea of creating adversity is very important. I love the question, the answer to 'do you, how much do you let them know?' And I think it depends on the person. I also think it depends on where they're at in the learning process, right? Because if they, if they're new to this, or this is something they haven't really experienced much, they're going to need more information. But if they have quite a bit of skill, and they've been through different, been exposed to different scenarios and different stressors you put on them, you can probably put more stress on them without really giving them much information to lead into it. So I think it kind of depends too on, on how much they've learned and where they're at in that learning process.

P: Exactly. And that's really an important point. And I think, I think all of them do appreciate that. You've got to do something in practice to make it more like a real match, quote, unquote, real match. And so that's part of you know, the whole philosophy - make practice harder than the matches if you can. I mean, it's an old cliche, but are there ways that you can do that while still respecting and protecting the emotional safety of your players? I mean, we're not trying to be cruel out there. We're trying to build up mental, you know, skills and options and the ability to have a range of choices that you can make in the the response you make to adversity. Okay, so, yeah, I think they get that, and you know, it's some players are more analytical, some are more feeling, some get it more quickly, they don't want a long explanation, some want, they would have you explain it the whole practice, if they could. So, you know, it's finding that balance, especially if you've got a team situation, but even in an individual lesson, I mean, finding that balance and at that moment, as they, you know, they may be an experienced player. But what you're working on at that moment is pretty new to them. Right? I mean, if they're a big baseline banger, and they haven't worked a whole lot on the backhand slice as an approach, and the footwork that goes with that, you know, they're new in that learning curve, even though they're a tournament player from the baseline. So yeah, there's lots of variations and degrees to which the coaches got to adjust. There isn't one way of doing this.

L: Right. And if a coach says he's not a mental coach, and he's not taking responsibility, because for what you just said, right, even if you're a tennis coach, you're also a mental coach because of the different situations you have to put players in to prepare them for matches. The psychology of that, the effect on the brain, with the brain, the effect on the performance, there's no way around it, there's no divide there. That's stuff that we need to train the players on. We're not totally preparing them for what they're going into.

P: Yeah, and it's a perfect opportunity too, to reinforce that pretty much everything we're doing with our players on the court is transferable to their off-court life, in the same way that a lot of what goes on off-court, players are bringing that, you know, good, bad, and ugly, to the practice court and to their matches. So it's not like we have this big wall between the court and the off-court. We live our lives and and all of these things kind of bleed into each other. So a lot of what I'm trying to do, what I think coaches who are interested in emphasizing the mental and emotional areas are trying to do, is also teach them you know, not just the cliche of you know, life lessons, but specifics about, yeah, how you prepare, how you sleep, how you eat, what you read, how you study on your own, you know, your degree of initiative, how you resolve conflicts off the court, how you make friendships, and all of this, you know, translates to what you're doing on the court too, and to how good of a learner and how emotionally stable you're going to be through, as Johnny pointed out earlier, the ups and downs of a match and the ups and downs of a practice to0. It doesn't stay at the same state, you're constantly adjusting. So it's a real helpful thing to tie the on-court and off-court together.

J: I'm really pleased you brought that up in terms of yes, okay, the old cliche 'make practices harder than the matches', but I, you know, it's great that you brought that up from a mental/emotional standpoint, because I think when we, you know, when people say that, I think a lot of the time, it's perceived as only physical. So we've just got to drum them and drum them and drum them, this is gonna be physical, it's gonna be tough, but what we don't look at is going okay, well, player has a tough part dealing with solving problems and because they can't solve problems better, that's what elicits maybe some more emotional reactions. So let's put them in an environment, doesn't necessarily mean to say that it's physical, we're going to drum them into the ground, but it might be a lot more mentally taxing in that the drills that you set up are going to require them to have to think more, solve more problems, it's gonna then elicit you know, more emotion as opposed to just trying to drive emotion out of them when they've got nothing left in the tank, which everyone, everyone is going to show more emotion when their meter is on empty. But that is not the strategy that we should be taking. You know, it's understanding what that whole cliche what that term means. And it's not just physical. So I'm really happy you just brought that up and talked about that because I think that's a really misguided conception when we say that phrase and so that was that was a great point.

P: Yeah, that's a great point, Johnny. And I think you touched on something else there. When you said the word "think," because a lot of a part of this, that that that gets back to how we compete. And building on the honoring and the learning is, I want them to be thinking in practice, right? Just like when we do progressions, we're going to eventually work the entire smooth motion in a unified motion of whatever stroke or whatever movement we're talking about. But we're doing progressions that focus on pieces of it, and getting those pieces right, and real conscious, intentional tearing things apart to the smallest units of units that we can control, and building those skills. It's the same with the with the mental and the emotional. So in practice, we're really looking at what were you thinking, when that point was over what was going through your mind? Say it - don't censor yourself, just say it, record it, whatever it is - building that awareness, because we're trying to get to the point, and one of my chapters is titled, 'Think During Practice, Feel During the Match'. During the match, we want them to feel and the way I do it - you guys talked in an earlier podcast about the chimp driving the bus, when the when the primitive brain takes over, right, the emotions take over like that. Well, for me, I use the lizard brain. Okay, the lizard brain back here is taken over the bus and the lizard brain knows even less about driving the bus than the chimp does. We're in a bad way if either the chimp or the lizard are driving the bus. So I want them to be, you know, thinking and really conscious during practice so that they feel they're building new automatic responses that replace the lizard brain and the chimp brain. But they're still automatic and feel on match day. That's what we're trying to go toward. That's the progress we're trying to make.

L: I was gonna make some comment about Johnny here, but I'm gonna save it.

J: You're gonna try and call me, you're trying to figure out a clever thing to call me a chimp and a lizard in the same sentence. 

L: it sounds like something that would be on the sci fi channel, chimp lizard. I mean, and I think Daniel Goleman has talked about this at length too, in the emotional mind versus the rational mind. And certainly tennis is played in an emotional arena. And so you're gonna have to learn to manage those emotions and get to more rational thoughts or at least train yourself on certain ways of thinking, even though you are emotional, you can get to those cues and those ideas. I love how you mentioned the difference between thinking in practice and feeling in matches because it's something I talk to players about, you know, there's different things at work, because you have different goals in practice and in the matches, In practices your goal is to train and to work on things and to give yourself feedback. And so you have this practice mind that's analyzing, it's working hard, right? You're thinking and you're getting feedback and you're communicating with the coach. And so there's a deeper analysis, but when you're performing, it shouldn't be that much analytical work. Now, it's more based on training and based on what you see, like you were talking about earlier, what you observe in the match and what's happening with your opponent; it's playing this chess game, right? And figuring out the puzzle, as you put it, to get to the end result, but the 99% of the mental effort is just staying present and being with the process of figuring it out, you know, and just being there. And so I love that idea of, I think we have to help players and coaches understand, and parents, that you don't use the exact same kind of thinking and work that you do in practice, as you would in practice matches, potentially, and for sure in matches. 

P: Yeah, exactly. And you know, there are,

as you know, and 70-80% of the time in the match is not playing a point. So there's plenty of time in the match, and that's what your routines and rituals are for. You better have a three hour or four hour in between points routine, you can't be making this up as you go in between points. That needs to be routineized. But then when you're playing the point itself, you want to be more of a jazz musician than a classical musician, is the way I put it to my players. When you're actually flowing, you are improvising, you're trusting that you know the structure, and you're, you know, you're riffing around the structure of how the strokes are produced and the way you want to construct points based on your strengths and areas that you want to hide a little bit. So yeah, you know, all that, but now you're confident enough to riff. Then in between points, you can be thinking again, but you don't want to be classical and having to play every note exactly the way it's written, when you're in the flow of the match and actually playing a point. So it is a combination of those things in the match. It's not totally feel in between points you got to be thinking, but in the routineized way that you've rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed.

L: In much simpler ways where you're not going into this deeper analysis of that takes a lot of cognitive work and it's harder to get your focus back to just being present on the environment, the ball, your opponent, what you're trying to do. So, now this has been tremendous and has gotten me a lot of great ideas, Peter, a lot of things kind of swirling around in my head. You and I share a pretty similar philosophy so it's always fun to carry around ideas because I always get better when I talk to you, and definitely the book. You know, I have it here. It's on my desk, the Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete, Learn, Honor. You know, I think for coaches this would really help them create a framework. It's a practical frame. It's simple, and yet, it's very, very deep and meaningful. And that's how I would put it. There's a lot of thought that's put into this. It's a very strong philosophy and I just give you a lot of credit for how you have taken a lot of complex ideas and boiled it down to the simple, and yet it maintains its meaning and is very impactful. So it's a really good job.

P: Now well thanks, Larry. I mean, I've stolen a bunch of your ideas for the book too. So. So thank you.

L: That's what we do. Right? And certainly, someone will steal from you, mainly it'll be me, I'll steal from you. I'll give you credit though. So

P: I'll be very pleased if I see you, you know, demonstrating an excuse box.

L: There's gonna be one at Johnny's desk next time we do this podcast.

J: Okay, so this has been absolutely fantastic. I appreciate your time so much, Peter, and just the, I want to hit on that point that Larry said there again because I think a lot of coaches when they start to look at providing mental skills to their tennis players, they're going well I'm not a mental skills, I'm not certified in psychology or I don't have a degree in psychology, or I'm not certified as a mental skills coach. So where do I go? And that hit the nail on the head there, Larry is we can turn to books to help us create a framework of how we can structure mental skills, integrate it into our practices, so that we are creating it on/off court there is this synergy between the two and it's all connected, as Peter has mentioned. And so this book is a great reference point for people to start and put a mental skills program together. So just wanted to emphasize that and it's great again, I mean, Larry, when you first sort of sent us some information about the book and Dr. Peter Scales and looking through it, I'm going well yeah, these philosophies are very similar, this "compete, learn, honor" and qualities of "compete like a champion," very you know, similar philosophy. So it's always great to hear different perspectives around similar philosophies and so, again just really appreciate your time here Peter.

P: Oh, well it's been great talking with both of you and anytime. awesome. 

L: Great to see you, be safe man.

P: Yeah, you too stay safe and healthy.

J: All right, well, that wraps us up for this week's episode of Compete Like a Champion. We were very fortunate and grateful to get on Dr. Peter Scales. If you have not read his book we would strongly recommend purchasing, it is again called Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete, Learn, Honor, so be sure to check that out. We put a link in the show notes that will take you to a synopsis of the book and then where you can go and purchase that. So thank you for tuning in for this week's episode and Dr. Larry and I we look forward to speaking with you next week.