The Life of a Professional Tennis Player with Noah Rubin

ATP player Noah Rubin comes on to the podcast to discuss his upbringing in the game of tennis and the issues that exist in the professional tennis world. His journey with his dad as parent-coach is extremely insightful and provides great advice for parents of young athletes. Noah also talks about the origins of the Behind the Racquet movement, how to improve the well-being of players and plans for the future


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 a very special guest on, Noah Rubin. Thanks for joining us, Noah.
N: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
J: Yeah, no, it's great to have you on. We've had some other players on previously, Mackie and CiCi and it's always nice to hear what's going on in your world and we're in an unfortunate crisis, global crisis at the minute so it'd be great to just connect with you and see what you're up to and also dive into some things that you've got going on in your life and, and whatnot. So we're excited to bring you on but before we get going, I'm going to hand you the mic in a second here just to maybe give us a little intro and you know, just for the listeners, they should know, but if you don't know listeners, Noah is a former Wimbledon Singles Champion. He's won national championships in USTA juniors, turned pro in 2015, won four challengers. He played collegiately at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons from 2014 to 15. And you're a runner up at the NCAA singles championships. That's a pretty decorated, some decorated accolades right there, mate.
N: I appreciate that. Yeah, it's been a fun road. Yeah, started young, but, you know, some bumps along the way. But, you know, it was a good time, especially when I was with my father. I remember the early days with him, but you know, to see where I am now, it's been it's been a really, really interesting ride.
J: Yeah, absolutely. And we're really interested to hear about that. So I guess we could start there is how did you get into tennis? And when you were growing up, did you play any other sports alongside tennis? What was sort of your childhood journey?
N: Yeah, I guess I didn't really have a choice. A racket was in my crib before I could even say tennis, so, but I fortunately, as soon as I could walk, I loved it. I mean, the first picture on my camera roll right now is me in a diaper and my parents hung a ball from a string on my ceiling, and I just took slaps at it, and it's actually on my Instagram so I can go find it again. But, I mean, I played since day one, and I just loved running around. I loved hitting a tennis ball. That was always something that was just a passion of mine before I even knew what I was really doing. But yeah, I did play other sports. I mean, the only one that I played on a team was soccer. Soccer was another love of mine. But I mean, I could throw a spiral when I was six years old, I was you know, shooting basketballs around the house, you know that. My walls were marked up like you can't believe and luckily my mom was in on it the whole time, so there were no problems, but it was a sporting house. It was a sporting house besides all the other things I did, I played almost every sport you can imagine and then went to hockey games when I was younger and I, you know, dressed up as the goalie in my house, my dad used to take slap shots on me. So you name it, I played it. But it wasn't until I was around 12-13 years old when I started play internationally. I mean, I played my first tennis tournament when I was seven years old, and then my first international tournament when I was 12-13, and that was when I really decided that tennis was my passion, what I wanted to do, and I quit soccer at that point, so a tough decision because I truly love the organized team competition that was soccer. But for me, tennis was where my talent lied, talent was where my true passion lied. And here we are today.
J: Do you have a soccer team?
N: I was always Chelsea from when they played Bayern Munich. I actually remember this. That match I was in Milan at the time and all the players, tennis players, were around. I played the U16 and I was with USTA at the time and we traveled to play those U16 kind of ITF tournaments and remember watching and Drogba, you know,  88-minute header for the game winner, and then Chelsea's always been my team since then. So
J: Awesome. Awesome. And Larry will be very happy to hear you grew up playing a bit of hockey and going to some games.
N: Oh, yeah, we, you know, it's probably not the team he wants me to be rooting and we've had more than a few sessions where it has ended with dropping the gloves, but that's okay. It's more friendly than anything else. Again, I've been an Islander, I've been an Islander fan my whole life and that's been more of a struggle than anything else for me, but they're playing well and it's it's been fun. I mean, like the New York open is held where the Islanders used to play and still play and to get to use the locker room and stuff like that was really cool. But yeah, played almost every sport and you know, it's funny, I'm not one to watch too many sports nowadays, which I think my girlfriend appreciates more than anything. I'm not that football, fantasy football guy, but I think I do enough time in the sporting world to not follow too many sports right now.
L: You know, Noah, I you you like to think it's friendly. I'm not so sure how friendly it is. Just all jokes aside here. Thanks for coming on. I'm curious, you know, you talked about how you made a decision to stop soccer, fully into tennis. Like what things did you see from yourself that made you believe that you wanted to go full time and specialize in tennis at that age? Like, how was that decision made for you?
N: Yeah, there were innate ideas within my head that, you know, while I was playing soccer or doing anything else, or when my friend said, let's go skiing. Like I always thought, wow, would I be okay for tennis? You know, is this going to line me up for injury? And I was even thinking that on my own at that point in time so I was like, okay, this must be in my head what I really want to do if I'm protecting myself, you know, on all barriers right now, on all fronts from injury so I can make sure that I'm ready to play tennis. So you know, when my father or my mom actually told me what I was thinking out loud because I couldn't always process those, you know, thoughts, I was like, wow, this is this is truly what I want to do and they made sure that I knew this is what I want to do. You know, I was fortunate enough even at, you know, a tricky situation where a father-son coaching also father-son relationship was there, but he made sure that I was well rounded, he made sure I was thoroughly enjoying every moment. The only time we would get into a fight would be if I threw a racket which was a no no in the house. I couldn't throw a racket, couldn't say anything negative. It had to be full positive, but if I lost 0 and 0 and I tried, did not matter. So, you know, to have that relationship early on, I knew that my whole family was really there and supportive. So it was, you know, me making those decisions even early on in my life. And I get worried because I don't always see that today and I'm talking to a lot of families and they don't always have that independence where you're truly knowing if the child wants this and it's not, you know, a father or mother situation. So that's where I knew that my path and goals were pretty clear even at that point.
L: So Noah, I mean, this is just a great kind of insight into the early years. It sounds like your parents, your dad specifically, were able to help sort of make it your game yet they were really kind of facilitating it and in some ways, pushing it because, you know, having the ball hanging above the crib is a certainly, that's all them but in what ways do you think your dad was able to help you realize you were still making decisions about your tennis.
N: It's difficult, I think, you know, he did this interesting thing. I don't know if he read it from somewhere, but he always used to say, okay, this is the dad talking now, or this is the coach talking. So that was like the first thing just to make sure that, you know, I knew that my father was still there for me, regardless of what the coach was saying. And from the standpoint of making sure that I knew is in my head, and not his was, there were many times where he tried to take me out of tennis. You know, he would play the game of, oh, you don't need to be playing tennis today, or let's go here today, let's do something else, I'd be like, no, no, like, let's play tennis. Like let's do this. And I was like, Oh, we don't have to wake up at 5am because that's what we were doing a lot, a lot of, you know, 5-6 AM's before schools. You know, that was only, you know, some of the before school programs that we had, and he's like, maybe we shouldn't do it today, you're tired, whatever the case may be, you get cranky in the morning. We don't need this. I was like, no, I really want to do it. Let's do this. So it was just getting that push from myself, I think, you know, playing that long game with me almost. And I think that got me to a place where I was the one saying, dad, let's get out of bed now. You're the one who's cranky. Let's go to the park, hit some balls. Come on, let's go. So I think that put that fun edge to it. And I always knew that I had an out. You know, my father, my mom, they always brought me aside, because even at that point, I had tough losses. I had, you know, I was playing for, you know, World Championship, so it hurt. There were definitely moments where I was hurting. And you know, my friends couldn't relate to that, they weren't doing anything at that level. And they always said, Noah, you stop tennis tomorrow, we'll still love you. You'll do something else. You can do a million different things. If you stop tennis, we'll be fine. Don't worry about the money or the effort we put in. So to make sure that I understood that as well that no matter what, I knew that there was a win regardless, that you know, all this effort wasn't for nothing, even if I stopped tomorrow. It made me feel safe. It made me feel like I had a team behind me that was really looking out for my best interest.
L: Well, that's outstanding, because that fits a lot of the parent research that we've done in interviews with parents that have had good experience with their children, especially parents who are coaching their child. So kudos to your family, to your dad. Next time I see him I'll let them know that.
N: Yeah, I got lucky.
L: Yeah, see, they did well, but... So, you know, if you look at this whole thing, as you move forward through that journey, you know, I remember seeing you as a junior and certainly was on courtside several times when you played and what you talked about the way you competed, it was a reality and is the reality. Where did that come from? From the first time that I met you and just watched you play, man, that guy competes. He gets after it. He's there every point, he's fighting, he's positive. Talk a little bit about the environment your parents created in staying positive, not throwing a racket. I'm sure that played a big role. How were you able to create that kind of competitiveness in yourself?
N: Yeah, I mean, you know, and I try not to give myself too much credit, but you know, this is coming from, you know, what my father and my coach at the time and actually somebody who's still helping me now, Lawrence Clager, in New York. My father brought me to him when I was seven years old when my father couldn't believe he, you know, had the knowledge to do it on his own. But they told me when I was younger, that my self belief was unlike anything else they've seen, That at eight years old that they put me on the court with Agassi at the time or a Blake at the time that I truly deep down believed I could beat them, even at eight years old, for whatever reason, and it's a false reality, but that self belief gave me this idea that at any point in time throughout a match that regardless of the conditions that day, I was going to win that match. Or I was going to make it an absolute nightmare for my opponent. And obviously, I didn't think too deep into it at that time. It was just something I did. But obviously, we've talked about it before as as my career continued, it's something that has really allowed me to play my best tennis at times. But, you know, the environment was interesting, one that I truly haven't seen today. I mean, when I was training with Lawrence and my father, we're talking about if my racket touched the ground, dragged on the ground, if I shot a ball, if I I hit a ball against a curtain, if I put my head down for a second, you know, we would play up and down games on six courts where you tried to get to the top court and the bottom and it was super competitive. And here I am the youngest by far competing with 15, 16, 17-year-old kids at 8, 9, 10 years old. And I lose a couple points I'm upset. I would get the finger, just this come over here, either from my father or from Lawrence because they see me put my head down, touch the racket to the floor and they're like, go to court six right now. Send me right down to the bottom court. And then at times, if it got bad, I think I threw my racket, I can remember once or twice, they would kick me out for the night. Done. Practice over. Goodbye. Here I am at eight years old. I just learned how to speak English a few years ago, I don't even know what's happening. They're telling me that I can't be doing this, while other kids in the same [inaudible], older than me were doing, you know, obviously there were you know rules throughout that you couldn't throw a racket and stuff like that, but hitting the racket on the floor, kids could get away with, and I was like, why are they getting away with it and not me? And my father and Lawrence would always say, you're something, you're different, you're on a different league, I'm going to hold you to a higher standard, even though, you know, you're five years apart from these players. And I don't know why they thought that I was going to understand that, but it took some time and I did, and I understood that I was playing for something else I was I had a different path, I had a different view. And, you know, that really took me to a place where, you know, that allowed me to excel from such a young age because I became a person I matured through that process and, you know, to be honest, through traveling around the country and worlds, that allowed me to stand out against kids that you know, threw temper tantrums as young, you know, teenagers and stuff like that. So that really set me up, you know, for my Professional career.
J: That's awesome. There's some fantastic insights there and it obviously helped you grow to be the person you are today and it's great to have role models that are able to show you the way. Again, like as a kid you don't always understand why you do certain things, you just get told this is what you're going to do and you know, it was good that they held you to that and you know, I can kind of relate a little bit. In my background, my dad is very similar as well and he's a tennis coach. So he was, you know, but he always held us to a pretty high standard, my brother and myself, so it's great to hear that you know, that's being done out there. But I want to fast forward a little bit here to the pro life. So as mentioned in the intro, you've obviously you know, you've played at the Grand Slams, I think you got a career high of just outside top 100 and navigating that journey, what is the life of a pro like? You know, we've had again, we've mentioned we've had other pros on and they give their experiences but what we've learned is every pro's experience about what being a pro is like is quite different. And so we'd love to get your take on what life was a pro is like?
N: Yeah, I'll try to put all of Larry and I's conversations into a little excerpt here, but yeah, you know, I had some pretty, fairly quick success right off the, right off of college. You know, like I went from a couple points away from winning a national title, which still holds a tough place in my heart to saying I would never give up a finals again, to being in the futures finals the next week and being up 6-2 5-2 serving and losing that match. But again, I had you know, quick success, I had a few futures semis and finals, then qualified and won the challenger in Virginia. And that allowed me to get the wild card into the Australian Open and then I beat Benoit Paire for my first Grand Slam win. So it happened very quickly and I reached, God, I think at that point was around 200 ish, probably top 200 at that point. So it happened fairly quickly. I was moving up swiftly 100 spots a month almost at that point, which is pretty remarkable. So everything's going smoothly, we're good, everything's fine. And then, as some people may know, caught with some injuries here and there. The first one was midway through the 2016 season. Towards the end, I was out for about four months with a you know, twist of the ankle. And that was one of the three injuries that I've had in my career so far. And it's been a journey. You know, that was really the first time I've dealt with injuries, dealt with having to come back. And in the professional world, you're now worried about money. You're now worried about sponsors. You know, you're worried about making sure your ranking upholds because as a junior, if you're at the top, even if you're injured for a few months, you can kind of get back inside the top 25 pretty quickly if you are already there. In the pros, you go from, let's say, 150, back to 300, and you're making your way up again. You're playing different tournaments, you're not getting, you know, the opportunities that you once were. So it was a real struggle. I had some real mental battles throughout my career, I had some times of questioning tennis, I had times where I was questioning my ability, and all new things that I haven't really dealt with in my very smooth Junior career of winning many matches. And I think a lot of people get to see this, I'm sorry, don't get to see this that, you know, for the most part, people that are playing professional tennis have had some success along the way. There are very few that come out of nowhere, you know, the ones that haven't won many Junior titles, didn't have the opportunity to play Slams and men just make it as a professional tennis player, either women or men. So for the most part, we're the best in our age and now we're competing with the other people that are the best in their age. And seeing that firsthand and seeing the trials and tribulations you know, that quote, we always say, of what really it takes to battle day in day out being a professional tennis player, you know, holding yourself to that standard, through travel, through losses, through financial burdens, through mental and physical exhaustion. You know, you come up against barriers that you never thought were, you know, were something you have to face and, you know, it's sad, and it's probably something we have to do a better job at. You know, there wasn't an outreach program. I didn't know what professional tour was going to be like for me. I wish there were players coming up saying, Hey, guys, I know it looks fun, and if this is what you really love to do do it, but this is, you know what it's really like, this is what it's like to, you know, go through the tour, to go through the levels and have times where you are questioning if tennis is right for you.
J: Yeah, and that it sounds lots of ups and downs there, Noah, and I think I mean, I think a lot of our listeners, whether they're players, coaches, parents, I think whether you're in tennis, not in tennis, whatever, I think you can relate that there's going to be ups and downs, but that sort of performance level, as you mentioned, I mean, sounds like that [inaudible] , you go from 150 to 300. I mean, you're talking about very fine margins at the top. So to get back out there is is gonna, you've got to be prepared and certainly it sounds like you have to be very resilient in being able to deal with bouncing back from what may feel like, you know, might feel like an emotional mental losses or whatever. So you know, I think you've been very, I think you are quite vocal and it's great to raise up some of the issues around our sport. But one thing I like about when I read things that you've been interviewed on, and you've got a medium now in which you are being able to highlight a lot of things, and we'll get to that here shortly with your Behind the Racket movement initiative, but I wanted for you to maybe give us insights on what you feel some of the issues are within our sport, but then also the solutions because as mentioned, I think every time I read something that you've been interviewed on, you always come up with some really great creative ideas around solutions behind those issues. And so I'd love for you to maybe give us some insights there.
N: Yeah, no 100% I mean, you know, I always have to preface this with you know, this is not sour that I haven't made a top hundred, I mean, I'm going to work very hard and I still believe in myself that I can be 50 in the world even in the system we're in today. But I've learned a lot about tennis, I've learned a lot about myself through being on tour for these past few years. And I think the difficulty you know, I use this line I've said this, that the system of tennis is not conducive to happiness right now and I absolutely love the sport of tennis. I've dedicated my life to it. There is, I mean, you know, being at home during these times, the only thing I want to do right now, because I just got brand new rackets also, is to hit a tennis ball. I just want to hit a tennis ball right now. I'm looking at the, I'm literally right now looking at these brand new sticks and I'm like, I just want to get out there and hit a tennis ball. But every time I, you know, think about getting back on tour, it comes with this bad taste in my mouth. It really does, even though, right before, you know, this pandemic outbreak, I was in probably the best place I've been in tennis-wise and mental wise, but even with that, I still have this bad taste in my mouth. And that's because you know what I've seen on tour. You know, I've seen, you know, a place where all the problems with tennis come together and it just becomes a snowball effect. you have, you know, now we're dealing with financial issues as tennis players where it's one of the toughest sports to make a living in. And the reason that is, is because it's I believe tennis is one of the hardest sports to promote. It is one of the least fan friendly sports right now in the world out of the top international sports. So you're saying that tennis as a whole is not making enough money, then you can't really spread that wealth amongst a lot of the players. That's why there's only let's say, 75 players that are making a solid living while playing the sport. So you talk About the financial problems now you're talking about that most players can't afford to have a team behind them, whether that's a coach, whether that's a physio. So now a lot of people are traveling on your own. Now, as a professional, you're not only traveling on your own, you're dealing with many more losses than you normally dealt with as a junior or as a collegiate player, you're dealing with them as one person, nobody else is helping you. Now with dealing with all these emotions on your own, then some real issues come into play that I've personally dealt with, and I know a lot of other players have dealt with and then now we're getting into anxiety now we're getting into loneliness and depression. And you know, you get into this world where it is now you're worried about, okay, I have to get up the rankings quickly to get you know, my money that I need to pay for my family or myself and losing more matches. Now I'm alone at, you know, this hotel by myself and there are so many ways that tennis could improve this, but right now we're at a point where it is is such a competitive sport where, you know, I'll go into the locker room so many times and, you know, the faces of these players, the morale is so low. They're, you know, I don't want to throw the word around of depressed, but there's true unhappiness. And in a sport where we have dedicated so much time to in a sport that we love so much, how can the players within it be so unhappy throughout a year? And I think that's where a lot of my ideas were Behind the Racket, where all of this has come together where I'm like, wow, I talked to these players and they still love love the sport of tennis. So it must be we're a broken system. And the fact that I've spoken to a lot of people in the world of tennis, you know, whether it's ATP, whether it's people in charge, WTA, and there's no true urgency to change the foundation of it. It scares me because now I'm looking at it from a mental health standpoint. I'm looking at it from a standpoint of a lover of tennis and seeing, okay, now you're going to have players that are dealing with bigger issues than tennis, and now we're in a sport that is only going down right now that I think we've reached the limit within our system that we've built. And, you know, we grew the sport of tennis pretty well, where people are getting more money than ever before. And more fans are watching it than ever before. But I think we're going now on a downward trajectory, where the players and the fans are in a worse place than ever, and that will leave tennis in a really, really sad place. And it worries me, it worries me for everybody, it worries me for the players that were dealing with this and we have no help, whether that's financially, whether that's, you know, doctors, whether that's just people saying we're here for you and we're trying to fix the issues that you are dealing with. But it's also as a sport as a whole. I mean, I've dedicated my life to it, and to see, you know, people not wanting to change and having a lot of antiquated ideas still stuck in their head not looking at the bigger picture and trying to push this sport forward. I think we're still in the 60s while other sports are, you know, flying by us. And, you know, we don't really have this ability to just coast like some of the other sports do because we already deal with so many battles, as tennis is a tough sport to promote as is, but I think there are better ways to deal with it. But you know, right now, I've just seen such a snowball effect of one thing leading to another and it's just continuous. So it's been a journey, but through that I've learned a lot about myself, about players, about the sport, and I've done my best right now to try to, you know, aid it in any way shape or form.
L: Well, that's about as good of a summary that I've heard.
N: Thank you.
L: Some very strong feelings there and certainly, you know, there is, you know, tennis in and of itself has been developed to be alone. You play out there on the court by yourself and, unless you're playing doubles, and then there's almost an acceptance that that's okay in this sport, where in other sports there are teams that are around the players. But because the sport is individual based and players are their own, you know, self employed companies and it really does sort of push it down that spectrum of, that continuum of being alone a lot on the road. What are some of the ways, Noah, that players deal with this in positive ways?
N: Yeah, I mean, you know, the reason I've done this is because I've seen a lot of negative ways players have dealt with it. I think that's been an issue. I mean, you talk about alcohol abuse, you talk about all these other, you know, talking about just staying up all night and, you know, ways to get out of your own head, because there are so many negative thoughts and you can't escape it. And that's been, you know, so sad for me to watch firsthand, and you know, I can only do so much and so many players are only gonna listen to me firsthand until you create a movement like I've created. But, you know, I think we're in a day and age where mental health is being spoken about a little more publicly than ever before and you do have people dealing with it, you know, with technology. I mean, you have guys like a Tsitsipas, who are doing the video logs. You know, I think it's trying to find a way to use your spare time. You know, everybody thinks that professional athletes, you know, tennis, let's say specifically, you're playing 18 hours a day or, you know, the 13-14 hours you're awake, you're playing tennis and you're working out, I'm like, even during my toughest sessions, which is probably preseason, I'm putting in, let's say max eight hours. And that's like a brutal, brutal day. I mean, I'm usually doing, let's say, six, seven hours. So there's a lot of downtime, and if that downtime is used to say, oh my god, what's happening in my life? What am I doing with my career? Am I really in the right state of mind to be continuing playing tennis? It's a really tough go and you're gonna have a really long 35 weeks on tour. But I think that's what a lot of players are finding that they're trying to use their downtime for something better, whether it's just, you know, streaming video games, or you know, rapping which I just saw a few guys rapping, I think it's just a matter of using your downtime and utilizing it and then learning a new language or learning to play piano or in my case, you know, behind the racket and everything I'm doing. I think the downtime can be a problem. Obviously, what I'm doing has actually helped me therapeutically, it's been a really great learning tool for me. But I think just utilizing some of that downtime to not be inside your own head and to actually enjoy the process of being alone at times and learning how to deal with that, because in the system we're in right now, you know, downtime and loneliness is inevitable and you just have to find ways to deal with it right now.
L: Then so, you know, Noah as you talk about the behind the racket, that sounds like that's become your mission, your movement that allows you to deal with the downtime. Is that how this started? What's the origin of Behind the Racket and what is it?
N: Yeah, I think the first one was I wanted to utilize my downtime, you know, I wanted to get a refresher on my Spanish, which I did not have the patience for. I don't know what happened. I just couldn't do it. I would sit down, it was like Duolingo on my phone, or I just couldn't do it. You know, piano was, you know, a start, but it was tough on the road. I, you know, had a roll up piano, you know, again, wasn't something that I was driven towards each and every day to do. I tried the video logging because, you know, photography is a huge passion of mine and I was super annoyed carrying a camera with me everywhere I went. So, you know, I think that was really one of the first driving forces to Behind the Racket. But I always knew that I wanted to change tennis in one way or another to help grow the sport, you know, grow the popularity and the interest level, while also helping the players within it and I think that's where Behind the Racket came. And, you know, one of the last driving factors was, you know, one of my close friends, you know, he kind of came up to me and he's like, because he is in the world of tennis because of me now, but never played. And he was so sick of hearing the interviews within the world of tennis, whether it was you know, post match, pre match, he's like, I don't care about your forehand. Why would I care about your forehand? I barely know what a forehand is. I want to know who you are as a person, I want to know what it took for you to get there. I want to know why you are that person, I want to know what you're doing on your downtime, something. Something that makes me want to get to know you, want to make me watch you play tennis more often. And obviously, I was a big fan of humans of New York, which is a social media initiative done by you know, a fellow New Yorker who goes around and just ask them who they are as people and, and their journey and that sparked interest in me to do something along the same lines, but in the athletic world, because I wanted to shed light on the issues in tennis, you know, the issues as athletes and to relate the player to the fan, because I think we lose that interpersonal relationship. But I think we can get that back in the technological world we're in right now. And I don't think we utilized it. So you know, I think in the sport like tennis that you have to know the individual. I think tennis has done an absolutely horrific job of marketing the individual and getting to know them. I think it's been on a very superficial level. But I think this is the perfect day and age for people to reach out and get to know people on a much deeper level to really relate. And, you know, I didn't know what it was going to be like, I know we have an idea, you put it on paper and then you're like, Damn, I don't know if this is actually gonna work. Luckily, I had a lot of close friends to me, that trusted me trust the process and just went out on a limb. And you know, like an Ernesto Escobedo, who was my first story, and he was open enough to answer my questions about his stutter. And I was amazed about his openness. And that, you know, really struck a chord and I was like, wow, maybe I can really get, you know, if I get him, then I'll get my next friend that was kind of on the edge. And then once I get him, I get the guy that I wasn't really friends with and we can do an interview, and it's a domino effect and now you're the minority if you're not doing Behind the racket story. That's kind of where we're at now, which has been a really nice, you know, tool for me and, you know, obviously this time people are sadly home on their couches on doing a lot of interviews, but it's been an incredible journey. I mean, learning so much about, you know, friends, I mean, the fact that I didn't know a lot of these, you know, moments in their lives and I'm very close friends with them. I'm like, then I'm pretty sure that a lot of people don't, you know, don't know this as well. So, you know, having these moments where people are crying with me and then thanking me and coming up to me, it's more then Noah Rubin, it's more than tennis, it's now a community, it's a movement and I'm trying to grow it to the best of my ability.
J: I mean, Noah, it's great what you've done. I think we're all big fans of what you're doing with Behind the Racket. I mean, what you've done is essentially really created thisoutlet for other players, people to relay out and discuss their thoughts or maybe some insecurities or struggles, you know, which opens, which gets the fans to see them as people, right, not just the player they see on the TV. And that's a fantastic medium you've provided there. Did you have any struggles with getting people to want to participate? Because obviously things that are intimate to us as human beings, we tend to want to innately not want to share our most intimate insecurities, I guess.
N: No. 100%. I mean, you know, I'm asking really, really tough questions to a lot of people. I'm asking about race, I'm asking about religion, I'm asking about family members passing. You know, I have tears in my eyes, they have tears in their eyes. Sadly, I don't always get to do these interviews in person, some have to be over the phone just because of how internationally based our sport is. But regardless, you can hear people getting choked up, I'm getting choked up. I mean, these are tough, tough stories. You know, I think why I've been successful of grabbing some of these stories out of the players is a few things. One, I'm a player like them. They know that I don't have an ulterior motive here. I have their best interest in mind. They trust me, I'm not the media flashing my badge, because as media and I've done this, which I'm trying to do a better job at, is you have your answers in your head. The media asks somewhat of the same answers over and over. So they ask you a question. I'm like, boom, in my head, I have my answer. It's PC. The fans like it, shut everybody up and we move on. But I think you know, I try to grab this side of them and because I'm a player, they kind of shut down, they bring that wall down. They say, okay, let's just have this conversation. I act like more of a conversation than an interview. You know, I also give them final say in everything that gets sent out. The reason I haven't done video interviews yet, is that's a very difficult thing is to chop and past videos, but I finished my interviews with them, type it up, finish it up, and then I send it back to them. So they know they have final say ind everything that goes out into the world. So it's another safety net for these people to say, hey, I don't like what's said right here. Can you take this out? I mean, I've had interviews that I didn't, I couldn't post all together. They're like, I don't want to do this right now. Let's hold this off to another date, or I just don't want to do this right now. I'm sorry. And obviously that hurts me. But this is their world. I can't exploit that. I can't use that for my own gain. If they tell me that I want that, I have to you know, I have to obviously honor that. So I think I try to make it as safe of an environment as possible, while at the same time using it as a therapy session for both of us. You know, I feel like we're, you know, I do my best to open up about my own struggles throughout the conversations. I also tell them that, you know, it's a journey and at the end of this we can just, you know, put this conversation in the garbage but for right now, let's see what we can get out of you and I talking for, you know, sometimes 10-15 minutes, I've had other ones that have gone an hour, hour and 10 minutes. So it really depends, but it's been such a journey and to think of where it started and the lives I've affected, I didn't ever think it would be something like that when it was just in my head some dumb idea I had in my bed at three o'clock in the morning, because I was jet lagged from Australia.
L: Well, that's when some of the best ideas happened. Obviously Noah. Clearly when we're tired and beat up, but no, I just love what you're doing and, you know, being in the world that I'm in as a mental performance coach and supporting the players. What can the mental health community, what can you know, sports psychology do better? Obviously, this is a bit of a selfish question because of the world that I'm in and trying to help the players express these things and get the support they need. Because I think there are people out there who want to help and professionals who want to help the players. Obviously part of the issue is the money. But what can what can we do to better serve the players?
N: Yeah, I think, you know, there's a few things, one I'll preface this with, you know, one of the reasons, you know, I always said that as tennis players, even we're competitors, we have to be in there for each other, because your parents can be there, your doctors, your ATP whatever coaches can be there for you. But in the end, the only people that truly know what you're going through at this moment, are your competitors. And I think that's been a huge problem is that people try to relate to you, while the only people that can are your competitors at that moment, so I think that's why a lot of people feel so lost. But to your point, I think understanding our generation, obviously accesses is the first thing right now. WETA and ACP don't have the access, we need to get that, you know, professional help that we're looking for. And also understanding the generation you know, we're at a point in time, where we don't necessarily feel comfortable going into some place, we're also doing a million things, so we don't want to make an appointment. We don't want to, you know, have people see us going into a building. We don't want to necessarily go into a physical place at all. You know, what we're doing right now is, you know, we have this technology to put, you know, 4, 5, 50 people in the same place, I think we have to utilize that. So especially for people that travel, and which are, you know, there's a group that I'm trying to work with to try to get this out into the world. But we want to be able to text maybe FaceTime with our doctor, every once in a while when we're having those struggles. And I'm in Spain, I want to talk to my doctor in New York, and I can just be in my bed, I don't have to worry, I'm lying down, and I feel safe and comfortable. And I think it's about making it as comfortable as an environment as possible to enforce this idea to let go. Because I think while you're, you know, forcing this player to open up in any way, shape or form, if you're forcing this player to get out of bed, then you're just taking away a percentage that they're going to be relaxed and I think that's the issues we deal with nowadays is that you really have to conform to the player, not the other way around really see some true results. And I'm doing my best to get some companies that have seen this idea that I guess is like the millennial based therapy groups that are really taking the world by storm. I mean, you have things like talk space, and I know there are other ones coming out that allow you to talk to a doctor just on your phone. And I think that's going to be the first step in helping somebody break through because, you know, maybe some people that's all they need, maybe they need a text and one FaceTime call, maybe other people need to sit down with somebody in person. But this is the first step in that. You know, if you want to get somebody sit down after that, that's fine. But I think it's really conforming to what the tennis player's specific needs are and not forcing any aspect of the meeting with a therapy group.
L: Very good. No, that's very helpful and mental health professionals will definitely appreciate that feedback because I think that there are some barriers there as well whether it's, you know, your licensure as a therapist or as a counselor, a clinician holds you state bound. So, if you're in New York, you only practice in New York unless you get licensed in another state. And that's something that creates issues for international events and players traveling internationally. So there's definitely some hurdles in this whole thing in terms of what you're talking about, so I really appreciate you just sharing that and a lot of great insights here, Noah. So what do you think JP?
J: I think it's absolutely brilliant. I mean, I've read quite, I mean, not read, probably not read every single post that you've done on Behind the Racket, but I've read a lot and there were some that really, I mean I I'm not gonna name names on the top of my head, I'm not gonna name names off what I've read, but some of them do, they really do bring tears to your eyes and open your eyes up to what some of these people are going through. And I think as you mentioned as we watch tennis on TV and just look at tennis players and people will, you know, he played great, they played terrible, he should be doing this.. You know people, fans as well, you know, every fan becomes a coach at some point right? So you know, and that's how I think people, obviously fans look at tennis sometimes. So, well a lot of the time, so this movement, I think the latest one was on Medvedev and getting him to open up on some of the things he's gone through was pretty awesome to see, because you're getting, you know, you're getting all types of players and now you're getting celebrities that love the game of sport that are fans as well that are sharing stories as well. And it's just a fantastic medium in order to be able to get these things off your chest that may, I would imagine for a lot of people may feel like a big weight has been lifted off their shoulders by being able to share this with not only their fan base, but to share this with the world and not be afraid to share it, not be afraid to put themselves out there and to show themselves as a person, because that's who we all are. We're all people. I mean, tennis players and playing tennis is what we do, or supporting tennis players is like for what Larry and I do, that's, you know, that's what we do, and obviously, that's heavily what you're into now, Noah. So we supporting people at the end of the day, and tennis is our platform. So I think it's brilliant what you're doing and can't commend you enough for how you're trying to spend your off time and obviously you've got a lot of time on your hands now. we all do with what's going on.
L: Let me jump in there, JP. I mean, I think again, you know, what you're doing no is you're humanizing. And I think it's easy for professional athletes to get objectified that they're an object, especially when you talk about gambling, and we don't necessarily get into that, but they get objectified as kind of pawns in this big game versus just the human being that you're talking about. And they have feelings, and they have experiences and, you know, they're reacting off of everything that happens to them. And this is what you're humanizing the athletes, they're getting their stories out. It's amazing. I think real change can come from it, you know, which I think is what you're talking about, which is outstanding. Obviously, there are a number of barriers, as you mentioned before that will have to be worked through, but this humanization of the athlete. Now, the public sees you more in reality, so hopefully, maybe they have a little bit more empathy towards professional athletes and maybe when they go and watch you play, like I listened to that guy and I feel for him and I know he's grinding, and so I'm gonna I'm gonna support him.
N: No, I think it's just starting the conversation. I mean, believe me, I've interviewed people, I'm not even a fan of personally. So but I've gotten to know them better and you know, known their journey and, you know, maybe why it's been some tough times for them. So I'm just as bad as some of the fans are. But it's, you know, my motto on Behind the Racket is everyone has a story. So, you know, there is still that New York cynic in me that's, you know, bulldozing through and then making quick judgment calls and doing what I can, which has helped me in my career a lot of times to get things done, but at the same time, it's, sometimes I'm quick to judge people. So it's given me an opportunity to really get to know some of these guys that I've known forever, but haven't really known known, quote, unquote, so hopefully, that's working for the fans as well. It's let's just start this conversation and then see where it goes.
L: You think that doing this is, it sounds like it's brought you closer to some players, do you think it's helping to break down some barriers between players socially? Where, you know, they tend to, we talked about being alone, and being alone might be the biggest factor in depression and anxiety, is this making a dent and getting players to actually socialize more? You see a change there, Noah?
N: I think 100%. I think just the sole fact that this is a conversation even if somebody says Behind the Racket, that just means they've read a couple of my stories, which means they're thinking about it. So even if, you know, I know conversation that this started, but let's just say conversations haven't. If they're just thinking about it and reading the stories, it just means that they're conscious and aware of some of the newer issues that are going on and aware of their own issues. So that just takes the first step in my opinion out of the equation now. But at the same time, I know, I see players opening up, I see players talking to each other about the situations and saying sorry, and supporting each other on social media and wherever the case may be. I mean, yeah, trophies are all good and well, but I think the trophy means much more when you put the Behind the Racket story next to it, and you're like, Wow, she went through this and now was holding the trophy. That trophy means way more than anything we could have imagined. And I think that's where we have to be and you know, and now you're looking at losses, and you're like, wow, she lost because 3 seconds ago, she was on the phone with her mom who is in the hospital. Yeah, yeah, she's having a tough time right now. We can excuse that loss because her mom just had a heart attack. So you deal with these kind of things, and yes, you say humanize, and that's what I'm doing, and, you know, I'm just hoping that ATP and WTA can see this, can see the stressors within tennis and can see how, you know we have to combat them.
L: Those are great points. And I think there's the stressors that are inherent to the sport, and those are the ones we want to embrace, and then there's the stressors that are unnecessary, or at least are over the top. We talked about financial or not having support. So great points. JP, you wanted to jump in there.
J: Yeah, I was just gonna ask with regards to the leadership in in our sport, are they taking notice of the Behind the Racket, and have they engaged in discussions with you about it being a great initiative piece, marketing piece that is able to do what you're trying to create awareness to, which is, you know, having fans connect with these people, I mean, what has been their response?
N: You're doing great, Noah, keep it up, but... This is what we always get. And then, you know, I understand to a certain extent, but this is the issues I see in a lot of cases. I get it ATP, WTA are working hard, and they've supported me at times, posted me on social media, but there's always a line. And you know, and I'm working on actually a documentary and also a docu series. But the first one was supposed to be with Tennis Channel and ATP, but I got a no on it after about two months of talks. And that's because, which I, you know, was thinking about towards the end of it, was because a lot of the issues within Behind the Racket are some of the problems people are dealing with. And it's because of the ATP, it's because of the system of tennis. So they don't want to be the ones highlighting their own problems. And that just shows that they're not ready to own up to a lot of the issues within the sport yet. And that's been a lot of the reason why, you know, people ask me why you're not on the players Council, why you're not doing this, and I'm doing it my own way right now, and I you know, I'm already talking to people within the Players Council, but I've spoken to, obviously, ATP more than WTA, but a lot of people at the top of the sport, and again, they don't see the urgency within the problems of our sport, within the problems of the players, and all they're trying to do is cover their own ass right now. And it's been a really long, tough journey to get to that realization. And I understand the position and the tough position they're at, but at the same time it would show that they're at least thinking about some of the changes that could be possible, that would make it a better sport for everybody involved. So to answer your question, yes, they appreciate what I'm doing, but at the same point, I think there are definitely times where they wish I wasn't doing it, which shows me that we are further behind than I could have ever imagined. Because if we're trying to save the image, that to be honest, is not really doing any good for us right now, then tennis is going to die out quicker than I even imagined, so I'm hoping that we can get past our own egos that are, you know, a front for everything right now. and we can take care of the players, and we can take care and actually grow the sport. Because especially right now in this unprecedented time, it's incredible how easily some of these issues are highlighted nowadays in the, you know, in these times off. So, you know, if, like I said, and I've spoken to about a billion people in the past week, you know, World Team Tennis ATP players, and I'm saying and I'm telling them upfront, I'm like, I have a fear that we're going to get to, you know, we're not playing tennis in July. So let's say six months, or 2021, we're going to get back and we're going to say all this time was wasted and we're back at the same point that we were at. This is when, you know, you've seen in history books, this is when you see that, you know, oh, wow, we really stepped up during this time as humans, as an organization, and we took this time to rebuild, we took this time to be better. But I'm concerned after having a lot of talks with some of these people that we're reacting instead of being proactive, and we're not going to change and at that point in time, I'm looking for ways to create alternate paths for players. I'm looking for competitive paths where we have a larger world team tennis or UTR has salary based tennis and, you know, because I think happiness is more important than prestige right now for a lot of tennis players. So I hope I'm wrong. But that's the direction I see us in right now.
J: It's very, it's very interesting. It's very interesting that, Noah, and obviously you're, you know, you're a creative person and you you're a problem solver, so is the documentaries, the docu series, is that sort of your response to trying to then go the next step? So what do you what do you foresee, and I guess this is going to be a double layered question, what are your next steps with Behind the Racket to keep promoting your idea behind it? And then also, I mean, what's the next steps for Noah Rubin as a person and the player?
N: Yeah, I mean, you know, I love marketing. I like the idea of marketing. So the first thing that I saw that tennis did poorly was cross-pollination, was not getting into enough fields, which I don't want to make that mistake with Behind the Racket. So I'm trying to have the clothing line, I'm trying to have the docu series, I'm trying to have whatever small pieces in different fields, so it can be a real community so you can really get behind Behind the Racket to the best of your ability. You can wear the cool clothing, because I think the problems within tennis are on so many levels. I think just looking at you know, the clothing people are wearing on court, I'm embarrassed for some of these guys. I mean, it's unbelievable. So, you know, I'm into fashion, I'm a New Yorker, so I'm looking at this and I'm like, we have to just ground up I want to do to the best of my ability, as much as I can, have the podcast, have the documentary, get into so many different worlds, and then just be too large of a community for ATP to say no to. Too large of community for all these other people to say no to. And I think that's where real change happens. So I luckily have a great team behind me that are helping me every step of the way because my tennis is still at the forefront of my mind. And the day to day operations are exhausting at times. You know, I was doing 10-15 phone calls a day at times, but now having a team, I'm really seeing movement forward. So I'm excited about everything, but it's really about getting into every field possible, making a community, making us you know, a global leader in mental health and the world of sports.
J: That's great. That's absolutely fantastic, Noah. Doc, have you got any sort of finishing questions here? I know we're running short on time, so really appreciate you taking the time out your schedule to join us here, but Larry, I hand it over to you for any final questions.
L: No, I don't think I have any final questions. Noah, you've done a great job of just sort of explaining how you've gotten to this point and how it's all come together. I just appreciate you sharing and being so open, and certainly we want to use Compete Like a Champion podcast to explore high performance and certainly the best practices, cutting edge, and I look at this as sort of almost cutting edge on the mental health side in professional sport. So I'd really be interested to see where things go and how things evolve. So I think it's so important, but yeah, it's just great to see how you're using your your platform and actually creating a greater platform. So well done, man. Yeah, just keep up the good work. So...
N: Thank you so much.
L: JP, any thoughts?
J: Noah, I can't echo that more. I think you're absolutely spot on there, Noah, I mean, you know, I can't thank you enough for what you're doing for obviously your fellow players but just as a, obviously, anyone who listens to a tennis podcast is going to love the sport, right? And so just as a fellow, just someone who fell in love with tennis at an early age, I can't thank you enough for what you're doing to try and better our sport. So keep keep doing what you're doing and we could try and help you any way that we can. And obviously there's, you know, we'll be able to promote Behind the Racket on here you've got the Instagram so be sure to follow Noah's Behind the Racket on Instagram. He's got the podcast Behind the Racket, and as he mentioned, he promotes some of the clothing line on there that you can keep help support this podcast and the Instagram account and obviously, you know, stay in touch. But, Noah I mean, again, just thank you so much for taking this time. It's been fantastic and just learned so much just listening to you there. Really passionate.
N: Thank you for having me and is super easy, has everything there, so you don't have to go between platforms, between clothing line, podcasts, all the stuff you need it's there, but no thank you guys so much for having me.
J: Perfect. And we'll put all those links into the show notes for the listeners to be able to tune in and, but Dr. Lauer, that's been a been a fantastic episode. Noah, again, last thank you really appreciate it. And as we wrap up here, again, be sure to check out the show notes where you can gain access to all those links and for more information on anything we do here at USTA Player Development, more resources on mental skills. We're gonna put out some more at home resources for you during this tough time for everyone and I hope you're staying safe out there. Until next time, Doc, we're checking out