Habits for Tennis Success: Develop a clear vision

November 14, 2016 01:55 PM

By Dr. Larry Lauer, special to USTA.com

The best tennis players separate themselves from the rest not solely because of talent, but because they have excellent habits that lead to their success. It seems that world-class tennis players have a number of habits that they do in their own individual ways, but are similar to the 10 Habits for Tennis Success. 

The second habit in this series is to develop a clear vision of the self and of a player’s tennis.

Habit 2: Develop a Clear Vision of Self and Game 

This is essential to the player developing in a direction that is best for him or her, and occurs with daily communication with the coach and the performance team. 

The player’s vision of the self, who he or she is becoming, should be focused on strengths and a strong awareness of who the player really is. A strengths-based approach creates the most confidence and trust, and it helps the athlete be resilient under adverse conditions. 

At the same time, an emphasis must be placed on developing areas that need enhancement. Knowing the self must be compared against the characteristics and habits of athletes who have attained excellence.

It’s much the same with the vision of the game. The vision of the game can be developed fully once the player understands his or her personality and how it influences his or her game style. Then, the player and coach must define what the game will be in the future (in six months or six years!). 

The vision must be clear and agreed upon because it affects how the player sees himself/herself, what he or she thinks should be priorities in development, and how he or she should practice and play. Confusion about the vision creates a lack of player trust in the coach and seeps in to the player’s confidence in the vision. This must be managed wisely and immediately.

Coach Action 

Have players reflect on the self. What are his or her strengths and areas to improve? Players can interview important people in their lives to understand these things better. Doing this helps them understand how others see them and enhances awareness of any blind spots – situations and things about the self that they perceive inaccurately. 

SWOT analyses are very helpful in these personal reflections (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). SWOT can incorporated as a way of stimulating “big picture” thinking and long term goals.

For clear vision of game, have players reflect on best matches and what they were thinking, doing and feeling. Comparing these against bad performances helps to make them aware of the differences in preparation and competition.

Work through the details to get to the core tactics, thoughts, feelings and behaviors that occur when players are at their best (optimal performance state, or OPS). Consider how the players’ personalities influence their game styles. Then, have players write about their games with details to the above components. 

Vision of Game should be written with “I am, I will” types of statements that create commitment to the vision. This is a great opportunity for the coach to install perspectives on the game such as “focus on the process,” “play one point at a time,” “hit out to big targets,” etc.