Dr. Larry and Coach Johnny have an enlightening discussion with National Coach and Grand Slam doubles champion Stephen Huss about the intricacies of communicating with professional tennis players. Coach Huss provides some communication strategies that all tennis coaches will want to know.


J: Welcome to the compete like a champion podcast. You're here with Dr. Larry Lauer, mental skill specialist, and coach Johnny Parkes with the USTA player development. Today we've got a very special guest here in the studio. Uh, coach Stephen Huss. Welcome.

S: Thanks Johnny. Good to be here.

S: Yeah, appreciate it. I appreciate your time. I know you're quite busy at the minute at court and juggling some things around, so appreciate your time and you know, I guess just before we kick off, it would be great if maybe you could give us a little and the listeners a bit of a background into your playing and coaching career thus far and go from there. Sure. Well, I'll try and be brief, but uh, yeah, I mean grew up playing tennis on bone in Toria Australia, grew up in Melbourne and played all the way through junior tennis in Australia and then actually came over here to the United States to college. I went to Auburn university. If I say it with my Australian accent, Auburn, not everyone gets it. And so Auburn university in Alabama, I had a blast. Playing there, improving there, developing there for four years. And then after my collegiate career I went into the pros very quickly realized that I was much better when I had a little bit of help on the court. And so I chose to pursue doubles more than singles and had a pretty good career in doubles. I a, you know, I competed in, you know, 30 odd grand slams, played for you know, 10, 11 years. Which was great. And then when I finished that, I went into college coaching. How was it Virginia tech as the men's assistant with the coach, Jim Thompson up there, had an absolute blast. Loved it, learned. I got a lot better as a coach. Good fun. You know, coaching on a team, you know, high division one college was great. And then yeah, I started with the USTA at the beginning of 2016 as a women's national coach. Started with a group of 17 year olds in the transition space. And now I'm pretty much in the pro space, you know, coaching, uh, coaching a couple of girls a lot, and then supporting as many of the Americans as I can. So yeah, that's my journey.

J: That's awesome. And you just undersell your playing career because you are a grand slam champion, which is pretty big deal. And also shows, you know, I mean, you've got to be pretty good to win a grand slam.

L: It's also your slam Johnny.

J: It's Wimbledon. I asked you to remember that and when I was like, Oh, Stephen Huss, we, I think we first met at a high performance coaching program. That's right. And I'm like, Steven Huss, I know that guy. I think I watched him play at Wimbledon in 2005. You know, I might have even statted one of your matches cause I was a statistician during the summer as a those, those few years. But I actually think what's actually really impressive here, doc, is that a, were you the first qualifier to win Wimbledon and you'd beat the, and I wrote this down, you beat the sixth, the ninth, the third, first and second seats.

L: Whoa.

S: Yeah, we had a good draw.

J: So yeah.

L: Nice work, Stephen.

J: Nailed half the top 10.

L: Your partner was on fire.

S: Thanks, doc.

L: Here for you.

J: So yeah, no that's awesome. And obviously congrats on a, on a, on a good, great career. And now we're lucky enough to have you PD and I know we're fortunate enough to be around you and now we're looking forward to this podcast here. So, so the title of this podcast, communicating with precision and I know it's something we've talked about, Stevphen and I maybe talked with Dr. Larry here about it as well and such an important part and I don't think it's something we've really addressed yet on the podcast. So we thought maybe amazing to talk through it. And I guess as we set this up, there's different environments of the communication as a short term strategy and the long term strategy. So I guess we'll just start there unless like Larry, you got any opening questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Stephen, when you talk about communicating with precision or what your philosophy as it relates to communicating with your players, where do you really hinge your communication on what's important to you?

S: Well, I mean, let me start by saying I'm still working on it. We can always improve at everything we're doing, but you know, communication's an area where I think I've gotten better and better at, I've certainly made all the mistakes now that there are to make as a coach. But I've kind of looked back and I've reflected on those things and identified some of those mistakes and rectified them. And I think that there are so many good tennis minds, brains, coaches, parents in this world and how we communicate our knowledge is obviously incredibly important. And I think that one thing to keep in mind that I always try and keep in mind is that we need to be athlete-centered. We need to think about the things we're saying and how they affect the athlete. And I certainly, you know, I got a, you know, when I was in college, I remember getting, you know, upset at one of our players because of the effort he was giving. And I was yelling and screaming. And then as I look back on that kind of like I was yelling and screaming because I was, I was upset and I wanted to get that out and it wasn't in the best interest of the player to do that in that moment. So that's an example of where I got it wrong. And if we can be athlete centered, when we communicate, we can think about what we're going to say and how we're gonna say it and how we get the message across, then we can best serve the athlete, enable them to develop the best that they can.

L: That's a great philosophy to start from, right? Because then everything you're doing is for their best interest, as you said. Right. And if you do that as a coach, usually you're going to do the right thing, I would think. If you're thinking about what their needs are and sometimes they need a little kick in the butt and other times you need to use soft gloves, but it's based on their needs, not how you feel.

S: No question. And then absolutely sometimes, you know, we call it a rocket, uh, in Australia, sometimes players need a rocket. They need something, you know, lit under them. So they, you know, and, but as long as you're doing it intentionally, then that's the best way to go about it. Sometimes you know that what the player needs is a, is a stern talking to or a quick yell or whatever it may be. So as long as you're doing it intentionally and not just trying to reduce the, the frustration that you have yourself.

J: I love that, next time I deal with a player, I'm like it's time to got the rocket going.

L: Give them the rocket Stephen. All right. Yeah, that's a good one. So a lot of times though, Stephen, people don't think about communication as it relates to tennis. They don't even talk about the importance of communication. Why do you think communication is essential in tennis?

S: Well, individuals are different, right? I mean, we work with so many different personalities and you know, kids and, and from different backgrounds. I don't think everyone can be treated the same. Um, some, some people respond really well to a real hard, tough coach and others respond better to someone who's a bit softer. And you know, I think to have the ability and the variety to be able to deliver your message in different ways, you have more chance to help more kids.

L: I love that idea because when I think about coaching is, to me, one of the things about a master coach is they're able to change not who they are, but the way they interact with the athlete or the team to get the most out of them. So they're adjusting certain things and then there are probably things that they won't adjust, but they're able to communicate in a way that they're able to get the most out of the player. You often hear about great coaches, they're able to push the right buttons or they're able to reach people, right? You hear these things in the media or people talk about these things with great coaches. So it's to what you're saying to me that always goes back to the communication that you have with your player.

S: No question. Well said.

J: So talk us through some of the strategies that you would do in the on-court environment. In the shorter, I mean during matches or what we, you know, let's say let's start with practice. What you do during practice, what there may be happening during matches. Knowing that in some tournament's you know, coaching has allowed, Oh well obviously coaching is allowed and then what maybe that communication looks like before and after matches as well.

S: sure, I mean during a practice, I mean all coaches kind of choose the drills or maybe you collaborate with the player about what they want to work on and then you get into some drills or some things that you're doing during practice to try and get better. And I think it's very important to, you know, get the main purpose of the drill. The player should understand what the goal is. Well, if that's not communicated and the play is just hitting balls, then their improvement really isn't going to come very rapidly. So communicating exactly the purpose of the drill. And then one of the things that I'll use to kind of make a mistake, we, you know, I might be working on backhands, crosscourt and then you know, I see them, they hit a few forehands and then I see something wrong in the forehand and then I switch and all of a sudden I'm working on their forehand. So you know, I think keeping your focus on the, the purpose of that drill or the area that you're working on is pretty important from a coach perspective. And then as you're communicating with the player, you obviously want to give them the information that they need to try and improve. But then you want to kind of, in my opinion, you want to sit back a little bit and you want to let them experiment, let them fail, and let them do it wrong and let them figure out how do I do it right. And at some point they're going to need some information or they're going to need something, but they don't need that after every miss. They don't need that after every shot. So communication as a coach doesn't have to be constant. You know, one of the things that I used to do is try and validate my, Oh I'm a coach, I know what I'm talking about. So whenever I see a mistake, I've got to correct it. I said before, the better coach I become, the less I talk. I mean most athletes that we work with are pretty talented and have some pretty good skill and some pretty good, you know, concepts and understandings of how to play. So if you put them in the right position and then allow them to figure it out and kind of fail, then they will, they will come around, they will come good. And they, of course they might need a, a technical, a little bit of technical help here or something that may help them. But sometimes less communication is more and sometimes it's better. And then also, you know, in practice you can ask questions instead of saying, Oh, you shouldn't have done that, or why did you do that? You can kind of say, Oh, did you, did you feel how you know that one, how did that one fly? You know, how did the ball fly there? And he goes, Oh, I flew pretty flat. Okay, well was the ball down or was it up? Uh, it was down. Okay. So if you're going to get the ball up over the net and then have it come down, you know, what do you think you need there? Oh yeah, I need more spin. So you can ask leading questions and then they kind of grasp what is happening. So it's not always about us telling the player what to do or what they did wrong. It's about the player leading them to discover what they should be doing better. So that, that's kind of a couple of fillets from practice. Yeah. What was the next point, Johnny, you wanted to talk about before matches or after matches.

L: Can I jump in there real quick? Yeah. Stephen, why? Why would you say asking questions is so important? And you talked about some of the leading questions and then I spent a lot of time on court with you and then the open ended questions like how are you doing and what are your options here? That kind of thing. But why are those questions so important? I think, Help for our listeners. Shouldn't they just tell people what to do because they got the knowledge, they're trained.

S: Yeah. But at the end of the day, it's not you that stepping on the court to perform, right. So when the player's out there and they're, they're performing and they're trying to execute, it's them that need to make the decisions and it's them to need to understand, you know, perhaps the correct shot or the right play to do. So we want to try and develop that independence in the player so they can come to the conclusions themselves and it's going to be more powerful if the player discovers that information themselves. Then with us constantly telling them, because then they may get in a match and be in a difficult situation, face some adversity, and then they're looking around like, who's going to tell me what to do? And it's, there's no one there. I mean they need to figure that out on their own. So I think that's a pretty key point.

L: I think that's huge because they have to internalize that information and feel it right in those match situations. Because if you can feel it and you own it, then it doesn't matter if you're nervous or you're, you're panicked or whatever you want to call it, right? Because you still own it and you know it, right? You've practiced it. That's, it's yours and it will be there. But if it's being told to you and you just do what you're told, then that stuff disappears pretty quickly on a pressure. So when you're not performing well or 20,000 people are watching or 20 family members are watching.

J: So. so, so what about the element now? Now coaching on court's fairly recent on the women's game, the added elements of being able to go out there on the court and coach, but then also just being in the box or being on the side of the call and talk us through some of the communication side of out there and then some of the nuances and how you, how you approach that.

S: Sure. Well, uh, you know, there's a saying somewhere, I can't remember the percentage, but a lot of the communication is nonverbal, right? I mean it's a lot of now actions, how we sit and how we present ourselves. And so at least, you know, from looking at some of the master coaches that are well ahead of me in their careers and observing them, I find that they're, you know, pretty composed, pretty calm if they're going to give any, uh, feedback from a sort of a body language standpoint. It's always positive. And so that's what I'm trying to do with my players. I mean, if I want my players to be composed and be in a tough situation and still kind of know what to do or to, you know, and to be positive on the court, which is I think what all us coaches and parents want, then on the side of the court, if I'm carrying on and you know, dropping my head and slamming my fist into something, when they make mistakes, then they're probably going to mirror that. I mean there's, you know, there's, there's a concept that I've read about and I'm sure Dr. Larry knows more about it, but, um, you know, neurons are the building blocks of our brains and you know, there are mirror neurons. And so what other people, when they look to you, they're going to mirror a little bit how your, how you present yourself emotionally or with body language. So I'm, I'm trying to present that kind of calm, composed demeanor and show them, you know, some positivity in there. And then when it comes to actually going on court with the players, which is, you know, relatively new on the WTA tour, they're doing it now in WTA events, not at the grand slams, but in WTA events. I mean we have, you know, 60, 90 seconds. It's pretty quick. So we get out there and you know, and my philosophy so far has been okay, I can't communicate more than probably two things. Whereas as you know, I've been watching a lot of the match and there's a lot of things coming to mind, but I've got to try and decide what are the, what do they want and the two or three most valuable things that I can convey in this short amount of time. And they need to be simple. I can't overwhelm them with too much information or talk too much. And then the other thing I'm pretty cognizant of doing is, is I need to accept the state that they're in. I mean, if they're down a set in a break, then they're probably frustrated. And so I might open with something like, Hey, I know you're frustrated and that's okay, but consider doing this. You know, she's playing her backhand a bit too often, you know, over and over again. Try and change directions with your backhand down the line and get to bring the ball back to your forehand or something along those lines. So I communicate, hi, it's okay to be in the state you're in. And then I try to give them something tactical or something that's gonna help them. And then so hopefully their mind switches from being upset and wanting to vent to now it's on, Okay. I'm listening to that tactical advice and then, you know, and hopefully that helps. And I've certainly had had matches where I haven't been able to help and it hasn't, that hasn't worked out. I remember one particular match in Madrid last year and I, I talked to the player and I could tell from talking to her, I mean her eyes were just blank and there was nothing going in and she wasn't grasping anything I was saying. And I was kinda like, well at this point I could, you know, probably the best thing for her is to pour a bucket of water over her head that would've made a scene, I didn't do that of course. But uh, you know, they information wasn't going in. And then other times, you know, you can tell live fully invested and the information is going in and they go out and perhaps apply it. Hopefully it works. So it's, it's actually a quite a fun part now of the WTA tour. I mean I think it's quite cool for people to go on and watch how different coaches interact with their players and what sort of impact they're able to have. You know, some of the, I'm not giving much eye contact and I kind of, all they're doing is venting and then some other players are actually taking some information and really applying it. So it's quite a cool little nuance to coaching right now.

L: Definitely brings the science of communication into the match. Right. Which is great. Which is what we're talking about. Do you find time Stephen? It's good for the player to rant during that 90 seconds knowing that you're on the clock and you don't have a lot of time.

S: I prefer them not to, to be honest. Um, I mean, again, I, I can understand and I'm trying to be empathetic with the situation they're in, but if I'm just there only to rant okay. I mean if that serves its purpose and that's what we're trying to do, then okay. But I don't really want to be the punching bag. I want to, I want to give something useful, information wise, that it's going to help them, them turn the match around if they need it and it's absolutely what they need, um, and it is going to calm them down to get themselves in a better spot then, then okay. Perhaps perhaps it can happen, but I prefer not to go out there just to get, you know, the business.

L: Giving him the business on TV.

S: Get my own rocket.

L: And you're getting it on TV, buddy. I can be sitting in my man cave watching Stephen get a rocket. This actually is really fun. I want to see this. I want to talk to the players.

J: Then you might go back to your seat and then you need your coach to come.

L: That's what we have an entourage for. So you mentioned a few things there, Stephen I think are absolutely essential. One is simple because if you think about during performance player is confronted with a lot of thoughts, a lot of stuff, information and you're trying to waft and skip through all that to the core stuff, right? The key stuff that's going to turn the match or let them finish the way they're doing things in a, I think simple's important and I do think coaches, you, you've mentioned a couple times, you alluded to over coaching. How much of an issue do you see over coaching to be, does it happen a lot and where did you kind of what, when was the moment that you figured out that you, you wanted to give less information? Was there a story, an example where you're like, you know what, that they're that that's reason number one, why I don't over coach anymore.

I didn't think that there was a specific time it's been, and it's more over a period of time. It's kinda been my maturation as a coach and from observing a lot of things and seen a lot of things. Yeah. Like I said, I'm just, I'm talking a little less than I used to and I think I'm communicating better as a result. One of the things I noticed when I was coaching in college was that pretty much at every change of ends, you know, coaches are always talking to their players. You know, the whole change of ends talking, talking, talking. And that was something I thought, well, w w how can I have something to say? Every single change of ends, there can't be tactically that much that they have to adjust and change. And then I, and then I sort of recognize that, okay, they're motivating them. Um, they're trying to get them going, they're trying to keep them focused. And I ended up having a conversation with my team at one point with our team at one point, I should say, sorry, Jim, that Hey guys, we're not there to be cheerleaders. We're not there to motivate you. If you're not motivated to play for your university and come out and give 100% effort, then there's a guy at number seven who will, well, there's a guy at number eight, and then they can come in and play. So that was kind of what I, one of the things that I realized pretty early in college, and you know, I don't know whether that falls under overcoaching, perhaps it does, but I do think it's, I do think it's too prevalent. I do think that as coaches, we want to give all the information out that we have all the time. And I think it happens a bit too much. And so keeping it simple, doing a bit less, letting players figure things out on their own a little bit more. I've had success with personally and it's something that within our philosophy we promote and I certainly do believe in it. And so, you know, if you're a coach out there, please consider it, you know, try it and see how you go with it and yeah, and just try it out.

L: Yeah. And then I think at the end of the day, the reaction your player gives you is all the evidence you, you need to know. Right? In terms of if they're trying to things, you're telling them and they're, they're giving you a good effort, then you're probably getting through to them. But if they're not in there, they're going the other way. Even though you're trying to motivate them, then you're probably talking too much or are trying to do too much as a coach. So I think looking at what your player gives back to you is pretty important in that situation.

S: Yeah, very good point. It comes back to this start athlete centered, what's best for the, what's best for the players? What are they responding best to? That's what we need to keep in mind.

J: Yeah, that was awesome. What, what, what's some more of the global long term strategies that you use with some, with your players here? You know, that gave us a really great insight into the kind of that the directness and the the in the moment type of what are some of the overarching themes that you use with your communication and what are you trying to build in your athletes?

S: Yeah, well there's a, you know, there's a couple of different ways. I mean I think we've, so far we've talked a lot about explicit communication and then there's implicit communication and these are things that you're always trying to get in and get through to the athlete, but perhaps you're not saying them out loud and you know, for instance, one of the things that I've always done with a player I've been with for a long time now is I always reinforce and point out when she's played well under pressure and there's certainly been times where she hasn't performed or played great under pressure and we've identified them and looked at ways that that can get better. But as much as I can, I'm always trying to reinforce our, remember that break point, you saved that 4-all in the first set. That was a great serve and an open court forehand. And so I'll continually reinforce that over time because I want her to feel like, you know, in six months, in a, in, in 18 months it's in, it's in her mind, I play well under pressure, I can perform under pressure. And so it's very important what coaches reinforce from a communication standpoint. If you're a player, you know messes up and you continually say, Oh, you messed up at that point and then next match, it's like, Oh you messed up at that point, well then it's going to be more in their mind that they're messing up. Whereas if we can reinforce that they played well in that difficult situation or geez, I got that line call and they won the next two points, you know, great response to adversity, then you see these things start to seep into their psyche and hopefully it becomes a part of them. And that obviously builds their self-belief in their ability to play under pressure and in tight situations. So that those things that you implicitly doing over time, I think are very important in kind of molding that play his character and their persona on court and then you know them as a competitor because ultimately, you know, especially here at USTAPD where we are building and creating players that we want to have success at the very highest level that we want them to win grand slams. We want them to be in second weeks of slams regularly. And if you're at that point, there is a lot of adversity, there's a lot of great competition, there's a lot of things that are going to come up. So we want them to believe in themselves when they're under pressure, when they're in tight moments. And so every time that we can remind them that they've done it well, I think puts a little building block towards having confidence in the future.

L: I think one of the things you're saying to Stephen that you and I talk about often and we remind each other, I think often is normalizing things. Pretty, pretty normal a lot of the stuff that goes at the universities in the times you don't do well on the court when you're playing the best in the world. Or again, thinking about our audience, it's all relative. So if you're playing 14 and unders and you're playing in a national, you're playing the best in your world at, that's in your world right now, right? So you're going to deal with adversity.

S: Absolutely. It's the same thing. If you're trying to win your junior club championships at your local club, I mean you're going to get nervous at one point because that's important to you. And in those moments we want to try and implicitly build that self belief. And we can do that by kind of reinforcing, you know, the times where they do execute well and they do well under those pressure situations. And that takes time and it takes experiences and it takes positive experiences. So again, one of the things that I can get better at still is I'm always looking for my, how my players can improve. I'm always trying to find, okay, where, where have they not done well? So I can improve that, but I need to remember to always reinforce where they do do well and what their strengths out. You know, how good they are at what they do well and they need to hear that and I need to know that and that builds them up and then of course we're going to address areas that they can get better on. That kind of builds the total player.

L: I think one of the common mistakes I see Stephen, and I know Johnny is around a lot of the coaches as well, is say, why are you nervous? Like don't get nervous. Like why are you scared? It's like, well, okay, that's probably not going to go well right now if you're in that situation. Because now not only am I saying that something's wrong, but I'm devaluing what you're feeling. Right? And instead of saying, and you said this earlier, Hey, I see that you're frustrated now let's talk about what to do about it versus no, I what you feel is an accurate, it's wrong in this situation that that sets you in a tailspin from the start.

S: Yeah. I mean, just thinking back some of the ridiculous thoughts that I had as an athlete. I mean, you wouldn't believe, uh,.

L: Oh I believe.

L: Yeah, you, well you probably believe because you're a mental skills specialist, but, uh, I mean, and, and athletes, they, you know, they don't want to feel judged for those things and we shouldn't judge them for those things. I think what we, the thoughts that come into our head, we can't really help, you know, we, we, we can't help a thought that into our heads. Everyone says, be positive, be positive, be positive. Well, if you miss an easy ball, the negative thoughts going to come into your head. So I don't think we can control that part of it, but we can control how we respond to that thought. And I can respond to that thought and go, Oh, I missed it. I'm so bad. I messed up. What's wrong with me? Or I can go, Oh, I missed an easy shot. Ah, and then I can go, okay, I put myself in a position to win the point. All right, I'm going to go get the next one. And I can't wait to get that ball again. So there I've had the same thought, but I've responded in a very different way. Right. And as coaches we need to understand and we need to communicate that those thoughts are okay. And so that word that you use normalize, we have to normalize the thoughts we had. If I can tell a very quick story. I remember playing at Delray beach, I think it was in the semifinals, and I spotted one of my childhood idols Mats Wilander, a Swedish great. And my family, my background is Swedish, so he was someone that I, you know, I love, looked up to and I spotted him in the stands watching. And it was literally every point I would hit a shot and that I wonder what Mats Wilander thought about that. Oh, Mat Wilander thinks I've got a bad backhand. A Mats Wilander thinks that I can't move well. And it was over and over again. And of course, what happened, my performance went down because my mind was distracted elsewhere and I couldn't get my mind off what Mats Wilander was thinking about me. He was probably eight. And he's nachos and drink his Coke and going, Oh, whatever. Kind of wait for these doubles to finish, so I can watch the singles. As I look back now. But in the moment that that, you know, and that's pretty ridiculous to be in the semis of a tour event and be thinking those things. But again, it's, it's not ridiculous to me that's normal. It's normal to be scared as normal to, you know, worry about all these things that, you know, some people say, Oh, why did you think that? No, it's okay that you think that, how are we going to respond to it?

L: Right. It's utterly human I think. To, to think those things. So well said. Yeah. And I think the other thing, you know, as a coach, and this is something that Dr. Jim Lehrer, who's a sports psychologist that many of our listeners will know too, was talking about, and we've talked about it, is that we're training their inner self talk. So when you're reinforcing them and you're telling them that, Hey, you know what, not only is this situation normal to feel what you're feeling, but you know how to get through it because you've done it in the past and you'll do it again. Your wouldn't you say Stephen and your training the way that they think as well because their, they take from their coaches, especially the younger they are, they model a lot of what they hear and your train away they think

S: No question and that's a responsibility on us coaches to do that. And that's why, you know, in the beginning I said we have to be careful about how we speak to the athletes about what we say. You know, I've been around tournaments and I've heard other coaches, you know, we're watching matches and you know, someone might say, Oh you know that girl over there, she's terrible, she can't play, you know, she's no good. And then you know, it could be your player playing that player in the next week or the next month. And then that player has heard that comment and thinks. Oh my God, the coach said that they're terrible. I should beat them. And that again, it just raises the pressure on our kids. And there's already so much anxiousness amongst our kids when they play that our job is to reduce that anxiousness, not to add to it. And the way that we communicate to our kids will have a bearing on that without question. Yeah, it's a we just came back from a trip where, uh, we took some players, some boys and girls up to Canada and good experience for them. They're young and for some of them first time away from home and they're there representing team USA. And, and before their first match, we got done with the warm-up. And you could talk, tell some of the players already nervous, you know. So I asked them how you guys feeling, how are we doing? And you know, one or two of them said, yeah, I'm, I'm really nervous. I said like you guys, I thought the best in that moment was to try normalize it for them, make, let them know that's okay. And then I asked them, so, so if you start to feel nervous throughout the match and at the start of the match, what can you do to help those nerves? And it became pretty paralyzing. Like they really didn't know how they were going to try and deal with the nerves in a, in a positive way. And so I try to give a little leading questions, but ultimately what we came up with was the, if you can keep moving and bouncing around and do positive, some positive physical behaviors that might help you with your nerves as you lead into the match. And you know, again, I'd need their feedback on how they felt with that. But it was just pretty interesting to hit that response to, to the question, how, how, what, what behaviors can help you to deal with your nerves? And they, they became pretty paralyzed. Like they didn't know, they didn't really have a response. And so what you're saying there is, is our responsibility to help them and show them some things that can overcome some of that. But I think that first part of normalizing as is I, I, it's essential. If they don't normalize it, I don't think they can figure out a way past it.

Well then they start catastrophizing, right? That's a big psych word, but they start making a mountain out of a mole hill versus single. You know what, the other person might be feeling the same way too. So this is a pretty normal because their family's watching or they're playing for their country as well. So you know this, this is a nervous situation and they can think about it being exciting. And that's, again, where coaches have an opportunity. If you're observing something and then you're asking questions versus assuming, you can get at these things and you can actually then give them accurate feedback specific to their situation versus assuming like, wow, you know, this kid scared because whatever. And I'm like, Oh, what are you feeling? And okay, so here's what can we do? And then we get to the bottom of it. And I think that's a great way to, to go about it. But you've got to ask the question.

S: And in, my experience playing in and coaching, you're never going to get rid of those nerves. So, you know, putting a lot of effort into like, Oh no, I can't feel nervous. It's to, to us it's about, I need to educate the players that they can still execute and they can still perform while they're nervous. And it's okay to be nervous. It's normal to be nervous and obviously, you know, come back to a Billie Jean King. Pressure is a privilege. If you're nervous, there's opportunity. If there's opportunity, then you can achieve. And you know, my, a friend of mine told a great story, his player was going to play Nadal at the Australian open many years ago and he was kinda like, Oh my God, I'm so nervous on the court, this and that. And my friend said to him, well, I'll tell you what, if you could, would you pull out of the match and then I can go and play for you if you like. I'll go out there and play Nadal. And he's like, and he looked at him quizzically and he's like, well what do you mean? He's like, well, if you don't want to do it cause you're nervous, you don't have to, I'll go play. If you could do that, would you do that? And he's like, no, no, I want to play. And they're in that just did that question. You just reframe a little bit how they're thinking, you know? And it's like, Whoa, hang on. I am playing Nadal at the center court at the Australian Open on TV and this is really cool. So just with that question, that leading question from a, you know, a skilled coach gets the guy thinking a little bit differently. Do I want this opportunity? Is this something cool that I'm doing or do I want to run away from it? And all of a sudden it was like, Oh yeah, this is pretty cool. Now if you know, I'd rather do it than you. So again, you know, a skilled piece of communication there. I think

L: that was very skillful. And that's a, that's a great example. I like that.

J: Well, I know we're running out of time here, but again, just wanted to thank you, Stephen for your time and that that was fantastic and some great insights. And uh, as we finish up here, are there some closing tips that you would like to give to our viewers?

S: Sure. There was one thing that I wanted to hit on, you know, something that I kind of made the mistake of doing and I think is a mistake is when we tell the players and our kids that you should believe in yourself. I, I've looked at it from a different perspective and I've been educated on it on it quite a bit. And I think what we need to tell our players and our, and our kids, I'm a F, I'm a parent now and love it, is that instead of you should believe in yourself. It should be, I believe in you for a kid getting that you should believe in yourself. It's like, okay, now I'm doing something else wrong. Why don't I believe in my water and I'm different? Well, what's wrong with me? I don't believe in myself. And, and I think that if we can better communicate, I believe in you. Hey you, maybe you don't have it yet, but you're working on it. We're working on it, you're going to get better. And I believe in you. I believe it's going to happen. So I've gotten away from telling people that they should believe in themselves cause I believe that sort of sets them in the wrong direction. And I, and I've started telling, you know, my players and my kids that I believe in you. So I just think that's a good piece of communication that I've learned and it's helped me tremendously. So I wanted to pass that along.

L: That is, that's awesome. I mean a lot, a lot of good thoughts here today, coach Stevphen, uh, you know, as we wrap up.

J: I've never written so many notes.

L: I mean, just a bit about the athletes centered, you know, Stephen clearly, and I know this about you, it's, it is about the athletes and their best interest in, you're always thinking about your athletes and how to help them be the athlete and the person that they want to be. So I just want to thank you for everything you do and how you do it. Cause for me, it makes my job a lot easier and I want to put that out there. So.

S: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

L: Awesome. Awesome. Well thanks for joining us this week at this episode of compete like a champion. This has been communicating with precision with coach Stephen Huss, uh, for any resources or any information, you can always go to our website, and until next time, we are checking out