Who Wouldn’t Want a Coach?/Problem Solving


Who Wouldn’t Want a Coach

I will start off with the results. We played Italy, the second team in our group on Monday. Brent Abel played the opening match at #2, won easily. I followed at #1 and played a clean first set against a talented opponent. I was running well, covering almost every shot and executing my shots consistently. But my opponent had found some ways to hurt me and played the first two games of the second set with confidence. We both battled hard in extended clay court rallies and each of the first two games took around 20 minutes with lots of deuces and ads. I managed to break him in the third game and served a love game to go up 3-1 and he stopped, having pulled a calf muscle. 

What was cool about the match for me was that Brent sat on the bench with me on changeovers and, because it was an ITF team event, was allowed to coach me during the match. I had an old story that I have been uncoachable. In past team matches I rejected having anyone on the court with me. ”I am an instinctive player. I adjust by just playing.” Clearly that was not a story that works when playing for a team…where my teammates are invested in my outcome. 

He is a great coach and I respect his way of communicating and the info he delivers.

Brent pointed out to me that I was taking high risk on forehand service returns, trying to hit winners deep into the corners. He encouraged me to go higher over the net right up the middle and then impacting with my first ball. It was interesting to observe how frequently and costly those return errors were. It was also interesting to see how challenging it was to do something simple and obvious. He also commented on my serve and the similar error of overdoing it, trying for the big shot rather than just making a good location and starting the point. 

I listened, demonstrated my resistance by explaining why I was doing what I was doing and, then, shut my mouth and said thank you. I created a new story on the spot. ”I am receptive. I adapt quickly when given good advice.” In the moment, I wasn’t able to execute the change each time as my instinct would take over but I continued to input the suggestion and managed to follow through several times. Today I will work on Brent’s suggestions again.

After all, who wouldn’t want to have a coach who is there to provide feedback, guidance and support.

One further point about stories: once you realize that you are telling a story that doesn’t help you get what you want, write a new story that might immediately. Don’t wait. By waiting until some later time you are saying that you are ok having a way of thinking that keeps you right where you are. Why wait? What do you have to lose?

Problem Solving

Today’s match was against Ireland. We won 3-0 and have now advanced to the quarterfinals of the team competition. From the original 19 countries, only six remain. It gets really exciting and much tougher from here on out. 

In each of my matches I have won the toss and chosen to receive serve first. I do this because the first game is often a nervous game with quick errors. My intention is to strike quickly with a service break while my opponent is feeling nervous. If I don’t win it at least I have gotten the nerves out and then get a chance to serve. My first two matches I did just that and once I had the lead it opened things up to a quick first set win. Today my opponent surprised me with short angle forehands and backhands and won the first game and had a brief 2-1 lead. For the first time this week I was behind.  

The speed with which I can recognize my opponent’s pattern can have a big impact on how quickly I can take control of the points. Today, I spotted what was going on by the time he served his second game. He won it but I had already gotten into a problem solving mindset. That is much different than a problem having mindset. 

One thing I love about tennis is that we get to learn how to shift from problems, like “I am not serving well” or “my forehand is off” or “my opponent is hitting soft short angles” to solving the problems. Sometimes it could take a whole set to continue experimenting until the solution presents itself. Being patient and being willing to keep working at it is a skill that transcends the game. Today my solution came quickly. I drew a line in the clay one foot in front of the baseline and used that as my recovery spot. By shortening the length of the court the short shots became reachable. From that moment on the match unfolded comfortably in my favor. I won 62, 60.

So far I couldn’t be happier with my mental (focus) energy, my emotional (positive) energy and my spirit (loving competing and welcoming challenges) energy. My physical energy has been good as well. My body is feeling it with a few aches and pains but nothing that is interfering with my movement. When my energy sources are in the right place I am producing energy, not depleting. It is when I feel like this that I am in the best place to be the best version of myself. I am relaxed. I am confident in the parts of my game. I am eager to compete. Jo Ann is with me and I am content off the court which is much more of the day than being on court.

Life is good. And when my life is good my tennis is good.

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