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Competing With Tremendous Character

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Father and son on tennis court
Image courtesy of Sea Pines Resort.

By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion

Reaching for more performance on the court is the mindset every tennis player should have to reach their full potential. I always have been around great minds through my years in the game of tennis. My parents were athletes, but not tennis players. The greatest gift they gave the four kids in the family who ended up competing in the grand slams was the family standard of excellence, supreme attitude, and effort. I remember numerous times losing 6-0, 6-0, but my positive attitude and all-out effort was the family’s measure of success. I even remember winning an important match over a tough rival, but I acted like a knucklehead so my parents were not happy with me.

The other great minds in my career were the coaches. My parents were at every lesson, but always allowed the professional coach to lead the way as far as technique and tactics. That was the healthy separation between being parent and coach in my family. That is always a tough meshing of those two important roles when the parents of tournament players are investing so much into a young player. I see too many unhealthy situations at all levels of tournament play where parents are living their tennis dreams through their talented children.

Competitive tennis is such a difficult journey and many mistakes are made along the way. There will never be another Roger Federer or Serena Williams. Those careers should be the goals of the children, but not by the parents. The best tennis parents I have been around put family values before results. A family’s standard of excellence and the way the young talent learns the values of hard work, education, and persistence through the great game of tennis is the ultimate win. I won more matches in my life because I was constantly taught the enormous power in competing with tremendous character. I won many more matches over players with better stokes and talent because my “superpowers” were built from within. Understanding how to handle victory and defeat helped me deal with pressure better when I needed a calm mind.

These are the results of having parents who were my life coaches, but who put me on the court with extraordinary tennis coaches like Don Dickinson, Brian Marcus, Brian Gottfried, and Dick Leach. They were the difference for me before turning professional. Their life lessons and leading by example in those early years have been more valuable in my adult life than what I learned on the tennis court. I am beyond grateful to my parents, siblings, and these coaches for unconditional confidence in me. By putting consistent wind in my sails, they always helped me reach my dreams.

If you are currently in a situation where you are looking for answers for your talented tennis player/child, always default to patience, understanding, and finding coaching with a solid value system. Making the sport of tennis fun and educational always will be a program that can draw out the most potential from any player.

This is what I’ve learned in my journey and I am beyond blessed to have done it with my family who all love this game. Additionally, I enjoy meeting people from around the world who share the same passion for tennis. I never stop asking questions from experts in the field to improve my understanding of the game.

Always remember: If you’re thinking … you are winning. Go for the lines!

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