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Developmental Patience And How It Relates To The ‘Triangle’

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junior tennis player

The relationship between the coach, student, and parents

By Stewart Russell, Partner, Universal Tennis Management

The coach/student relationship along with that of the parents is sometimes a tricky one, but I would like to share my two cents on some ideas that may help. ‘Tis the season (in the Tennis Academy world) where many consider their options for a training program. For example: “Such and such used to train with program X and has decided to try program Y because they were not happy with the ‘progress’ of their son or daughter.”

I highlight the word progress because I feel it may be the most important part that too many lose sight of. I recently was fortunate enough to spend a weekend with former Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullickson and the impression he made on me with one simple bullet point stuck with me. He said, try and get 1-percent better every day, and those who implement this philosophy as part of their regular training approach will succeed faster than those who try to “develop” too quickly or try and match what others are doing. I left that weekend and did some research, finding the following information.

Success is something that we all chase, especially in sports. Depending on the identity of the media darling or featured role model of the moment, ways to achieve success are many and varied. However, one of the best systems at any time is Alan Stein’s and Todd Durkin’s 1-Percent Rule. Stein and Durkin are extremely successful, and they inspire hundreds of athletes daily. Their method is simple: Leave the gym one percent better each day, and out-do yourself, not others.

Too often in sports and training, a player will focus on what others are doing. In reality, an athlete can’t control who is getting more looks from college coaches or putting up better numbers. The only control he or she has is over his or her own development. Essentially, the 1-Percent Rule is about being better than yourself. Often, the biggest obstacle to becoming a great athlete is not others, but our own lack of willingness or commitment.

Each time you have a training session, practice, game, or even a film session, try to out-perform your previous results by 1 percent. No elite, professional athlete became great overnight. It took time, patience, and a lot of deliberate practice. It meant taking every opportunity to do one more quality rep, add one more pound of muscle or do whatever was needed to achieve a better result.

Becoming a better athlete means improving every day. It’s about surpassing your previous best and pushing through your mental limits. Strive to become one percent better every day, and watch your athletic ability and performance take off.

How might these rules apply to developmental patience in tennis? It’s a journey and a marathon, not a sprint. Coaches are like doctors prescribing a maintenance medicine and it is Ok to change up the weekly routine if all agree. The short-sighted approach compared with short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals (with general timelines established) are important. There is no need to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Quality vs. quantity of training: How much is too much, or what’s not enough? A quality instructor must check their ego at the door and understand a student’s primary focus as it relates to the “triangle.” Once focus areas are agreed upon, a proper prescription on how to tackle becomes imperative. How time should be devoted should be agreed upon by all parties and yes, including parents. Results from physical and mental improvement are harder to gauge because they are not as tangible as technical work. A “good result” should never be defined by a win or a loss.

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