Want Tennis Results? Educate the Parents

waringToday’s post comes from an email I received from Frank Giampaolo, author of The Tennis Parent’s Bible and creator of the Maximizing Tennis Potential website, and is reprinted here with his permission. It illustrates the incredible family commitment necessary to develop a young player who wants to be a top professional. I have been reading and hearing about Isa for several years now, so it’s interesting to read about the specifics involved in her training. Please understand: this is a child who has shown that she has the X Factor – I do not feel this type of lifestyle and training is necessary or even appropriate for the majority of junior players. Frank’s approach, on the other hand, can be valuable for any junior, regardless of his/her goals. Please go back and listen to some of my podcasts with various Tennis Parents (click here) for more insights. 

This special report from Barcelona, Spain is a must read.  Jana & Jordan Waring agreed to share with you their daughter, Isa’s, actual monthly progress report. Monthly accountability and guidance is an essential part of their developmental plan.

Two years ago, I traveled to Barcelona and worked with this wonderful family in developing a deliberate customized training plan. Working as a team, the parents decided to become educated about the process of raising a champion. Within two short years, Isa bypassed the masses and reached the top ten nationally.

“Parents educated about the athletic developmental process are the ship’s motor… Parents uneducated about the athletic developmental process are the ship’s anchor.”

The below email is a monthly report sent by Jana (Isa’s mom) regarding Isa’s current tennis efficiencies and deficiencies.

Parents, it would be wise if you’re truly interested in maximizing your child’s potential at the quickest rate, to begin with a detailed, customized evaluation session. I am home in Southern California two weeks a month in 2017.

Contact me direct at FGSA@earthlink.net  or (949)933-8163.

All the Best,

Frank Giampaolo

Subject: Hello from Barcelona
Isa’s Monthly Progress Report

Date: November 6, 2016

Age: 10 years old

Ranking: 8th Nationally in U10

We have been with her new coach for nearly three months. I am still aiding in the training regime with feeding balls for two hours each day, hiring/firing/supervising hitting partners, physio, fitness coaches, organizing practice matches, tournaments, driving, stretching, massaging, shopping ….

Like you said, it is no laughing matter being a tennis parent.

After a brief two months of fixing a LOT of technical flaws, which you have seen some videos, we are seeing some progress. The following is Isa’s Monthly Progress Report.

TECHNICAL:

  • Shortening the forehand back swing (lower, on the side side)
  • Starting from fantastic legs – keep low, stay low, move through each shot
  • Bounce-hit” – taking the ball on the rise
  • More closed stance, less open stance and if that is inevitable, load the outside leg and move through the shot
  • Loads more secondary shots (includes constant asking which shot does/did the moment demand)
  • Fixing her grip on first serve (more backhand) and second serve (more backhand), pinpointing, closing her hips and keeping sideways, more explosiveness, covering the top of the ball with nice racquet head acceleration
  • Adding a slider serve
  • Being able to serve reliable wide and T on both sides, also jam the returner (very handy as she has a mean jamming serve)
  • Cleaning up the volleys – proper grip, turn with the body, firm elbow, wrist low and move through diagonally 

TACTICAL:

  • Differentiate between a dangerous ball (learn to defend), neutral ball (open up the court) and attackable ball (don’t wait, go get it). This was tricky, the tendency is still to let the short balls drop (though not as much as they used to) and try to do something with a deep ball (I often tell her to just send it back where it came from with a nice acceleration)
  • Hit deep – number one cause of errors, wait for the right ball, we train her favorite three patterns (deep and attack, deep and cross-court low slice, deep and drop shot).
  • Train baseline patters – her favorite- use an inside out forehand to backhand deep, followed by an inside out forehand wide, and finish it off with either and inside in or backhand to the opposite side
  • Play behind – she loves this one
  • Train steady patterns for serve (out wide – opposite side, she can do this one on the dime
  • Attack second serves

 We spend a lot of time playing practice points, sets and matches with various people and analyze and plan and analyze some more… Very helpful!

MOVEMENT

  • Hired a fitness coach who trains explosive movements and overall general athleticism
  • Strengthen core
  • Loads and loads of injury prevention and stretching

MENTAL

After the last two months of cleaning up and no tournaments, she started competing again. Rough start, some of the routines were difficult to reincorporate for both of us. The training of the patterns and practice matches (rehearsals) help, but she still tends to deviate a bit.

This gets me to the last, and the trickiest …

EMOTIONAL: 

This goes hand in hand with nutrition, hydration, sleep, match preparation, and overall state of mind. I find that early morning matches are always more difficult for her, I believe the glycogen stores haven’t ben refilled and so the brain runs on fumes. She is not a morning person, so a match at 8am on an empty stomach equals flailing arms, choking, panicking, tapping a racquet and a far more difficult match than it should. I have recently started giving her some pure fructose to take on changeovers which does help IF she remembers to eat it.

She has been winning so much in the spring and summer that she only plays up now, which is trickier but she still keeps a good ratio. Oddly enough, it is it the weaker opponents that she has the hardest time with, it is almost as if she knew she should beat them easily and thus starting doing the “hotshot” tennis and then gets frustrated. In the evenly matched or outplayed matches she generally sticks to her patterns and performs much better. She is not such a head case as she used to be but she does panic and choke once in a while.

This is about it. Hope all is well and wishing you a lovely Sunday. Jana

Neurology & Past Belief Systems in Sports

Photo courtesy of mdneuroeyeandear.com
Photo courtesy of mdneuroeyeandear.com

Today’s Guest Post is by Frank Giampaolo. He is a 30 year sports education veteran, author, popular convention speaker and instructional writer for national and international publications. Frank is the best-selling author of Championship Tennis (Human Kinetics Publishing), The Tennis Parent’s Bible and The Mental Emotional Workbook Series. He will make a return appearance on the ParentingAces Radio Show later this month.

You may be asking yourself, what does neurology (central nervous system) have to do with athletic performance? The answer is everything.  Thinking, seeing, breathing, moving, sleeping…everything the human body does is reliant on their central nervous system. It is the system of the body that receives and processes all information from all parts of the body. It is arguably the most important system of the body.  The following collection of questions addresses common athletic development challenges.

Q: Why is it hard for some athletes to try new things & new ways of thinking?

A: A person’s upbringing forms their belief systems. Humans naturally protect their existing beliefs. When confronted by different ideas or opinions a chemical reaction in the brain takes place. The new idea is then viewed as a threat, because it hasn’t been analyzed yet, so minimizing and avoiding it is often normal.

When new techniques are presented they are often uncomfortable simply because they’re different. The new method clashes with the old comfortable method so the new method is disregarded as wrong. Sometimes the new way is actually the right way…but it feels wrong to the athlete.

Q: After a loss, why do smart coaches ask their athletes to go back to the event/site to watch other athletes still in the event?

A: The brain mirrors events it recognizes.  Viewing the final rounds creates a mental and emotional picture for the athlete to absorb and become comfortable with…

It is very common for up and coming athletes to experience complete performance meltdowns in the final rounds of their first big tournaments. Why? The finals are an unknown entity.  Unfortunately, most athletes choose to leave the site after a loss and not stay to watch the final rounds.

The more the athlete physically, mentally or emotionally gets dialed into a situation, the less uncomfortable the situation becomes and the more comfortable the athlete becomes performing in the manner in which they have trained- regardless of the round.

Q: Why do smart coaches inject humor while training for upcoming athletic events, which is often perceived as a very stressful situation?

A: Neurological studies prove that laughter helps relax and calm nerves.  Laughter decreases stress hormones and triggers endorphins – the body’s natural feel good chemicals.  Adding humor to stressful events will help the athlete enjoy the battle! Playing in the zone demands a calm and stress free preparation phase. Laughing is also a terrific ab workout. Hello six pack!

Q: Why is repetition so important in developing athletic royalty?

A: Physical repetition is essentially motor programming. Developing a motor program begins with a thought, which is messaged through the nervous system, down the spinal cord and into the muscular system. The more we pre-set the protocols (pre-set plans)… the easier it is to execute the proper protocol during match play.

Cognitive processing skills and emotional responses are neurological programs that also need to be organized, developed and constantly nurtured.  It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it, imagining it or observing it, you are developing a pathway. Neurological-connections are strengthened by repetition.

Q: How can a coach assist a perfectionist who is his/her worst enemy?

A: First, I suggest the coach share with the player his/her personality profile.  This should provide the player, parent and coach with a better understanding of the player’s preferred learning style.

Understanding that neurology studies show that the human brain undergoes tremendous pruning of the neurons and myelination (which translates to growth) throughout adolescence. Scientists agree that the human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until the early 20’s. Performing perfect 100% of the time is an illusion.

Second, in my opinion, the age old motto of trying 110% in competition is dead wrong. Athletes who constantly attempt to force perfection over press and play sloppy. Protectionist should simply be asked to aim for an A- grade versus an A+ grade. The athlete should try 90% instead of 110% and learn to accept a few minor errors along the way to victory.

Third, ask the player to “Shoot for an excellent performance versus a perfect performance.” Perfectionists are so worried and stressed about being perfect that it often stunts the actual growth they seek, and leads to misery for everyone around them.
The coach should encourage their athlete to seek the courage to let go of unrealistic and damaging beliefs like athletic perfectionism and enjoy the journey. Visualize Kobe Bryant smiling …enjoying his performance as he dominates the NBA.

Are You A Helicopter Parent?

Photo courtesy of www.aerospace-technology.com
Photo courtesy of www.aerospace-technology.com

Today’s Guest Post is courtesy of Frank Giampaolo. Many of you know Frank from my radio show interviews with him and from his book, The Tennis Parent’s Bible. Frank is a 30-year high performance tennis coach, sports education veteran, author, speaker and instructional writer for national and international publications. He is the bestselling author of Championship Tennis (Human Kinetics Publishing), The Tennis Parent’s Bible and The Mental Emotional Workbook Series. His book Raising Athletic Royalty has just been released January 2015. Visit MaximizingTennisPotential.com for more information. 

While in the trenches coaching on the ITF tennis circuit, I sadly witnessed over-protective parents stunting the growth of their junior players. These types of parents have been lovingly nicknamed “Helicopter Parents.”

By insulating their athlete, the helicopter parent is developing the exact opposite skill sets needed to advance the critical mental/emotional components of a winner.  Controlling helicopter parents often unknowingly promote insecurity and dependency in their young adults.  Children need to experience both positive and negative life situations to become confident and independent thinkers.  Growth stems from mistakes and lessons learned.

Characteristics of Helicopter Parenting:

  • Shielding the child from every possible disappointment and any real or imaginary conceivable hardship.
  • Choosing to enforce their version of the solution without even considering the child’s opinion.
  • Failing to promote an open and supportive atmosphere that would encourages the child to volunteer their opinion.
  • Seeking to control everyone and everything in an attempt to give their child the upper hand.

Helicopter Tennis Parent Warning Signs:

  1.     Coddling and Pampering your Athlete

This parent treats their athlete like a toddler –incapable of doing anything for themselves.  “You rest honey, Mommy will pick up your balls, carry your bag & water cooler, refill your ice, order your lunch, cut up your salad …etc.”

  1. Being Overly Defensive of your Athlete’s Performance

This parent makes excuses for any and everything their athlete does wrong, making it impossible for their athlete to be accountable. “My gifted child is the best out there. After all, she comes from our phenomenal gene pool. Losses are never her fault.”

  1. Nurturing Dependency of your Athlete:

This parent convinces their athlete that their success is dependent on them and without their help they are incapable of success. – “I’m the only one she can trust. I’ve always solved her problems and always will because … I’m her mother.”

Suppose the helicopter parent actually allowed the junior athlete to think, act, talk, fail and/or succeed on their own?

The benefits are startling. The athlete becomes more responsible, independent, self-reliance and confident. And with these skills, the athlete is able to develop their problem solving/conflict resolution skills.  At the higher levels of competitive tennis, resolving issues and overcoming hardships is the essential mental and emotional tennis developmental skill that separates winners from losers. Winners overcome on-court crisis and persevere because they are nurtured to solve their own problems.

Let’s look deeper at the cause and effect of parenting styles and on an athlete’s mindset:

Scenario 1: The parent is a perfectionist and does most everything for their child correctly. The athlete experiences no mental/emotional skills growth because the issue is solved for the child by the parent.

Scenario 2: The parent attempts to do everything for the athlete but fails. The athlete experiences no mental/emotional skills growth because there’s zero player accountability. Failure wasn’t the athletes fault, it was the parents fault.

Scenario 3: The parent encourages the athlete to do it themselves and the child actually succeeds. The athlete develops self-reliance, confidence, responsibility, self-esteem, personal belief, and time management skills.

Scenario 4: The parent encourages the athlete to do it themselves and the child temporarily fails. The athlete is taught recovery skills, accountability, problem solving skills, perseverance, and organizational skills.

Scenario 5: The polar opposite of a helicopter parent is the unaccountable parent.  This parent refuses to assist the athlete at all- believing the child’s sport is their “thing.”  Elite athletics demands a supportive team. Without parental support, the athlete is limited in their athletic success.

Parents, your role in managing your athlete’s developmental pathway is essential.  But please remember that winning tennis requires your athlete to have the capability to take an “emotional hit” and recover.  This is a learned developmental skill. The inability to problem solve for themselves is the missing link that separates good from great.

If you know a helicopter parent suffering from this dreaded disease please forward this article. Thanks, Frank

To receive a Free Match Chart Collection ebook and free monthly Maximizing Tennis Potential Newsletters, simply email Linda at lindateresag@hotmail.com

Editor’s Note: I recently heard another term – Lawnmower Parents – which describes those of us who mow down any obstacles in our children’s path. It’s so tempting to clear the way for our kids as they strive to reach their goals, but are we really doing them a favor when we make it easy for them? Food for thought . . .