performance coaching

Andre Agassi: Open. An autobiography.

A unique sport of tennis

I have been honored to work with quite a few tennis players as well as having practiced the sport for a while myself. Tennis is a very unique sport. Three things that make it captivating for me are:

  1. The length of the game is not fixed. You may be done in 30 minutes or 3 hourse. That means resilience building both physically and mentally.
  2. A player loses oftentimes “to him/herself” by making mistakes. All the oponent has to do is to stick it out and have a clean match. Cruel.
  3. The outcome can change at the very last minute- it ain’t over til’ it’s absolutely surely over. Hope, belief, confidence and stamina until the very end!

Resilience and mental game is vital part of the training for tennis players. I must admit that though tennis was one of my first favorite sports and I am currently reading biographies of tennis players to develop some more understanding. Andre Agassi’s biography caught my eye and having read that I highly recommend it. It is a captivating read about the struggle, the hardship, the emotions and for his case, the loneliness of the sport. Every story and is different and we can argue that a biography is a tool for reputation management, nevertheless, it’s fascinating to read the stories. I can’t wait to read a biography about Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Stefanie Graf.

Quotes from the book that we all probably can relate to

Tennis might not be your game, but the lessons sound similar. I added my comments .

  1. Brad Gilbert (his coach from 1994-2002) giving feedback of Andre’s game before accepting working with him: “You always try to be perfect, and you always fall short, and it f***s with your head. Your confidence is shot, and perfectionism is the reason. You try to hit a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes, would be enough to win ninety percent of the time.” Perfection is a hard topic. Who doesn’t want to win and be celebrated all the time? In real life it doesn’t work that way so you have to switch your mindset a bit about winning and being flawless every time. This opens up a huge store of energy and focus to improve, enjoy and bounce back from bad game as well.
  2. Agassi: “Perfection is something I chose and I can choose something else. No one has ever said that to me. I’ve always assumed perfectionism was like my thinning hair or my thickened spinal cord. An inborn part of me.” We often think that we cannot change because our identities were built and enforced by others with their own expectations. It is vital to have people who help you see your possibilities to change the things that are in your power.
  3. After another loss to Pete Sampras at the period when Agassi had met and built a relationship with Stefanie Graf: “I actually feel my pulse decrease. I don’t feel bad. I try to feel bad, but I can’t. I wonder if I am growing accustomed to losing to Pete in big matches or simply growing content with my career and life.” Losing is such a big part of any athlete, so it pays to learn to manage it and the effects of it. Also, it is vital to have good relationships, broader interests and generally a life outside the professional field because honestly, it keeps you sane and alive when you professionally are in a slump.
  4. This is a match covered also in the book. It was great to see it after knowing the experience and story the athlete had:

A short review of Andre Agassi’s tennis career in Youtube.

Mindset coaching philosophy

As a performance coach, all these topics come up with my clients no matter the field, sport or level. Whether an athlete or a doctor, a leader or an artist. We have our own struggles to get clarity on and strategies to put in place. And we need our own practice and mindset and philosophy for sport and for coaching. Tennis is a unique sport which has molded our understanding of mental training as well. I recommend reading another book. Timothy Gallway developed his mental practice philosphy (“The Inner Game of Tennis”) working with tennis players. It has become one of the core books for performance coaches of all kinds and of course for tennis players. I highly recommend reading it and figuring out how to use it in your field of performance or contact me to help you and your team to set strategic steps for performance.

About the Author

liisi

Performance coach, blogger and activist.

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