Here are some of my top tips for any aspiring pros. There are so many things I could talk about but here are just a few to get started with. This is what I have learnt in my time in tennis and I am sure you might disagree with some of it but that is great. I don’t know which is more boring… me agreeing with people all the time or everyone agreeing with me. Number 3 is a personal favourite of mine.
- Be prepared but flexible
Have an idea of your schedule for the next few months and spend an hour or two working out logistics of all the possibilities. Then you can be prepared as something like a visa can take time, but also know what your Plan B is in case something changes, like your ranking dramatically moves or an entry list is surprisingly weak somewhere. This is relevant for players of any age competing internationally. As frustrating as it is, you just cannot commit to tournaments months in advance. Things can change very quickly… tournaments get cancelled or moved venues, you get injured, you don’t get in etc. It is not worth wasting money trying to get cheap flights way in advance… you will just have to change them and spend more.
This is a great attitude to have on the court as well. Always be prepared for them to play their best tennis, but flexible enough to react to what is happening in the match. If you have scouted your opponent and seen that their forehand is weaker then prepare for that, but they might find their range on it at some point in the match and you will have to adapt quickly! If I hit a big backhand deep and I see them struggling, I am preparing for their best possible shot from that position, but ready in case it falls short.
- Work smarter
Working harder is definitely a good thing, but working smarter is better. If you are under 12 then trying and effort should be rewarded, as this skill needs to be learnt, but if you are older than that it is expected of you. Coming off the court and saying “I tried to be aggressive but I wasn’t” unfortunately just isn’t good enough… trying is a minimum requirement and thousands of kids just as good as you and better around the world are trying so it doesn’t make you special. However, if you come off court and say I tried to be aggressive and I was but it just didn’t go in enough, then you aren’t trying you are doing but without the success yet. If one kid is trying to be aggressive and the other is just being aggressive I know which one will develop this area of their game faster.
- Surround yourself with the right people
Now this is a tough one. It is rather easy for me to say but very difficult to put in to practice. I have let many people close to me that I wish I hadn’t but how was I supposed know? This is what I have figured out…
The right people don’t make you win they make you better. They believe in you even on your worst days, they have confidence in you when you don’t, they treat you as a person first and a player second and they aren’t afraid to tell you when it is not good enough. The right people never tell you what you should do, that just takes responsibility away from you, instead they help you want to do it for yourself.
The right people hold you accountable for staying true to your values and they stay true to theirs no matter what, even if it means losing you as their player. They help you solve your own problems rather than fixing it for you, they admit when they don’t have the answer and they NEVER make you feel bad for making a mistake or losing.
Experience is not crucial as the coach, parent and trainer can learn along with the player as long as they are open to this. Having access to someone with experience of the journey can be really helpful though, so the coach or parent can consult with them and use their advice effectively to help the player as best as possible.
- Enjoy your own company
There is a lot of down time in the life of a tennis player, and it is not always easy to deal with. Have a hobby you can do on the road (this blog is mine), and get to know yourself. You could learn more about the place you are in and go exploring, get started on a series, read, write, draw, or continue your education on line. There are lots of things you can do that can help prepare you for life after tennis, and it is great to have a plan as well as a distraction on tour.
Learning another language is really a brilliant way to spend your time. If you learn Spanish or French you will be able to learn from foreign coaches and players and bring a whole new dimension to your tennis. It is also far more enjoyable to be in a country when you can speak the language!
- Read my blog!
I will continue to post helpful tips and information to show a little insight in to this world whilst keeping you updated on my own progress. You can follow my blog by clicking on the menu icon in the top right and opting to ‘follow this blog’. You can also follow me on twitter and ask me any questions or share your experiences with me if you want. I look forward to hearing from you!