I was extremely fortunate last weekend to attend a coach conference at Gleneagles where Jose Higueras was the main speaker. For anyone unfamiliar with Jose he achieved a world ranking of no 6 as a player and then went on to coach Michael Chang (winning French Open (at 17years of age) plus Jim Courier , Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and many others. So, a reasonable pedigree as both a player and coach!
So, what does Jose put down as the secrets to success in tennis? His 4 non negotiables were as follows:
I have just finished reading a book about Pep Guardiola and his methods of management in football. It's interesting how similar an approach that both Guardiola and Higueras have towards creating a culture of success. "Barcelona my way" is certainly worth reading.
My experience of Spanish players and coaches in both tennis and other sports is quite similar in that they show great humility and work extremely hard. The idea is always to develop the person first and then the player will follow. Obviously the greatest example of this is Rafa Nadal who in my view is the greatest competitor I have ever seen. And just listen to him speak to appreciate how much he believes in respect and humility.
How does this relate to club level players?
I would argue that you can follow these guidelines even at club level and you will have greater success. Most people who compete in tennis at any level will experience difficult moments especially when they lose to someone they perceive to be of a lower level! If you truly respect your opponent and at no time during the match are worrying about losing to an "inferior" player I will guarantee that there will be fewer losses to this person. You may well lose but try not to let it be for a lack of respect.
Respect and humility are the key areas for competitive club players as the other 3 attributes are generally easier to commit to (engagement, effort, punctuality). After all, it's your choice to play tennis! Full time players of any age sometimes struggle to find the motivation every day to be engaged, working hard and to be on time! The element of fun instilled by coaches, parents, and others combined with the other key factors listed above is what will give a young player the best chance of success.
My favourite lines from Jose Higueras
"Federer and Rafa are great people. I love the way they treat others"
"Use your strengths on big points" (Good to have a plan)
"Quality is always better than quantity" (Smart training)
"Roger is how to play the game" (His opinion)
"McEnroe, Borg and Connors played every point" (Great focus)
"I don't need a palace to help players" (No excuses)
"At a recreational level inspire them and have fun" (What we try to do on TTH)