Courage has different dimensions
Courage is a character’s trait that is mostly associated with soldiers and heroes. Policeman needs a courage to stop the burglar in actions; fireman needs a courage to go inside the firing house and save the people; tennis player needs a courage too to stay on the right track and succeed in the future. Courage helps us to try to do things and face challenges to get better in different environment. Does tennis player needs the same courage like a soldier on the war? Are there different kinds of courage? This article will answer all these questions and it will show how courage has an impact on player’s development, results and successes.
Tennis coaching is based on developing variety of skills in 4 main areas: technical, tactical, mental and physical. Technical (backswing, footwork, toss) and physical (endurance, speed, strength) abilities are quite easy to observe so many coaches spend most of the training time on these areas because error detection and problem solution are processes that can bring positive results in a short time. On the other hand, tactical (defensive shots while being deep behind the baseline, hitting drop shots in proper positions on the court) and mental (emotional control, courage) skills are not so visible so greater knowledge and experience are needed to successfuly address these parts. There are many situations on and off the court where players can develop skills that are needed to succeed on the tennis court as also later after their athletic career is done. Courage is one of these skills so coaches should spend a lot of time explaining to players how to get this ability to be brave as also where the situations are where we can check our courage. Watching professional tennis matches, many times we admire Federer or Nadal for guts to hit terrific shot while saving a break or match point. This situation is not a lucky time for them but it is a result of many repetitions of courageous situations that they faced in the past. Famous „fight or flight” response is associated with courage and each situation forces the player to make a decision: to go into uncomfortable position, fight hard and take responsibility for this action or to flight away from this challenge, feel comfortable for a short time and have some regrets in the future. Can you teach everyone to be brave and have courage to face every difficult situation? Of course we can. It is a skill that needs repetition to engrave this behavior forever. As forehand needs thousands of balls hit over the net to make it effective, courage has to be built too with hundreds of situations where we face something uncomfortable and the result is not so important. Let’s see where the courage lessons are available in our everyday’s life on and off the tennis court.
Set goals and honestly achieve them
Goals make the process more effective and keep the player motivated. Players, who set goals, are more devoted to tennis so coaches should encourage athletes to do this consistently. Courage is built with setting goals because players can get information if the last month was successful or not. Many people don’t like to be assessed so they avoid setting goals because it is comfortable. On the other hand, there are also players, who set goals but they are not honest while achieving them. What does it mean? Let’s imagine that your player sets a goal to miss maximum 5 balls into the net while serving at the end of the practice. On Tuesday, he is serving, missed already 4 balls into the net and he has 20 balls more to serve. What is his reaction? Is he going to serve with the same spin and speed and trying to make all balls over the net? Or maybe he is just pushing all the balls to achieve the goal and feel comfortable? Here is the time to check player’s courage. If player is ready to continue regular serving and accepting the possibility to fail, he is getting better in all areas. On the other hand, pushing the balls to just achieve the goal doesn’t help with improving mental and technical skills so the goal is worth nothing.
You practice for yourself
Courage is of utmost importance while trying to work hard consistently. Each day we face different situations that check our courage. As a former tennis player, I remember days when I had to pick between doing what I have to do in uncomfortable environment or feeling well and skipping my regimens. One of the examples is my fitness part that I was doing consistently at 7.30 am on the indoor courts. Next to my court when I was doing sprints and ladder drills were high school peers who had mandatory physical education lessons. Some of them were exercising while others were staying next to my court and wondering how crazy I have to be to run „stupid” drills at 7.30. Many uncomfortable comments made this challange even harder to face every time I was getting up in the morning. Now, as a tennis coach, I see the value of these experiences and I am proud of myself that I didn’t give up these days. I understood that I do it for myself and none of these guys will stop me from trying to achieve my dreams. These and other situations where we have to face others’ opinions and comments are examples of times where players can really develop courage in their actions.
Try new things in your life
Human beings love to do things that they are good at. Firstly, it is because we feel comfortable and it brings fun to the action. Secondly, our ego gets a boost when we can show decent skills in a given situation. Completely different approach is seen while people are trying new things in life. Why do people stand next to the wall instead of dancing on the dancefloor? It is simple. The answer is related to the others’ opinion. They can see that we don’t excel at something so they comment, laugh and point out. Couragous people don’t care about others and all they think is about their own feelings and thoughts. If you want to do something, just do it! Coach should instill this mindset in players’ heads to help them achieve their dreams.
About the Author
Marcin Bieniek is a tennis coach from Poland and a former professional player (Polish National Juniors Team). He is a certificated tennis coach by the Polish Tennis Coaching Association and the Professional Tennis Registry. Marcin has worked with many of the top 20 Polish Juniors and the top 150 players in the world.