Tennis Coaching: Balancing Accountability with Push

I (Jonathan Goldfarb) spent many years during my junior, college and professional tennis career learning and growing as an athlete. Today, as a coach and consultant, I stress the dual importance of taking responsibility for your actions, while allowing others to push you past comfort levels. Almost all players have thresholds that they are unwilling to push past. Some students that work physically hard may need to be more mentally or emotionally pushed. Whereas, some of the most independent, emotionally mature competitors do not push their bodies hard enough. Overly independent players sometimes control their world too much, do not take enough risk and prevent others from pushing them beyond the vision they see. On the other hand, those that always want people around them can be too needy and as a result do not develop higher confidence and self-esteem. The end result: being too independent or overly dependent on others are both problematic for tennis players seeking to maximize their potential. The answer: surround yourself with quality people that can push you past your limitations, while still allowing you to mature through a process of truth and self-responsibility.

While it sounds simple, in actuality creating this balance is not easy. If it were – each of us would be well on our way to maximizing our potential. The questions become then: Why are only some students finding the right coaches to push them? And why are some athletes improving their level of independence and accountability while others appear to be stagnant? In my own experience playing and coaching I have summed up the reasons as follows: Lack of awareness regarding improvement needs in the areas of tennis skills, athleticism and mental toughness; Over-thinking challenges to the point where quality decisions are not being made; and an Unwillingness to put oneself on the line all together.

The natural next step would be to ask, how do we gain more awareness and overcome these flaws? To begin, we have to be honest with ourselves regarding engrained negative behavioral patterns. Just because one has not hit rock bottom doesn’t mean he or she should wait to change. Next, become aware of our habits during both practices and tennis matches. And finally, seek out the advice of a coach if you are not steadily improving in practice and matches. If the advice you are currently receiving is not working, then pursue a second opinion. If progress is still lacking, it’s time to ask yourself whether you are truly being honest with your decisions, goals and actions. It may also be time to give your environment an update.

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