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Great Tennis Performers
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The Aggressive Margin
January 24, 2011

Character – The Foundation of Excellence

smiling child player

On any given day, a player is asked to study, practice, compete, and train with great effort and concentration in order to fulfill his or her potential. Rarely do we take time to think about how developing and understanding our character traits influence performances on the court.

Parents, teachers, coaches and the player’s environment shape these traits.

Motivation – The “fire in one’s belly” is the most important characteristic at the start of any endeavor. When players say they are “burned out” – my reply is always that they were never really “on fire”.

Commitment – Few will argue that being a successful tennis player requires a player to commit to hard work and intense concentration. At times the journey towards excellence requires sacrifices and difficult choices. A player of high commitment and discipline often “takes the road less traveled” understanding that it will ultimately lead to personal success.

Responsibility – Great athletes understand that their successes and failures on the playing field are their own doing. While coaches, other players, and family all play a valuable role in training and competition, the successful player takes personal responsibility for development. This could be something as simple as making sure enough rackets are well-strung and re-gripped for matches, to something as challenging as admitting when one falls short of goals.

Discipline – The ability to do something even though we don’t want to is a massively important character trait. The big D is surely one of the most important traits in the age of self gratification.

Truthfulness – Honest self-evaluation will give you the opportunity to improve your skills and not just fool yourself in believing you are training hard. Furthermore, a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to prepare the best game plan possible. Honesty is also important in competition. The stress of competition and a strong motivation to win often tempts a player to behave without sportsmanship. Restraining from such behavior will give you strength and confidence in your skills to succeed in future matches.

Delayed Gratification – In today’s quick fix / quick result mentality this has probably to be one of the most important character traits of our time. The ability to grow and make changes and take the losses early on for the good of the end result is enormous.

Self Confidence – Deep seated self confidence in one’s ability is critical at crucial times in an athlete’s performance. Without this the athlete my come close but never quite breakthrough. “Underdogs come close but they never win” is a very true statement as they do not yet have the self belief to break through the pecking order.

Self Reliance – In sports and especially in tennis the ability to dig deep and have the belief in ones own capabilities. You are your own coach on the court the ability to make good decisions and rely on your own good decision making capabilities is critical.

Self Control – Tennis is the most difficult game in the world – requiring strong physical, mental and emotional skills. Without these emotional skills and the tremendous stress tennis places on players, top performance is not achievable.

Courage – The quote – “For the brave nothing is too difficult” is very true for tennis. At times players have to take risks and be aggressive and without this trait it cannot happen.

How many of these traits do you possess? It is important to your success that you work on those traits that you might not display as often as you should.

The connection between character and performance is often times forgotten. In a time of trash-talking the foundation of excellence is sometimes overlooked.