Monday, 17 June 2013

I agree with Nick

One of the joys of the short English grass court tennis season is listening on radio 5 live to the wisdom of coach Nick Bollettieri. And with a very wet weekend at the Queen's Club Championship this weekend we had a bumper helping of Nick. Two snippets worth sharing touched on the coaching process and focus.

When the semi-final was interrupted by rain, the 5 live presenter asked Nick what the coach needed to say in the locker room to his player. The answer highlighted some of the arts of coaching and made me reflect on how I engage with athletes. While I can't do the full radio dialogue justice here are the salient points made by Bollettieri: "Every player is different, some need only a word, some need a full conversation and if its Tommy Haas then expect a verbal blast back if you say anything at all to him". So far so good. Then "why don't you start off by asking the player a question, the answer tells you what you need to say" and finally "if I need to say something, I keep it short and to the point". So obvious I hear you say and how often do we see this simple formula ignored, whether be sports coaches, bosses of even in normal family settings. I know I am guilty at times of taking the same approach to all and not taking time to ask a great question and listen to the answer.

The second gem came as Andy Murray was battling a bad ankle/groin and was behind in the final. The commentators question was about what Murray would be focusing on, how much would Wimbledon next week be on his mind. Nick was blunt in his assessment. Murray's focus would be on the next point of this match at Queen's, there was no chance he would be thing about Wimbledon. And if he was, then he would be toast in this final.

This ability to focus totally on the moment is one of the things that sets the top sportsman apart from the rest. One ball at a time, one step at a time. They can do it in practice as well as in competition and you see this in the quality of their training. They make every minute of practice high quality and meanigful - there is no time for worrying about what is coming next. In running Paula Radcliffe famously used to count to 100 when she got tired in the marathon as a way of keeping her focused in the moment rather than let her mind get sidetracked by what was still to come.

If you get chance during Wimbledon fortnight, switch the TV to silent andd get Nick on Radio 5 for some more coaching gems.

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