Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Marco Bitran: Tennis Superheroes - How to Train a Top Performer


Being an excellent performer is neither natural nor easily mastered. It is an effortful project that requires a meticulous plan, mental discipline and plenty of grit. If you wish to achieve extraordinary things, you need to start thinking in a way which high-performance people do. And top performers do not think in an ordinary way. When involved in tasks they need to perform, they take on identities which are quite remarkable and have little to do with mundane lines of thinking.

The formation of an optimal performer, a complete tennis player and a strong individual is a multi-dimensional undertaking. It calls for a super powerful mix encompassing customised tennis instruction along with physical skills development, a mental skills programme centred on attention control and positive life skills coaching.

The process of creating a mentality that would foster high performance may be stimulated by emulation of top performers' patterns of thinking and behavior. More specifically, it may rely on the integration of concepts, strategies and perspectives which are most frequently employed and prioritized by elite professional tennis players. Such a selection, amongst others, comprises the growth mindset, task mastery and powerful self-presentation. The most significant benefit of such a broad and multi-faceted modelling approach is not only its emphasis on the already tested models of efficacy for sport performance. Also, what counts is its demonstration of transferability of life skills through tennis players' powerful identity construction and communication in non-sport settings.

 There is a close mesh between the cultivation of the growth mindset and performance and process orientations. The growth mindset and performance orientation consist in the continual self-development and persistent working towards the maximization of potential. Each case of planned effort exertion, however small in scale, breeds a little transformation. This improvement, in turn, can only be achieved through process goals which involve the calibration of focus on the task at hand. What unites these approaches is immersion in the here and now, complete abandon in the act of doing, total absorption in performance rather than its outcomes. Crucially, this is how these perspectives contribute to inciting the ever elusive state of flow considered optimal for the attainment of peak performance in all life pursuits including not only sport, but also academic, professional and interpersonal endeavours.

What significantly complements the combination of the mental strategies is powerful self-presentation. That you can talk yourself into thinking strong by adopting the communication style of top-notch performers is a potent idea from a psychological perspective. Power talking leads to power thinking. Tennis players' forceful communication entails adamant sticking to their principles and values, decisive rejections of unproductive thought patterns and their creative replacement with a range of psychologically fruitful solutions.

Inspired by outstanding sportspeople, this model of the top performer's identity may serve as a tool to achieve all-around greatness and act as a blueprint for an optimal mindset, which facilitates effective performance, promotes positive life skills and nourishes general psychological well-being.

Karolina Sznycer is a researcher working at Barcelona Tennis Academy in Spain where the program 'Developing strong individuals - Play2Inspire' is implemented. For more information about the program check out the website

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