Macquarie Uni AMT Gold

One thing that has remained constant in my life is how much I enjoy playing the game of tennis. I had been contemplating a return to competitive tennis throughout the year, however I just couldn’t find the balance between feeling physically able to compete, finding the right event and the time.

Along came November and the usual Christmas/New Year rush begins to kick in, with invites to work events, parties, family lunches etc so I decided to get my mind off it all and do something productive in the meantime. I knew that there was no way I’d avoid indulging in way too much food and drink during December, so I decided to workout a few days a week in addition to my usual coaching schedule. I had an epiphany as such, and decided that I would free up my time completely in December and compete again. I thought, what a fantastic way to end a year that has been somewhat tumultuous for me.

My last competitive match was in November of 2013, a pre-qualifying match for a Professional Women’s Challenger event in San Antonio, Texas. I specifically remember completing an intensive on-court and off-court program for 6 weeks before this match, and I was very flat during that performance. There was nothing in the tank sadly. I learnt a lot from that experience and decided that should I return to competitive tennis, I will focus solely on an intensive off-court regime and work my way into form on-court throughout the event.

It may be thought of as courageous, silly or even inspiring to others, but I will attempt to turn back time (like Cher) by spending the remainder of this week competing at the Macquarie Uni AMT Gold tournament against our up and coming juniors throughout NSW.

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High Performance Camps at Premier Tennis Academy

I feel very proud and honoured to be conducting the High Performance Camps at the Kings School in Parramatta, NSW over the next two weeks. I will be working alongside the coaching team and staff at Premier Tennis Academy to ensure that our students are going to have a tremendous experience with us over the next fortnight. I’m super excited to begin. See you out on court!

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For more information and registration, go to High Performance Camp at Premier Tennis Academy.

The Truth About Sport

I was keen to learn more about a woman who came from very humble beginnings to becoming an Olympian figure skater. Three of my biggest inspirations growing up came from watching athletics, gymnastics and figure skating as a child. The men and women were powerful, strong, intense, yet graceful and it was so fascinating to see what their bodies were capable of doing. It was absolutely breathtaking.

I followed my passion of wanting to represent my country at the Olympics, as a professional tennis player. I did not reach that pinnacle but I do find the journey of an athlete that does very intriguing.

What kind of person do you need to be? What are the characteristics that you need to possess? How do you overcome challenges or adversity? Is there ever an element of luck and timing? Can you truly be in control of your destiny?

I decided to watch the trailer for I,Tonya, a film about a US figure skater and the story behind representing her country at the Olympics and creating history in that sport. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It was all very unfathomable and almost unbelievable. I won’t give anything away for those who have not seen the film, but I decided to not do any research into Tonya Harding and simply let the film speak for itself. The trailer was that impactful. See for yourself.

I,Tonya Trailer

I watched the film and indeed, there were a few themes that strongly resonated with me.

Tonya’s Expectations

In Tonya Harding’s case, figure skating was her entire life, where performing the jumps and perfecting the choreography in the routine meant everything. After all, that’s what figure skating is, right? Her mother worked multiple jobs to pay for Tonya’s lessons and Tonya herself worked part-time alongside her 8 hour training days at the ice rink in order to make end meet. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being that focused on your goals. How else do you think Tonya became the first woman to land a triple axel in competition? A feat that only one other woman has accomplished to date. But something was missing. The judges scores didn’t seem to suffice in Tonya’s eyes. She didn’t understand what was missing from her performances. She didn’t understand what the judges were penalising her for. Tonya did not know what else she needed to do for the scores she expected. Here lies the truth about sport at the highest level…

The Industry’s Expectations

There really isn’t a rule anywhere in the world of sport that says “an athlete that represents our nation must possess the technical ability and results in their sport, in addition to portraying a standardised image that the industry deems acceptable for prime time viewing”. If anyone knows of such a rule, I’d love to see it because as a coach and mentor, I would advise my students and their parents that this is a hard and fast rule of sport at the highest level. After 20 years within the sports industry, I have not come across a rule with that subject matter however something tells me that sport at the highest level is all smoke and mirrors.

If you ask any child what they love about their favourite sport or athlete, they will tell you it is all about what they feel when they watch that performance. It is never about where that athlete came from or who their parents are or how much money the athlete earns.

Alison’s Expectations

My expectation of both men and women that govern sporting bodies and associations across the globe is to understand and realise that the attraction to an athlete for a child is always about how they feel when they watch their performances. It is all about what they see and hear that makes that child want to emulate the athlete that inspires them. That is the ultimate draw card in every sport.

The concepts of branding, image and status are all made for the consumption of adults. Sport at the highest level should never serve the purpose of adult consumption because it’s core market is children. It is about every child who catches a glimpse of a performance by an athlete and subsequently that sparks a desire, a dream, an ambition to become a professional athlete and/or Olympian themselves. It is time that we become driven by empathy, truth and reality because that is what will inspire and empower a generation.

Back To The Beginning Again

Tennis is one of the toughest sports in my opinion, not just because it is an individual sport, but also due to the fact that there is no set criteria to follow in order to achieve success. If anyone has tried to play tennis at a high level or even a recreational level, it soon becomes evident just how much you dont know about the sport and how little credible information is available to you.

If you are interested and passionate about a specific job, you will be provided with a job description, which assists you in considering your chances of landing the role. If you want to purchase a product, the price, brand and description of the product is given to you prior to purchase. If you want to travel to a certain country, it just takes one online search to find out everything you need to know to proceed. In a way, there is some form of expectation and so working towards meeting that expectation seems plausible. What about tennis? Where are the ‘trip advisors’ or ‘expedias’ in relation to tennis? It’s non existent. You may be wondering why this is the case. I know I have on many occasions.

The biggest reason for that in my opinion is because becoming a professional tennis player is like wanting to be a successful actor/actress, singer, performer, artist etc. Nobody really knows whether or not someone will excel, even though the potential is evident. There are no two individuals who will have the same journey either. Take Venus and Serena Williams for example, who were born to the same parents, raised in the same household, had the same upbringing, but have had very different careers as tennis players both on and off the court. There is no certainty that being taught at a prestigious school, academy or anywhere else and by whom for that matter will result in success either. It’s a matter of trial and error, drawing to a halt and then starting back at the beginning again in order to find what brings out the best in you or your player. The trigger for this process is when you begin to see your results plateau over a period of 6 to 12 months. Flexibility is just the start. Being open to new ideas, innovation and changing routines/processes is what this is all about.

In sport, your biggest rivals are your competition. The key is to be on your toes so to speak, keeping your eyes and ears open, continually studying your competition to understand their strengths and weaknesses. All the while to ensure you HAVE and SUSTAIN a competitive advantage. Differentiating yourself is the greatest asset of all!

 

Breaking Bad

I would like to say that this post is in some way related to the hit US TV series Breaking Bad, but sadly it has nothing to do with it. I’m sorry to all of you out there who thought otherwise lol.

This post does however have something to do with breaking bad and creating good. Have you heard of the saying ‘you are what you repeat?’ I believe that your habits in everyday life, at home, in public or at work, will define you as a person.

So how do we break bad habits and begin to form good habits in these areas? I have listed a few tips below which can help you do so:

  1. Get still. It is so important to reflect on your experiences, both positive and negative, almost everyday. If you are not doing around 15 minutes of reflection, then you may be missing out on vital signs or opportunities in all aspects of your life. Ask yourself questions like ‘what did I learn today?’ or ‘what are the successful people around me doing?’ or ‘do I need to make any adjustments to my routine?’
  2. Be silent. I often find that as a coach and perhaps this may go for someone who is in a similar role, that I struggle to stop teaching and give direction to others. If you are in the same boat, remember that it is not always what you say to someone that can trigger change or make an impact, but non-verbal communication can be just as powerful, if not more!
  3. Listen to feedback. Apparently there’s no such thing as bad press, well, that is the mentality of many celebrity agents. I will say that there is no such thing as bad feedback. In this day and age, feedback doesn’t come cheap and it isn’t given often so you better keep your eyes and ears open for it because performance management is not something you should only consider or be prepared for when its time to have your annual review. Performance management is your own responsibility and no one else’s, so look for any opportunity to receive feedback and seek advice.
  4. There is no room for stagnation in your life. Albert Einstein said that it is madness to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. The man has a point. I don’t believe that people are meant to be doing the same thing over and over again for numerous years if they aren’t succeeding. Something has gotta give. Even when you are exceptional at what you do, you need to relish in learning more and perfecting your craft, because nothing lasts forever.
  5. Make goals. Write daily goals or tasks that you would like to achieve and check off each one you achieve. This simple task is a very healthy habit to have as it allows you to have a clear mind as to what your purpose for each day will be. In addition to your daily goals, you should set aside monthly and yearly goals so that you stay focused and driven toward achievement at all times.

If you can apply the above 5 tips into your daily life, I can assure you that you will be breaking bad and creating good.

 

What Is Your Legacy?

What is my legacy? What will people remember me for? I have asked myself these questions every now and then. Many people have told me that I’m too young to be thinking about my legacy, as a 27 year old, but I beg to differ. It’s important to let things fall into place in life and to follow your heart, but we also need to think about how our decisions will impact others. As a member of society, we have a duty to not only ourselves and immediate family, but to those around us as well. How will our decisions impact our own life and the lives of others? Will it be positive or negative? Are we empowering or disempowering those around us? I find that the impact we have on others shapes our legacy and inspires those around us to become the best version of themselves.

As you all know, I was a professional tennis player for five years. There were so many players that inspired me because of their on court ability and achievements. However, there was one particular player who stood out from the rest. He had a powerful forehand and serve, was charismatic, had a wonderful personality, was highly competitive, fun to watch and had great sportsmanship. He also happened to be my childhood heartthob 😉

This man was the one and only Andy Roddick. He was the US men’s number 1 tennis player for many years, won the US Open in 2003 and reached world 1 on the ATP tour that same year. He also won 32 other career singles titles and held a 74.18% career win/loss record over his 12 year career as a professional. It’s an exceptional record that should be celebrated and applauded. However, many people aren’t aware that Andy did not only have an exceptional on court record, but the decisons he made off court are what helped shape his character and legacy beyond his playing career. It was during the same year that Andy turned professional, in 2000, he established the Andy Roddick Foundation. His foundation sought to provide opportunities to low-income communities through education and sports mentoring. So many tennis players got behind Andy and purchased his ‘no compromise’ blue bracelets (including myself), among other items, with all proceeds from purchases went to his foundation. It is worthy of pointing out that this was prior to Lance Armstrong’s ‘live strong’ brand explosion, which also featured the bracelet but in a yellow colour instead. Throughout his career he was actively involved in various charity events, including hosting an annual gala for his foundation.

Andy’s actions became the benchmark for me as a tennis player and many others as well. It was quite ironic that later on in my career I would begin to use the same racket as Andy, his signature Babolat Pure Drive Plus frame, and a rubber band as a vibration dampener. I also decided to work with one of his former coaches Tarik Benhabiles in the US, who played a huge role in the development of Andy’s game. I should’ve contemplated wearing Lacoste clothing at that time. Now, that would’ve been a dead giveaway that I really wanted to be just like Andy Roddick 🙂

Remember to think about your legacy and how the decisions you make today will impact others. Your actions today will shape your character, be a part of your legacy and inspire those around you to become the best version of themselves.

Andy’s Career Stats

 

Face Your Fears

My greatest piece of advice that I could give anyone, especially a younger athlete, is to face their fears. There is no way you can succeed at anything you set your mind to if you are afraid.

I used to be afraid that by my mid-twenties I wouldn’t acquire any other skill than playing the game of tennis. I used to be afraid of becoming a tennis coach, in the sense that it was what someone did if they couldn’t become a great competitor themselves. I used to be afraid that I would never play tennis at a grand slam level. I had absolutely no perspective growing up. I lived in a bubble. It was a world that only revolved around a tennis racket, court, ball, fitness routine and eating plan. Everything else was either taken care of, or was apparently none my business.

The funny thing is that I have lived through all of my past fears in life and realised that I survived through them all. Some of those fears I proactively attempted to face and others just happened spontaneously, nonetheless, I am now fearless and stronger than ever. By placing yourself in a position to face your fears, that fear becomes obsolete in your mind and you are then able to live life to the fullest and excel! Go on, what are you waiting for? 🙂

 

Do Lead Up Tournaments Matter?

At the end of December, when others are looking forward to a holiday, time off work, spending Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends, tennis players are traveling and competing as per tournament schedule requirements. I observed that the way players finished a season would impact the start of the new season. It almost sets the tone for the next group of tournaments, which was evident last week with Svetlana Kuznetsova, winning the Kremlin Cup at year-end 2015 then having an off season and starting 2016 with a win at the Apia International in Sydney. There is no way you can fault how Kuznetsova and her team have handled the past 3-4 months. Victoria Azarenka and co have also been flawless in terms of their preparation, winning the Brisbane International over very strong competition. Current world no.1 Novak Djokovic has only lost 2 matches in 6 months, which is nothing short of amazing!

It will be all eyes on Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios as they prepare to beat the likes of Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal in just over one week’s time. They are Australia’s best chance at this years major, so I wanted to go a little deeper into the way they have performed in the lead up to the event. Tomic had a nice run in Shanghai in October of 2015, competed in a couple of ATP Tour events thereafter, had an off season and as a lead up to the Australian Open, competed in two ATP Tour 250 events in Brisbane and Sydney. Kyrgios was impressive at Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo in October 2015, competed in a couple ATP Tour events thereafter, spent December competing in the Indian Premier Tennis League and as a lead up to the Australian Open, decided to accept an invitation to compete for Australia in both the Hopman Cup and Kooyong Classic.

Tomic and co seem ‘ranking-focused’ whereas Kyrgios and co are ‘exhibition-focused’. There is no right or wrong way to prepare for a major as it depends on the individual player, but both Tomic and Kyrgios were not able to finish matches in their lead up events, due to illness and injury respectively. That is quite concerning because there was no great deal of stress placed upon them over the past few months in terms of match numbers. The proof is in the pudding and lead up events are a tell tale sign of which players will excel at the majors. It will certainly be one exciting fortnight! 🙂

 

The Pursuit of Becoming a Tennis Champion

The pursuit of becoming a tennis champion is a journey that consists of numerous highs and lows. In my opinion and after my own experiences, the lows certainly outweigh the highs, particularly if you have your sights on big time tennis. This is the nature of the sport of tennis. It’s not about how many highs or lows you experience or the positive and negative experiences, rather treating every experience as simply being part of the bigger picture. I tell my students on many occasions that if they want to be successful, they must stay in the present moment, because that is the only way they will truly embrace all that is around them and grow as an athlete and person.

Having said that, there should also be a long-term outlook for every athlete and it should be based on the following things;

  1. Work hard and smart
  2. Seek improvement
  3. Focus on your health
  4. Be happy
  5. Be mentally fit for competition.

In addition to the above, you should keep your eye on your short-term goals and focus on achieving them, because they are the pathway towards achieving the long-term goals. The long-term goals will predominantly require tournament schedule planning and ranking analysis.

Let’s take a real-life example, say your short-term goal is to get fit before a big tournament, so you hire a fitness trainer and spend 6-8 weeks working on a specific fitness program in addition to your on-court training. Learn from the experience and move onto the next goal. This could be to better your serve, so spend 20min at the end of each on-court session working on the serve, in addition to your current on-court activities and fitness maintenance schedule. Learn from the experience and move onto the next goal. This could be to work on your in-game tactics during matches. One way to help you here is to play games and tie-breakers in addition to your on court-training and fitness maintenance schedule. It would be ideal to have your coach watch you and guide you in terms of in-game tactics to improve on. So as you can see, you have now tackled 3 short-term goals of improving your fitness, serve and tactics in a smart and productive way. This is how you can work hard and smart.

Do you think that an athlete can do this alone? I don’t think it is possible in the long-run. It takes a team of professionals behind every step of the way for any athlete. It is not a walk in the park at all!

If that sounds like much, or you’re thinking ‘Alison, you must be exaggerating”, let’s take a look into a day in the life of young Rafa Nadal, as he explains in his own words whilst unveiling his new tennis academy in Mallorca, Spain.

“Attend School from 9am to 12pm. Tennis Training from 12-2pm. Attend School from 2-5:30pm. Soccer Training from 5:30-7pm. Tennis Training from 7-9pm. Dinner and Homework from 9pm onwards.”

Are you still asking, what does it take to become a tennis champion?

 

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