Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number

I turn 30 in just over 9 months time. I honestly cannot believe how fast my 20s went. I remember being a teenager and desperately wanting to turn 20 and put all the “teenage drama” behind me. There were so many ups and downs, much similar to a roller coaster. I just knew that once I moved past the age of 19 and turned 20, everything will change and it certainly did. I felt a brand new confidence on my 20th birthday, where I was competing on tour in Bundaberg, Australia and on my favourite surface – clay. I had just returned from a European clay court tour and I felt like I finally found my way in the sport.

I was browsing LinkedIn for some daily inspiration and I came across this article written by Business Insider. It’s certainly worth the read.

17 Things to Start Doing in Your 20s So You Don’t Live in Regret in Your 40s

I now look back at my 20s and I can confidently say that I have lived by these tips, however I can improve in many areas. I feel as though over the past 4 years or so, I lost the tremendous confidence that I had in my early 20s. There have been multiple factors of course, however the worst part of that was the negative impact it had on my personal life. The saying “everything that goes up, must come down” certainly hit home hard in my case.

After reading this article, I feel as though it could act as a blueprint towards a happier and healthier life for me and I’ll certainly be mindful of these tips over the next decade of my life, irrespective of my age. I hope that it has a similarly impact on you too.

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Lessons from my European travels

I remember a time when you relied upon people by either a confirmation over the phone, on face value or via email. Days, weeks and even months would go by but it didn’t matter as you gave someone your word. You were only as good as keeping your word.

I grew up with this understanding and it served me very well when I was a traveling tennis pro, moving from town to town throughout Europe for months on end. I would liaise with a tournament director via email with regard to my travel/accommodation arrangements for the week, and that was my only point of contact on many occasions. I didn’t carry an iPhone as I couldn’t afford one so I had to go without a phone contact most of the time. It amazed me how on every single occasion I was greeted with such genuine hospitality and warmth by complete strangers at either an airport terminal, train station or in their home. It was daunting but you just go with it.

Fast forward to 2018, just over 7 years that I ended my competitive playing career and nothing has changed for me. I have continued to believe in the goodwill you acquire when being able to keep ones word. Just as I emailed a complete stranger and requested travel/accommodation arrangements (often sharing a room with others too) I take similar steps to secure employment and request more information about something of my interest. I keep things simple and clear, often using one line of communication, either email or Instagram for example and I go with it.

There are so many lessons to be learned when you are disconnected and have very little to rely on. Your interaction with a complete stranger becomes your only option and you have to react and respond on your feet. It’s make or break. No second chances. I believe it’s survival skills that are the single most important skills to develop and have confidence with above all others in life.

Blacktown Tennis Centre – Stanhope Gardens

It’s pretty amazing what can happen when you take a leap of faith in life. A few months ago, I decided to make the commitment to build my networks within the tennis industry and follow my passion for this game.

An amazing opportunity has come my way which takes me full circle in my tennis career. I have accepted a position as Tennis Instructor at Blacktown Tennis Centre located in Stanhope Gardens Leisure Centre.

Blacktown Tennis Association was the very first that I competed for as a child, over 20 years ago! It was the start of my career that has led me on this amazing journey. I am so excited to give back to my community by doing what I am most passionate about.

If you would like to know more about this amazing facility and the programs on offer, visit Blacktown Tennis Centre Stanhope.

Why is clay court tennis different?

Tennis is perhaps one of the only sports that requires an athlete to compete on more than four different surfaces throughout one season. Just off the top of my head, you have Plexicushion (Australian Open), Har-Tru (Green Clay, Charleston Open), Red Clay (French Open and Europe), Natural Grass (Wimbledon, England and Netherlands), Deco-Turf (US Open, Hard Court, USA) and other variations of hard court surfaces throughout the world. The impact on the body and mind in order to adjust your style of play, movement and strategy every couple of months (even weeks if you consider that the French Open is played only three weeks before Wimbledon), makes tennis one of the most demanding and interesting sports in the world.

I would like to draw your attention to clay court tennis, specifically red clay. I personally find this surface one of the best for game development because it teaches players the following:

  • Adjustment: a player is required to make more adjustments with their feet as there is never a true bounce of the ball (the direction changes on each bounce)
  • Patience: a player has to hit more tennis balls in each rally because their opponent can utilise the slide to retrieve
  • Resilience: there is no such thing as winning a point quickly, because the speed of the ball is absorbed dramatically on impact, slowing the ball down off the bounce, giving the opposition more time to retrieve and extend the rally
  • Movement: the slide is one of the most important types of movement for a tennis player to master, as it teaches a player the importance of fluidity of movement whilst transitioning from one stroke to another during a rally (notice how professional athletes are now sliding on harder surfaces as well).

These four areas are perhaps the most difficult to develop in younger players. Having said all of the above, it is important to note that clay court tennis favours a defensive style of play, due to the slower bounces and ability for players to retrieve by utilising a slide. Many players that train in Asia, Australia and the US develop offensive styles of play since they are exposed to harder surfaces much more than red clay. In contrast, players that train in Europe and South America develop strong defensive styles of play and create patterns of play due to their exposure to red clay.

I believe the best way to develop as a player is to strike the right balance between playing on slower surfaces (clay, plexicushion, synthetic grass) and faster surfaces (hard courts, deco-turf) in order to understand how to be both a defensive and offensive player. Once your body develops, you will begin to notice your strengths and weaknesses as a player and only then you can find your game style accordingly.

NSW Age Gold JT

The tournament season continues with my students James, Jordan and Jayden Chen and Sonia Joudo competing at the NSW Age Gold JT.

After another great effort in his last tournament and a fantastic session with me, James is continuing to develop his all court game extremely well. The process of developing your game is a long one and he is certainly showing more patience and confidence during the “bigger points” on court. He has won his first qualification match and will continue to battle it out on court tomorrow at the Blacktown Leisure Centre in Stanhope Gardens NSW.

Jordan and Jayden also had a great session with me, where we are continuing to improve their court positioning, awareness and reading play. They have competed in the 12/under event and have lost their pre-qualifying matches. They will face off against one another in the consolation event. This is another important learning curve for them and I’m sure that they will be eager to make the improvements necessary going forward.

Sonia Joudo has had a great day of tennis, winning her first round match in the pre-qualifying event and falling short in the final round of pre-qualification. She was able to gain a lucky loser position into the qualification event, which is a great opportunity for her to gain confidence as a competitor against other seasoned players. As one of my newer students, we’ve focused on developing her strokes and playing with more intention. The commitment she has shown to improve has been fantastic and today’s result is a testament to her effort and willingness to learn and develop as a player. Her tournament continues tomorrow at Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush NSW.

Track their progress throughout the tournament here: NSW Age Gold JT

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!

EC47EF68-D833-4DC0-AD8E-54781C1BC122.jpeg

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

Nepean Junior Gold JT

The tournament phase is set to continue this week for my students James Chen, Jordan Chen and Jayden Chen.

Earlier this month at the Nepean Easter Open, I noted areas such as confidence, competitiveness and court awareness as key performance indicators during the matches they played. We went back to the drawing board once again, and focused on these areas in our lessons. The drills were simple, yet effective. It is very easy to over complicate a process as it does depend on each student and what works best for them.

It appears as though this momentum has done the trick for James. He has shown terrific resilience, confidence and focus on court today, winning his first main draw match of the tournament. It is a fantastic result, particularly after the disappointment of his prior loss at the Nepean Easter Open and I am super proud of his effort today. He has shown the gamesmanship that is required to excel in this sport. The tournament continues on for him tomorrow.

Jordan and Jayden will be competing in the 12/under event and gaining more exposure to various opponents and tournament conditions which is exactly what they need for their age. The game of tennis is still very much a “game” for younger players and emphasising fun and enjoyment of competition is what brings out the best in them.

Track their progress throughout the tournament here: 2018 Nepean Junior Gold JT

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!

 

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