Food for Thought for Tennis Players

Whatever you do in life, nutrition is important. But for sportspeople and tennis players, in particular, be it professional, semi-professional, or amateur, it can help give you a vital edge if you put in the right “fuel”. Here we look at some of the foods people should avoid or cut down on in the pursuit of tennis glory and trophies.

We begin with probably one of the more famous examples in recent years, at least from the tennis world anyway, and a certain Serbian, yes, it’s Novak Djokovic. Djokovic used to suffer from regular mid-match collapses, but as he revealed in his book, Serve To Win: The 14-Day Gluten-free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence, a change in his diet proved pivotal.

The book was published a few years ago now — back in 2013 — and, as the title suggests, Djokovic revealed how he eliminated gluten, dairy, and sugar, all to a great effect. Indeed, since adopting his “new’” diet in 2010, he has gone on to become one of the best tennis players ever, and to date, he has won twelve grand slams — all but one since that decision to stop eating foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

Now, this is not to suggest that everyone should do this, and as Djokovic himself says in his book, every individual is different and needs to tailor their own diet.

“Most diet programmes assume the same plan works for everyone and that you ‘must’ eat certain foods. ‘Must’ just isn’t a good word. Your body is an entirely different machine from mine. I don’t want you to eat the best diet for my body. I’m going to show you how to find the best diet for your own unique self,” he wrote.

So where do you start?

If you are going to make a massive change to your diet like Djokovic, it is always recommended that you consult an expert first — ideally a dietician or a nutritionist, but make sure you know the difference between the two. Most will probably advise you not to eliminate anything entirely unless you have a diagnosed condition that warrants it. But if you do want to make some changes, just think carefully about what you eat and drink.

So, cut down on alcohol, soda, and caffeine, limit carbs and sports drinks, avoid “bad” fats (saturated) — replace with good fats like nuts and avocados — and also reduce your intake of processed foods (sausages, bacon, etc.).

Instead, try eating more vegetables, fish, and lean meats, and if you want an alternative to wheat and rice, try quinoa. If you find yourself wanting an odd alcoholic drink or a pizza, don’t feel bad about it, as long as it is the exception rather than the rule.

If you follow some of these tips it could very set you up for success in tennis and life in general. And maybe one day, you will be one of the players gearing up for Wimbledon or next month’s U.S. Open in New York, where Stan Wawrinka and Angelique Kerber will be hoping to defend their 2016 Grand Slam victories among the list of favorites, which will, of course, also include a certain Djokovic.

Don’t Try to Be Perfect

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Marcin Bieniek

“Perfect shot”. “It was a perfect match”. “The conditions were perfect”. These and many more sentences we can hear during practice sessions or while being on the tournament. What is the one word that connects all these example? The word is “perfect”.

For many of us hearing this word is a motivational boost of energy but it also has some serious problems hidden behind. Perfect world doesn’t exist so you should be aware where you are heading for…

Tennis is a difficult sport. If we want to get to the top we have to compete against thousands of players who have the same dream, more money than you, better hitting partners and environment that you can forget about.

That is why we coaches put a lot of emphasis on effort. With this approach it doesn’t matter how much talent you have because you are sure that you put your best effort every day. There are some things under our control like effort or emotional control but there are also factors that we can do nothing about like weather conditions or draw in the tournament.

Hearing that we have to be the best every day on and off the court we start to misunderstand the process that we participate in. Giving your best effort doesn’t mean that you will be perfect. It still means a lot of mishits, hundreds of mistakes and thousands of collapses. Giving your best is your attitude – not your performance or false assessment.

Trying to be perfect can lead to many unpleasant situations. Starting from frustration, going through the anger, and finishing with a burnout that can result in the end of playing career. These facts should make players and coaches aware that it is not worthy to try to hit all the balls exactly where we intended too or to win all the matches in 365 days.

Tennis as any other sport is a constant learning path where players go through many ups and downs. Big achievements come from experiences that are based on failures so looking at mistakes as negative things prevents from achieving own potential.

Is Roger Federer perfect? I don’t think so. He missed many shots and lost many matches. Is Serena Williams perfect? The answer is NO. She didn’t win all Grand Slam tournaments and you can find many of her matches that she supposed to win but she didn’t manage to do so.

That is why trying to be perfect is a false approach. If you have it already you can consciously work on this weakness to finally get rid of it. Why shouldn’t you be perfect? Look below:

Being perfect is impossible

I know Adidas’ slogan that „Impossible is nothing” but I think even Adidas doesn’t have power to make tennis career perfect. Perfect means immaculate. Perfect means that everything is executed without mistakes. Is it possible in the long-term process as tennis career is? I don’t think so.

You will always miss some balls and lose some matches. This is truth and it is time to accept it. If being perfect is impossible to achieve why would you spend valuable time of trying to get it?

Being perfect makes you sad

If you try to be perfect you will never be happy of your small and bigger achievements. If you make 9 of 10 shots in the exact spot that you wanted to hit them you will be sad because you could make 10/10. If you play your first Grand Slam and you „only” reach semifinal you won’t be happy because  there were chances to make the final.

If you don’t break the record of consecutive won matches on clay you will not feel successful because there is always someone better than you. It simply means that you will never be happy.

Playing tennis for many years requires happiness to wake up every day and do your routines. If you are sad you will not only make your experiences less valuable but you can also face serious burnout.

Being perfect leads to overloads

You can always do more. You can always do things better. There is no finish line for you. These motivational lines are great for serious players who start to understand that it is critical to put best effort every day. If you stay with this mindset it is great for your performance.

On the other hand if these lines make you feel not perfect and it is time to change it you risk much more than you think. If you try to be perfect you will always look for more. More practice sessions, more load in the gym, more tournaments to chase ranking points and „more”. In the short-term you will see a positive impact on your change but in the long-term your mental and physical health will hurt. More injuries, more stress, more doubts…

This article can be hard to understand for many players. I am not saying that you shouldn’t try really hard every day. I am also not saying that trying to go a little over the line is a bad thing. To get to the top you have to take some risk but you can achieve it without being perfect. Knowing that you can get your dreams with some mistakes and lost matches will make the process much more friendly and achievable. Perfect solution right? 🙂

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Has Your Child Outgrown Their Current Training Environment?

A catastrophic mistake parents and junior tennis players make is that when they become the best player at their academy or current training arena, they feel like they have outgrown that environment. This is where the problems begin.

Picture of Todd Widom

Todd Widom

First, you should never change a winning formula and this goes for your strategy during a match or your current coaching situation. It is great your child has become the best player where they train, and it may mean your coaches are doing a great job.

What I am seeing and hearing is that once a player reaches the level where they are the best at their current training environment, it is time to move on. This is incorrect thinking as the player is having good or even great results in tournaments. All this particular player may need is just some tougher match play situations once or twice a week, but you should not change training environments.

The reasoning behind this is because it takes quite some time to connect with a new coach and have them understand how that student clicks with many different ways of communication. Every child is different and the cookie cutter mold does not work for every student. How one learns may be completely different from how another learns. I have learned that you may need to adapt the communication depending on each student. I believe the job of the coach is to try to get the best out of each student, no matter what it takes.

I was very fortunate from a very young age to be trained at an extremely high level from two coaches who produced tennis champions. Because of this training, I achieved a good level of play through my early teenage years, but my game really took off when I was about 16. At this point, I started to get my feet wet in professional tennis. I was playing at a high national level, and I was, and had been the best player where I trained for years.

I never thought for a split second to change my tennis training environment. I wanted to be a champion, and my coach had been producing champions for many years. I kept having better results without training with anyone better than me. I was determined to be a professional tennis player.

I was trained from day one to learn how to be disciplined with my tennis and how to have tunnel vision concentration. All practices were very productive no matter who was across the net. I had a plan on what I was working on and it was work every single day.  You have a plan and you work towards it every day. If you are not executing the plan well, you stay after normal practice hours and keep working on it until you are happy with what you have accomplished that day. This is how you get better.

One of the boys I played against regularly was an excellent player. He was one of the top players in the country and played at a top Division I college in Florida. One weekend we decided to play some practice matches against each other. On Saturday, we played and I won 6-0 6-0. Was the practice match beneficial? Absolutely. I worked on all the aspects I had been working on and I executed them well.

We came back on Sunday and I beat him again 6-0 6-0. Once again, it was an extremely productive practice. I was able to follow my plan, execute what I was working on, and do it in such a discipline manner. I never made silly mistakes, which would be a lack of discipline and concentration. To beat someone 6-0 6-0 takes a lot of concentration to not give away any free points.

This boy was an accomplished player and a top nationally ranked player, so it showed me I could sustain a high level of tennis for a long period. It was a test of my brain and I passed the test twice that weekend. It was up to me to make the practice productive and it was very productive because it gave me confidence to know I did not have any mental lapses.

Soon after this weekend, I won the boys 18’s Super National Clay Courts. I had many 6-0 sets in that tournament and only lost one set enroute to winning the tournament. My brain was trained to sustain a certain level. It is all about what your child wants to put into the practice and what they want to take out of the practice, not who is across the net.

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Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

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David Mullins

If you have not seen this rant by Louis CK, I recommend you go to YouTube and watch it. If you don’t have time just read on and come back to it later!

He talks about how fortunate we are to live in a time with the conveniences that are afforded to us, yet we go around complaining about what is wrong in our lives rather than embracing the opportunities that many in the western world get to enjoy. The reason we find this rant funny is because it is so true. We can all relate to what he is saying, and it helps to add some humour to our many petty complaints about our pampered lives.

What I find troubling is that a high percentage of collegiate tennis players are quite unhappy with their student-athlete experience. They get to their college campus full of excitement, a little scared and a lot clueless. They have been told that their college days will be the best days of their lives, but fail to understand that they can only be the best days of their lives if they are willing to go through some adversity. It seems to me that nobody wants to explain why college can be some of the best years of your life.

Yes, college offered some of the best days of my life, but I would hate to think that my best days are now behind me for the rest of my time on this planet. Let us not start by putting all this pressure on college to be the countdown to some of the worst days of your life! The value I gained from college, and more specifically college tennis, were borne from the harder or more uncomfortable challenges that I faced.

I remember the hardest workouts, not the easy ones. I remember the long, grueling road trips in a small van, sometimes up to 12 hours, not the quick trips to our local rivals. I remember the crappy hotels we stayed at sometimes, not the high scale ones.

I remember eating at CiCi’s pizza rather than the fancy Italian restaurant after we won a big match. I remember the injuries, getting my scholarship reduced after my freshmen year, breaking up with my girlfriend, late night study sessions, the heartbreaking losses. I only vaguely remember the party nights, the easy classes, the comfortable wins, the light workouts, the mid-afternoon naps.

I remember the difficult, less enjoyable experiences, because I grew in some way from these adversities, and I use the word adversity here very lightly. The small challenges during my four-year college career helped me become the person I am today and I would not change any aspect of those four years.

I am eternally grateful to my college coach for how hard he was on me, and for disrupting the comfortable little bubble I had created for myself. I did not know it at the time, but those were going to be the moments I cherished the most and would remember 15 years later.

I see many players wishing their time away. Counting the days until their next day off or semester break. They talk about how hard their lives are and how stressed they feel. They just want things to be fun and easy. They actually come to college thinking that it should be fun ALL the time, and when it is not fun, they get very mad, and usually blame the coach.

They are doing everything possible to numb themselves from these non-fun periods with Netflix marathons, ice-cream and, in some cases, alcohol. Very few are embracing the challenge of growing through this critical phase in their adult development.

They seldom possess a clear purpose, defined goals or ask themselves, “WHY?” They just react and assume that life should always be about the good times.

Student-athletes have more now in terms of resources (money, people and facilities) than ever before. Full scholarship athletes now get an extra few thousand dollars a year as a cost of attendance stipend. Many of them will use this for fashion purchases!

Their locker rooms are filled with food, they get new tennis shoes when they need them, they have managers to string their rackets and wash their clothes. Tutors help them with their academics and they have psychologists on hand should they need someone to talk to about how difficult it is to be a student-athlete. This list could go on for pages, but you get the picture. So, why does it suck?

We have probably got to the point where student-athletes are being given too much in terms of resources and too many safety nets have been put in place to prevent them from failing. I don’t believe we are doing these young people any favors now or in the future.

So, what’s my advice?

Be a problem solver for your team and coach rather than looking for places to manufacture problems. I had a player last year complain that our team did not receive as much clothing as some of the other sports teams on campus. Rather than being grateful for the incredible clothing, shoes, and equipment she received, she was envious of what the other teams were wearing. I wish I was making this up, but it’s true!

Too many players are looking around at what is wrong, what they don’t have, what “negative” thing their coach said. Instead, they should be focusing on what they do have, all the positive things their coach said, and how fortunate they are to have such a wonderful opportunity. They are their own worst enemy and the more they seek the good times, the more disillusioned they will become with their own lives.

I hope for my kids and future generations of students and student-athletes that their college experiences are filled with adversity. That they have coaches, professors, classmates and teammates that challenge their ways of thinking.

I hope they have many character building experiences so that they can differentiate between what is actually difficult, and what is just a minor setback. I hope that they struggle just as much as they have fun so that they can appreciate both sides of the coin. I hope they don’t have an expectation that life is linear and should never be hard.

I hope that their parents recognize that their kids are 18 now and should be fighting their own battles. I hope athletic departments look to back up their coaches and help these student-athletes build higher levels of resilience. I hope that all this leads to them becoming more interesting people with more interesting things to contribute to this world.

Lastly, I am hopeful they are grateful and realize that everything is amazing if they are getting to participate in collegiate athletics at any level.

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Check Your Team’s Scores From Anywhere

Being a hardcore fan is a lot of work. Not only do you have to show up to local games when they happen, but you have to show your support even when the team is away or not even playing. When that happens, there are a variety of ways to check on them to see how they’re doing, but none are as convenient as the CBS Sports app. With this one handy application, you can monitor each of your favorite teams with a push of a button. Sound too good to be true? Let’s see what other features this app has.

Watch Games in Real Time

If you’re not by a television when your team is playing, you don’t have to worry about missing out on the action. Because this app is connected to CBS Sports, you can watch games from your phone. However, if you have a spotty connection or don’t want to eat up all of your data, then you can use Android LiveScore to see the results as they come in. This way, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can root for your team.

Follow Any Sport

Although supporting your main team is always a priority, there are plenty of times when you want to see what’s going on with other teams in other sports. This app allows you to manage your sports easily so you can stay on top of the action without ever having to search for anything. Simply pick your favorite teams, and it will notify you every time they play.

Plan Ahead of Time 

Do you know when your team is playing next, and do you know who they are playing against? With the best sports app around, you can find out that information within seconds. Plan the rest of your week or month by setting reminders for games so that you can be sure to tune in when it’s going down.

So, when it comes to supporting your favorite team and following them, CBS Sports makes it easy for you.

Sponsored by CBS Sports