This article serves to give players and parents an overview to some of the psychological barriers to watch out for and what to look for in finding a coaching relationship that is enduring and successful.
Players and parents who look only for technical expertise will often follow a path of believing that technically superior shots make the person a great competitor, when the ability to execute under pressure involves far more than this mastery.
I believe there are 3 cores to the development of a top level individual:
1. Intellectual understanding of the problem and possible solution
Reading a book on brain surgery will fire up the intellectual center, but I will not be allowed to perform surgery because reading about it does not make me and expert.
2. Fine motor skill mastery
In much the same way as an incredible medical student might have an intricate knowledge of the brain, but might not be a gifted surgeon and might end up only consulting, because they cannot master the fine motor skills required.
Tennis is incredibly fine motor skill intensive, and there is NO minimum or maximum time to learn the skill. In fact, the players with the most creative imagination, and who are the most resourceful in finding opportunities to work on certain skills will end up doing better. In a nutshell, this means that practice should extend way beyond the 2 hour class, booking courts, shadow swinging, arranging specific practices with friends, practice matches, ball machine work and hitting on the wall or practice net for hours at a time are all things that end up making the biggest difference.
3. Emotional mastery
With regards to our surgeon above, he would have to fine tune his emotional response system, so that he could deal with a number of important tasks. Frustration, problem solving, leading his team, precise preparation and coping with loss of his patients. Working just as hard after a fourteen hour surgery on his next patient, even though he is exhausted. This ability to perform under the highest levels of stress comes from a finely developed emotional core, something that must be refined over years.