Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Goals, Little Promises

To my students,

We all have big places that we want to get to someday in tennis (and in life), but it’s often difficult to transform those goals into reality. The correct path isn’t always clear, and the goal can thus seem unattainable, too far off, and always out of reach. To keep us from getting lost and never finding our way, we need some structure – a map to connect our present to that desired future, to help us get from here to there. So let’s construct such a map to help you on your own path, shall we?

First, state your overall goal – where do you want to go, who do you want to be? Make it a simple sentence, like “I want to play varsity tennis,” or make a division II college team. Whatever goal it is, make it clear, and more or less definite. If you change your mind later you can always revise your plan, but if your statement is too ambiguous – like say, “to get really good,” it’s hard to proceed since you don’t know where you’re headed.

The second step is to outline the sort of skills and abilities that you need to accomplish your goal. Here, you need to think about the sort of attributes that a person possesses at the level you want to reach. You could divide this into specific categories like particular skills, consistency, quickness, endurance, mental toughness, competitive results, and more. This is up to you. The important thing is that each one of these aspects is a component of your stated goal.

After writing down your goal and listing out the skill and ability sets, you then break it down into what you have to do EVERY day to get there. Here you list the specific things, hours of practice per day (per week), what you work on during practice, time spent conditioning, studying, etc., that all help build toward your overall goal. It’s at this level, these mini-goals or little promises that you make to yourself – and keep day in and day out – where you can really see yourself change and grow. If you stick to your particular amount of time for practice or for physical training, it will become obvious it is paying off. When you reach a mini-goal, like hitting 50 balls in a row in the court, then you can raise the bar and push yourself still further.

I don’t write any of this to tell you what you should do, but to help you to get where YOU want to go. If something is truly important to you, then it is worth taking the time and energy to make a serious, focused effort to attain it, whether it be in tennis or anything else in your lives. I can’t, however, guarantee that just because you went after a certain goal that you’ll get there. But it is certain, that in following through on these little promises to yourself you will be transformed – and that is no small thing. Remember this is something you do because you enjoy it, and ultimately that should guide what kind of effort you are willing to put towards it.

So, write this up to the best of your ability. Take it seriously and bring it to our lesson. If you need help figuring out how to organize it, ask your parents or talk to me. Put some thought into this and see where it takes you. Your future is in your hands. – Nick Sousanis, January 2008

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