Looking back in time, I have a clear memory of my coach Pablo Pena stressing how the new generation of players was not used to dealing with frustration and would give up too quickly when faced with hardship. His simple advice to fight through frustration stayed with me and has helped me get through tough situations on and off the court.
Being on the player side I’ve met a great number and kinds of players with different mentalities. I’ve seen firsthand how their background, upbringing, and values shaped the kind of player they have evolved into. Without a doubt, the most successful players are those who understood what it means to “persevere”.
Today, as a coach standing on the other side of the net with the basket of balls on my left, I see the wisdom and power of that piece of advice even more. The players I coach now are from a different generation, but the greatest obstacle to their ability to improve is the fundamental lack of appreciation for the value of hard work and the unwillingness to repeat the same exercise or training without immediate results. One of the best and most recognized coaches in the tour – coach and uncle of the great Rafael Nadal – said in an interview at the Miami Open that “the new kids of tennis are getting used to listening how good they are” (Toni Nadal, 2017). But who is guilty of creating this kind of mindset? Is it the parents, coaches, or a society that looks for quick results with minimum effort? In my opinion, it is a mix. Parents don’t set limits, coaches don’t teach discipline, and society is destroying the culture of hard work.
Something has to change. We have to go back to the era where players come out from a loss with more passion for what they do and a hunger for victory. We the coaches have to focus more on the value of hard work and to teach our players that winning comes from discipline and a strong work ethic, that being professional on and off of the courts will make them successful in the long run. These players are not necessarily better than anybody else… they are just different. Want to know if a player is doing well? Tell me how he practices and I will tell you how he plays.