IGNITING THE FLAME
The fascinating book “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle raises the issue of “ignition” as a key part of the development of elite performers.
One of our key jobs as tennis coaches is too spark a flame of passion for the sport in our students. Whether we are aiming to develop pro players or building a program with 10 & unders finding a way to inspire builds the long term health of our coaching businesses and the game.
Here in Melbourne every year there is a chance for “ignition” as the world’s best roll into town each January for the Australian Open. The 1st slam of the year is the biggest sport event in Australia each year with over 650,000 spectators attending. One of the unique aspects of the Australian Open is that it falls in the school holidays meaning many [if not most] of the people through the gates are kids, all with the chance to see Roger Federer or Serena Williams up close and have a flame of motivation flare deep inside them.
Australia’s most recent great player Lleyton Hewitt speaks vividly of his experiences as a kid coming to Melbourne each year with a series pass to the tennis. He developed the “rage to master” watching the world’s best – he wanted to be just like them and this translated into fierce training habits and the mental desire to make the most of his talents. We are so lucky to have this opportunity each year to inspire our kids to turn tennis into something more than a past time.
Not everyone has the chance to use such an obvious ignition opportunity as a local grand slam event. Australia’s previous world #1 and grand slam champion Pat Rafter was raised in outback Australia – playing on “ant hill” tennis courts – what ignited his passion for tennis that allowed him to overcome setbacks and disappointment and work harder and harder to achieve greatness?
Pat was born into a big family –importantly he was the younger brother to siblings who were very fine tennis players themselves. In “The Talent Code” author Daniel Coyle identifies this characteristic as a potential opportunity for ignition. As the youngest, Rafter would have been in a constant battle to keep up; at the same time he would have been thinking “if he can do it why can’t I” of his brothers; and perhaps most importantly Rafter would have seen what his older siblings were doing and felt that they were doing something really meaningful and he should get busy so as to catch up.
This sensation is something I observe in my tennis business every day. Toddlers watching their parents or older brothers and sisters; running on to court wanting to be part of the action whenever they can get free. These kids are ultimately the most motivated once they can enter our program at age 4, mostly they are begging to play much earlier.
To engage this ignition opportunity we are building a family orientation at our company. We run a family charity day each year to engage the parents and their children with fun matches played Parent / Child at any age. Furthermore parents become members of the club when their children enrol in the program – paying a minimal fee to practice with their kids. Not only does it connect the parents with the program but it fires a motivational cue to the kids as they watch their more skilful [mostly] parents and want to get busy practicing to catch up.
This is one of our most important strategies as we strive to make kids become “Flyers” in tennis.
Find out more about how to develop your tennis kids from Tryers into Flyers>>>