What separates the best from the best

Sep 24, 2023

This week in Houston one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the state is happening, a junior ITF event. For those not familiar with the ITF (International Tennis Federation) it is the governing body of tennis and regulates rankings, tournaments, etc. Every year they have tournaments all over the globe for up-and-coming juniors to play in and achieve points to boost their international ranking. Think of it as one of the stepping stones to playing professionally. 

ITF junior tournaments attract the best of the best, competition is at an all-time high and the atmosphere is something to experience. At an ITF, every player is good, these are the top juniors in the world all in one place for a week. As I was watching a few of the main draw matches, I was speaking with a high-level junior coach and he asked me "Coach, in your opinion what separates the great from the great at a tournament like this?". I thought about it for a second, and replied "well, you look around, every single kid here is good, they have proved that they are where they are supposed to be, but the one thing that separates the top players in the tournament from all the others is their mental game." I went on to explain that there comes a time in sports where you are facing people with the same physicality, skill sets, talent as you, especially as you reach the higher levels of your sport. But the one thing that decides the outcome when you are matched up with someone at the same level as you is how developed you are from a mental standpoint. The ones that embrace adversity, can push through the frustrating errors, don't become distracted by the crowd, think clearly in high-pressure situations, regulate their emotions, and find ways to win strategically in an ever-changing match are the ones that win. Having the mental skillset to do all of those things makes a complete difference in the outcome of a match.

It is crucial as an athlete to not only develop physically but mentally as well. Being mentally strong in high-pressure situations is key to winning and having a significant edge over your competition. It's not about how strong you are physically, but how strong you are mentally.


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