August 22, 2010

Mentors and Role Models

My mother used to say, “If you hang around with dogs, you’re bound to get some of their fleas.” Likewise, association breeds assimilation in the positive direction. No matter what the desired needs of the group, people will bind themselves to the chemistry and system of whatever group they are placed. My main focus with the rookie members of any team is to place them with those older role models who will constructively teach them and guide their efforts. Unfortunately, if the leader is a bad one, a good ship can go down.

The Christian men’s group, “Promise Keepers” has a great concept about mentoring. As described in some of their programs, each person should have three types of friends in their lives: a Paul, a Barnabus, and Timothy. This means that for the most growth to take place in one’s life, it is important to have someone good above you as a teacher (a Paul). It is equally important to have someone important in you life who is on an equal status and will hold you accountable for doing the right thing even the pressure is on (a Barnabus). He or she provides a tough-love friendship, because sometimes our vision gets foggy on the way up a tough mountain. Finally we need to consider the importance of being a teacher ourselves – passing on the truths that are critical for success and a good life. We need to pick someone who we mentor to (a Timothy). These three people – Paul, Barnabus and Timothy – are all taken from scripture and illustrate a fantastic concept for learning at any level and for any challenge.

July 14, 2010

I Will Miss Danny Daniel

As I get ready to start my camps this summer, I am thinking of my good friend Danny Daniel and how very much I miss him.

What a man he was... He was the type of person that you just wanted to always be with. He was never pretentious or shrewd - just a humble servant to others and one of the best coaches and teachers that I have ever been around.

Every day that he worked with me, even without saying a word, he sparked a new life and focus into myself and the staff. He reminded us why we taught children. Why it was one of the most honorable professions.

I met Danny in Lavonia Georgia in the early ‘90s. He was the local high school as a football coach and also helped with the tennis team. He and a lady named Sandy Adams had a great thing going there. On a Saturday in that rural Georgia town, I gave a clinic to 50 tennis-hungry kids.

After that meeting, Danny started helping me with my summer camps. As soon as his son Clark was old enough to hold a racket, he would bring Clark up for a few weeks and have a father-son experience in tennis. Danny would help me with managing and teaching the kids while his son participated in the camp. It was touching to see the bonding experience between Danny and Clark. They shared everything: the nights in the dorm room, the meals in the cafeteria, the walks to and from the courts, and many many laughs. They shared one of the best father-son relationships that I could imagine.

Danny had this very crooked and very ugly pinky finger that had not been properly set when it was broken. At camp, it was fun to show the kids this finger and tell them that, as a child, Danny had not used the proper volley or service grip. We would later laugh as we would talk about the wonderful innocence of children as many of them would, at first, believe such a yarn. Those moments, over a meal or a bowl of popcorn with Danny, were so much fun. He loved popcorn almost as much as I did.

Danny soon became the Camp Manager, and he would always make sure that everyone was where they had to be when they had to be there. He was not only very organized, he also knew how to make the camp experience wonderful for each and every child. Very few teachers can balance of getting many complex things done while keeping everyone at ease and having fun.

Danny mostly reminded me of the wonderful experience of teaching and coaching young people. Simply, he just loved teaching and he loved to coach, and he loved tennis as much as anyone that I have ever met. Serving each and every child was his only agenda. Such service became contagious. He taught us by example.

When Danny died earlier this summer, I called several of the coaches and instructors that had worked with us at the camp over the years. I remember a couple of them start to cry when I told them about Danny. As I write this now, I am starting to tear up as well.

What a man… What a man's man... Not for his toughness, as he was very tough as a coach and as a tireless worker. But more so, he was a mans' man because he was a person that calmed your heart and made you just know that deep-down, things were OK.

There was a bigger, more important reason for why we taught these children - more than just for the sport or making a living during the summer. He balanced the roles of a servant and a teacher of others while still maintaining his strength and dignity and honor. He was non-assuming and giving and deeply caring for those around him. We will all miss him so very much.

After each day of work this summer as I have that popcorn, that reward after a long and hot day in the sun with the children, I will think of him.

To Cindy, Laney and Clark… my prayer is that God spares your tears… and you start to laugh each and every time that you start to cry… I do.

The Value of Perseverence

Perseverance is a virtue that enables athletes to never quit, no matter how great the adversity. Athletes must be willing to hang in there and keep trying long enough to see the fruits of their labor.

One of the best examples of perseverance I've seen was a college match played by Kent Kinnear. In my coaching career, I had seldom seen a player getting so dominated. His opponent, from the University of Tennessee, was playing so great that Kent managed only six sporadic points in the first set. In 25 short minutes, Kent lost 6-0.

It's not that he was playing poorly, but his opponent was pulling off a constant barrage of incredible shots. Kent was feeling outmatched. As he went down a service break in the second set, he shook his head in disgust and said, "I don't know what to do."

"You really only have two choices," I replied. "You can quit or keep trying. Believe in what you do best, and do your best to execute it."

When things are going poorly it is so hard to keep trying, but through perseverance, the competitor will gain courage.

Kent did somehow hang in long enough that day. It started with a few points, here and there, going right. Eventually, little by little, the momentum shifted. This frustrated his opponent, and, by the end of the match, a complete reversal had taken place. Kent won.

When he came off the court he said to me, "All I was trying to do was to do the small things as well as I could, such as making first serves and being in the proper position. When I was losing, it felt like I was sliding down the mountain ten yards at a time. Things were going so fast. It was discouraging. Climbing back into the matching was like moving back up the mountain one inch at a time. It was long and hard, but I'm glad I didn't quit."

July 6, 2010

Former Player Named Head Men's Tennis Coach at South Carolina

Josh Goffi has been named the Head Men’s Tennis Coach at the University of South Carolina. He’s the 27th College Coach to have either been a player or an assistant coach with me while I coached at Clemson.

This is from

A Charleston, S.C., product, Goffi was named 2010 ITA Carolina Region Assistant Coach of the Year while serving as an assistant coach at Duke University.

Goffi joined the men's tennis staff at Duke in July 2008. Prior to his two-year stint at Duke, Goffi was an assistant coach with the Arizona State women's team for two seasons. He was named Wilson/ITA West Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2008.

After completing a standout collegiate career at Clemson in 2001, Goffi played on the ATP Tour through September 2005. During that stretch, he claimed a pair of singles titles and 18 doubles championships. Ranked as high as No. 480 in the world in singles, he scored six wins over player ranked in the top 100. In doubles, his ranking peaked at No. 121 behind three wins over top-10 tandems. Goffi also represented Brazil in the 2004 Davis Cup.

As a three-time All-ACC selection for the Tigers, Goffi was the ACC's singles and doubles champion in 1999 and was a member of the 2000 and 2001 NCAA All-Region teams. He rose as high as No. 9 in the singles national rankings and No. 3 in doubles while leading Clemson to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a spot in the 2001 ACC Tournament final.

Goffi graduated from Clemson in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in financial management. He is married to the former Nancy Augustyniak, a former Clemson University women's soccer player and also a professional soccer player who played for the Atlanta Beat. She also spent time in United States national team training camp in 2001 and 2002. Goffi's father, Carlos, is an internationally recognized tennis coach who was named 1991 World Coach of the Year.

June 7, 2010

Two Different Personalities

Two different personalities prevail in competitive sports: 1. The diligent, hard worker. 2. The person who is loose-as-a-goose. The former is obsessive and driven. He practices skills again and again until he does them correctly. The latter is a cocky competitor who thinks he can do it all.

Most coaches love to work with the first kind - the driven temperament athlete. One problem, however, is that on game day this athlete usually tries too hard and often chokes.

Though cocky athlete may give the appearance that he will pull off a win, because he may lack the foundation of repetitive work, he often is not able to come thorough in the clutch. Nor can he be counted on for consistent performances.

Sports psychologists Bill Moore explains that the arousal levels for practice days and match days should not be the same. It would best if a player's personality were a combination of the two personalities - an ideal balance of someone who is driven on practice day - doing everything possible to polish his skills - and someone who, on game day, is able to approach the competition with a confident attitude. But most athletes tend to be one way or the other.

On game day, it is best to use shots that are your medium risk shots - those with which you are comfortable. Attempting to make high risk shots over and over invites inconsistency.

When preparing for a big match, some sayings to remember are:

"Regular stuff is good enough."

"Try softer, not harder."

"Desire a total release performance more than you desire to win."

Even if an athlete knows what level of emotional arousal produces the best performance, he or she may not be able to compete comfortably at that level. Each athlete must find his or her unique zone of emotional balance for competition.

Nick Saban

I like this speech - right on the mark on the importance of process over product. It is a great approach in trying to accomplish great things in a very difficult arena.

Coach Nick Saban - Complete Speech January 25, 2010 from The Pacific Institute on Vimeo.

May 10, 2010

Ed Dickson to Teach at my T3 Summer Camps

I’m pleased to announce that, Ed Dickson - a great, veteran Division I head tennis coach - will be a teacher at my 2010 Total Tennis Training Summer Camps in Lexington, Sumter, and Brevard.

I spent several of my earlier coaching years side-by-side with Ed. We both worked for my mentor Harry Hopman and became similarly inspired to coach and to teach. Ed helped me get off of the ground at Clemson, as we coached two ACC championship teams together. He spent the next 25 years leading programs at Purdue, West Virginia and Austin Peay.

He’s a great man and a great tennis teaching mind. I am looking forward to reuniting with him in our tennis teaching work.

May 5, 2010

Playing Against a Player with a Different Style

One of the best ways to determine the strategy to use against an opponent is by using player match-up charts. Simply, I give my own player a basic rating from 0 to 10 (10 being the best) in the three playing style areas: Delayed Pressure, Quick Pressure, and Countering Quick Pressure.

Of course, the standards for rating are relative based on the level that a player is participating. Each player has strengths and weaknesses that are more directly related to his or her style of play than proficiency in each particular stroke. By matching up your strengths and weaknesses against an opponent's, a style of play for the match can be determined. You want to decide on a strategy that accents your strengths but also forces the opponent into his weaknesses. This figure shows how this technique can be used effectively.

Sample Strategy: In this mach my opponent is a great counterpuncher, but he is weak as an attacking player and only fair when it comes to creating pressure while working the ball off the ground in the backcourt. He basically needs a target or his weapons are not that effective. My game revolves around my attacking ability, but because my opponent likes targets, I'll do my best to minimize my targets until the time is appropriate. I will take away his first exchange strength of returning serve by not serving and volleying as much as I would normally like. I will instead use more of what is often referred to as "Wide and Glide" tactics, serving and attacking the second ball. In this case I want to create pressure with the serve. This will take away the opponent's ability to hurt me with his great return of serve. Because he doesn't like to play long points and wants a quick target, my objective will be to make him play long points whenever possible, especially on his service game. This will hopefully frustrate him into going to the net more that he is comfortable with; therefore, he will have to use a weak part of his game. If my opponent starts to falter and become frustrated, then I pick up the quick attack and dominate his game.

While there are many strategies that can be used to win a match, the most basic and most important ones to remember are:
1) Get locked into the way that you want to play and 2) Try to make your opponent play in a way that he is not comfortable. One of the most common mistakes in this strategy is, while trying to throw the player off of his style, not sticking to your own strengths.

A Winning Tennis Player is Comfortable at Being Uncomfortable.

March 7, 2010

My New Position

From Bob Larson's Tennis News (

Kriese Joins Washington, DC Junior Tennis Champions Center

The Junior Tennis Champions Center announced that legendary Clemson Tigers Head Coach Chuck Kriese has joined its staff as the Senior Director of Competition. Kriese coached the Clemson men’s tennis team from 1975-2008 finishing his career with an ACC record 616 wins, 11 ACC championships, and four National Coach of the Year awards.

Kriese brings significant expertise to the JTCC coaching staff. He is the author of numerous coaching and training books including Coaching Tennis, Total Tennis Training, and Winning Tennis. He joins Vesa Ponkka, Senior Director of Tennis, and his former Clemson player Frank Salazar, Senior Director of High Performance, on JTCC’s senior management team. Kriese will work with junior players in JTCC’s Champions Program, with emphasis on competitive development, matchplay strategy, and tournament preparation.

In addition to his role at JTCC, Kriese will remain the Technical Director for the Southeast Asia Tennis Federation, where he oversees player development in nine Asian countries. These players will train at the Junior Tennis Champions Center when they are in the United States and Kriese will continue to coach Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, winner of four junior Grand Slam tournaments.

The JTCC offers training to children between the ages of four and 18 on a part- and full-time basis. Located in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, students can choose from weekly group clinics to intense, full-time training programs including on-site academic instruction.

The Black Door

He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. -- James Allen

In some of my writings and speeches I have made reference to "The Black Door." I was first told the story by Bill Brown, one of my former assistants at Clemson. For all of those who haven't heard the story, or how it applies to sports (and life), here it is:

A Persian General has the enemy spy placed against the wall as the firing squad take aim and readies themselves to shoot upon the given order.
He slowly walks up to the spy and says, "I'm going to give you a choice about your fate. You can take the firing squad that is ready to carry out your sentence, or you can take what waits for you behind that Black Door."
The spy asks, "What is behind the Black Door?"
The General replies, "I can't tell you. It is your choice."
The spy starts to imagine the possibilities of a long and painful death. Perhaps there are tigers on the other side of the door that will tear him to shreds. Perhaps it will be snakes or another frightening death. After some contemplation, he confirms to the general that he is ready to take the quick and simple method of execution or the firing squad. And the execution is carried out swiftly.
Afterward, a young corporal who had witnessed the whole thing walks up to the General and asks, "What is behind the black door?"
The General replies, "It's Freedom. But no one has ever chosen it. It seems that most people choose a death that they are familiar and more comfortable with than to risk the unknown."

I used to have a sign in my locker room that read, "Most want comfort more than they desire excellence." Another sign read, "To get all, you must give all everyday in your training, and be willing to risk all every time that you compete." Players must be always aware that giving all in practice is much easier than risking all when they compete.

As this diagram shows, when you go through the Black Door, though you may fail in the process, but you'll never have to go though the initial passage again.

Gradually, as you see Black Doors for what they are, new confrontations become less intimidating.

February 9, 2010

Five Steps of Preparation

Your success in tennis is limited only by your desire to achieve excellence.

-- Peter Mandeau

Bob Knight, coach of the three NCAA Basketball Championships at Indiana University, said it best in a television interview, "More important than an athlete needing the will to win, he or she needs the will to prepare to win." Without preparation and planning in the physical and mental areas, an athlete has little or no hope for success in his sport.

Step One: Have a burning desire.
Simple desire is very different from burning desire. It is the intangible difference between the two that draws the distinction between good and great. A burning desire cannot be manufactured. It must com from within, and you must obtain it on your own. The athlete who has a burning desire will endure your training and the hardships and setbacks that take place along the way.

Step Two: Set Specific Goals
Working toward achieving maximum success depends on not just setting goals, but rather on setting the right goals. Set goals that allow you to strive for the maximum use of your gifts while still allowing you to reach a moderate amount of the objectives set. Goals should only be reached about 50% of the time.

Goals should constantly be reset and redirected. It is best to set three goals for an objective (the thought of which keeps the flame of desire bright), an intermediate goal that is a year or so away (to keep on course toward the main goal), and short-term goals that constantly provides smaller successes and failures (to keep enthusiasm and learning stimulated for the ultimate objective).

There is a high correlation between athletic success, intellectual success and social success. Goals should, therefore, be set in other areas including academics, family, social, and spiritual areas. Success in each of these areas supports and aids the development of the others.

Step Three: Make Your Work Constructive and Positive
Many people work hard for the wrong reason: they are result-oriented and think only of the reward. I call this "outside-in" work. This work is not productive because it is not inspired or creative. It results in frustration, and the successes that are sometimes achieved may not be fulfilling.

On the other hand, working for the love of one's work, or pursuing a calling as an expression of one's self (what I call "inside-out" work), will inspire countless successes. "Great athletes compete to express, not impress."

Step Four: Take Care of Details
Pay attention to simple concerns such as eating and sleeping properly, having a sufficient supply of quality equipment at courtside, taking the time to have a good warm-up, and starting the match mentally prepared.

Step Five: Acknowledge Fear and Its Benefits
Fear can be looked as a prelude to the positive emotion of courage. Disregarding fear allows it to grow, and leads to the negative emotions of doubt, anxiety and frustration, all of which can prevent you from having your best performance.

January 3, 2010

The Proper Balance of Respect for Your Opponent

The best attitude to take to a match would be: "I know I can win, but I know my opponent can win if I'm not at my best." This attitude puts the athlete in a state of absolute readiness for a tough battle. Many athletes prefer to reject this attitude, however, because they feel that giving the opponent respect and recognizing the difficulty of the task at hand places them in a vulnerable position.

The smart and experienced competitor is always aware that emotional balance is critical for best play. The foolish player fails to respect his opponents. The inexperienced player respects some opponents too much. It is best to obtain a proper balance.

This table illustrates the likely reactions in performance to the different pre-match states of mind.

This figure shows the flow and direction that a match will most likely take from the three different attitudes toward an opponent that can be taken before a match.

The best intensity to have to win a two-set match would be similar to the intensity a runner would have in running a two-mile race. He should start out quickly but settle soon into a comfortable stride. He should be solid for the biggest part of the race with few ups and downs and keep enough left over to finish the race.

Respecting an opponent too much is like trying to run too well in this race. It is like a runner who goes out too fast and sprints off to an early lead but collapses quickly when things get close. Tennis players who assume this role often start off by playing all their best shots early in the match. A good opponent is not threatened by great shots early in the match, and often a player who starts this way will not have anything left when the points get critical.

Too little respect for an opponent would be much like a runner starting off the two-mile race in a job and falsely reassuring himself that he can always catch up and that he does not have to run this best until later. This lack of readiness usually compounds problems - a situation of too little too late.

Confidence - belief in self and respect for opponent.
Cockiness - belief in self minus respect for opponent.