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.