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Wed, Feb. 19

Howard: Reaching for excellence in the game of tennis
My Point

What makes a Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf? An Agassi, Sampras, Evert or Navratilova - all exceptional champions in the world of tennis.

The list is long over the past 144 years of tennis in those who have reached an excellence that so many strive for but never quite attain. And it’s somewhat subjective base on all kinds of elements one has been dealt.

The achievements of some may in ways have truly surpassed the best players, based on limitations they’ve had in their lives, thus that person may have reached their own personal pinnacle of excellence.

But in the realm of exceptional performers there are seven critical elements all athletes have to come to terms with:

Commitment, Belief, Full Focus, Positive Images, Mental Readiness, Distraction Control and Constructive Evaluation.

Each of these constructive terms come together to help you become “great” (or at least better) at the sport you intend to play and gives you the idea of what it takes to perform at the highest levels of excellence based on the time and effort you can provide.

The commitment. What will it take to reach the goals you wish to achieve? With that in mind you then establish a positive personal balance between quality training/performance and quality rest and relaxation. You adjust as necessary.

The belief becomes self-confidence. You know you’re ready when your mental and physical feel positive and solid. You’re ready to be tested in solid competition within your ability level.

Can you stay completely focused?

If your goals are realistic, then you should be able to keep your concentration, using all your senses and experiences. No distracting thoughts, mentally and physically relaxed and sharp - keeping your body and mind working together.

If you’ve set your goals fairly then you should also be able to keep positive images that will help you do the work needed in a constructive manner as you compete.

Keeping your emotions in check let you reach the high quality performances you envision.

Success isn’t always winning the match, it’s achieving the goals you’ve set and staying the course.

With the time frame you’ve scheduled you are now ready, mentally and physically. You’ve prepared as well as you possibly can. Now it’s time to follow your pre-set and conceived performance routine. Get into the mental and physical zone you’re been working on and enjoy the journey - playing each point the way you’ve mapped it out.

You’ve brainstormed ahead of time on the things that might derail your train-of-thought while in competition. Now it’s time to see if you can deal with distractions and keep the mental and physical control that’s needed for your best performance.

Do your best to stay with your game plan and don’t let emotions take over. Calm, cool and collected - right?

After the match or competition it’s time to reflect in a positive manner and evaluate what just took place.

What did you do well? What can you improve upon?

You will then have to set targets for improvement on the things you’ve learned and then within a fair time frame test the waters again.

It’s a continual training and nurturing process to reach this special thing called “EXCELLENCE!”

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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