Fun, enjoyment and love of the game should always be at the core of a tennis player’s development regardless of age or competitive level. I think unfortunately sometimes players, parents and coaches get too caught up in last tournament loss, the team record or training simply to win. Don’t get me wrong I think competing and setting performance goals are incredibly important but at the root of it all players need to be having fun, loving the game, and doing it for the “right” internally motivated reasons.
Truth be told the best players have a common trait and that is their love of the game. Listen to the next interview from Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak or Serena Williams during the French Open and you will see what I mean, they love the game. Just last night a reporter asked Roger Federer about retiring and he gracefully answered by saying something to the effect that he still has so much love, passion and respect for the game which motivates him to still give so much in both his training and competition he is not ready to walk away. Now there is a man who has won more big tournaments than anyone in history and made hundreds of millions of dollars and even after all of that Roger is playing the game for the “right” reasons and still having fun doing so.
Tennis at high school, college and higher levels takes hours upon hours of technical work, practice matches, strategic training, and even tough off court physical training and the only reason I can think that someone would be motivated to put in that much hard work is because they love what they are doing. That doesn’t mean that they necessarily love running hill sprints or playing practice sets in the middle of a hot summer day. In fact, they probably do not love that but they do love playing tennis so they are internally motivated to do whatever it takes to be the best they can be at what they love.
Players, parents, and coaches please try not to lose sight of the fact that tennis is a game and it should be fun. You will be surprised how quickly you will improve when you start focusing on the internal reasons why you play the game versus the external reasons like winning and rankings. As my friend Chuck Kriese says, “The moment junior players start worrying about their ranking is the moment they stop getting better at tennis.”