It is never easy to admit own mistakes. Especially if you are really ambitious. I know it is better to find excuses why we didn’t achieve things in the past and just move on. But tennis and life are not easy. If you want to achieve great successes in the future you have to learn from the past. I decided to do it right now. It is my moment of truth. Why didn’t I achieve my dream as a player? Let’s find out.
As a young athlete I had a dream. I wanted to become a professional tennis player. Not just a random professional player – my goal was to be top 100 ATP player! I think it is nothing special to have this dream. Most of my friends wanted to achieve this success in the future. The magical barrier of being one of top 100 players in the world means that you are going to compete in Grand Slam tournaments. This is what I had in my mind. Did I believe strongly that I have potential and abilities to achieve this dream? I don’t think so. But dream is a dream. That was mine.
Looking from my current perspective as a coach working with high-performance juniors I didn’t have an easy job. Up to the age of 15 I was practicing 2-3 times a week. Additionally at some point in my junior high school years I was also doing fitness program with track&field athletes on my days off. The time I was spending on the court during the week is the time that modern junior tennis players spend on 1 day! I understand that these days approach to tennis is completely different but still my dream was hard to achieve with this kind of preparation. Do I look for another excuse? Absolutely not. As I sad it was hard to achieve but not impossible.
I am really happy with what I was doing (mostly on my own) with my career during my high-school years but I have many regrets related to the previous years. I could do much more physically, mentally, technically, tactically, and nutritionally to get my game to the higher level. Some things were dependent on me; some don’t but there were still many things that I could do better especially when my on-court time was pretty limited. I can say that my best ITF ranking was 475. I didn’t play a lot of tournaments but it wasn’t also 1 performance per year. Could I do better? Definitely yes. Am I happy with highest rank? Looking at my closest environment it is a good result. If I could move in time and arrive at 12 years of age with the knowledge I have right now what could I do better? Here are the lessons:
Marcin you didn’t put your best effort every time
There is a difference between working hard and giving your absolute best. I had great practices and poor ones. I didn’t understand relationship between practice’s quality and tournament’s result. When I was practicing with weaker guys I played well enough only to beat them – not to improve my game. That was wrong!
Marcin you didn’t make your knowledge broader
During my career nobody was talking about nutritional aspect of the game. I was drinking a lot of soda and eating unhealthy products even during the tournament. It is easy to say that my coach or my parents didn’t tell me anything about benefits of healthy eating but it is an easy excuse. I could educate myself more. I could read books about nutrition. I would read articles online about professional approach to sport. I didn’t do that up to the age of 16. I wasn’t all in.
Marcin you didn’t set goals
As a coach I set goals each month to make sure that I improve every day of my life. It doesn’t matter if they are related to tennis or my personal life I want to get better. But I wasn’t always like that. As a player I didn’t set any goals. I didn’t even know that you should do something like that. How would I achieve my dream without having a road? My age is not an excuse. I didn’t look for extra things that can improve my game. The best athletes in the world are creative and interested in new things. I wasn’t.
Marcin you didn’t believe in yourself
Saying and believing are 2 different things. Many times I said that I can become a top 100 player but I really didn’t believe in that. I was doubting my abilities. I knew that my environment is far from ideal so it put an extra stress on my mind. Without a strong thoughts about success it is almost impossible to achieve extraordinary quests. My mistake.
It can look that I was making a lot of mistakes in my junior career but it is not exactly like that. I was doing a lot of things to improve. From the age of 16 I was really professional. There is almost nothing you can tell I was not doing enough. But sport is hard. Every day millions of people compete to become top 100 player in the world. To get there you can’t miss too many opportunities to improve. I did. I didn’t achieve my dream as a player but that’s a powerful lesson. Now I am the coach. I have a new dream. I believe in it. I work really hard. I improve every day. Will I achieve it? In 15 years check my articles again and we will find out:)
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.