How do you define the success of a high school tennis player today? Nine incredibly diverse and highly successful people from billionaire Richard Branson to Deepak Chopra were asked to define success. The answers ranged from; constant growth, engagement, being relentless, and enjoying your work. The most successful coach in college basketball history John Wooden (10 national championships) defined it as “Success is a peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to be the best you are capable of becoming”. Not one of the people interviewed mentioned winning as a measure of success.
Tennis is a highly skilled sport which takes thousands of hours of hard work and sacrifice to obtain a high level of success in winning a district or state high school title. A Division 1 scholarship is only attainable for a select few. The high school experience has dramatically changed over the years. The average high school tennis player today is involved in many extra curricular activities: music, choir, leadership, business, and testing; not to mention their normal and advanced placement classes. Tennis is often not a priority in the hierarchy of what they view is important. It is a great sport, however, for learning life skills. Tennis teaches you discipline, accountability, teamwork, and handling adversity. You learn how to win and lose. Good friendships are developed that will extend way beyond their college years. The bottom line is most kids do not have the time or desire to devote what it takes to be highly successful in the win/loss column.
My idea of success as a high school coach today is simple; teach players to love the sport first and have fun; focus on effort balanced with the time they can devote to the sport. Emphasize growth and getting better, teach them how to compete, and stress process over results. Finally, let winning become the icing on the cake!