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Out of Shape vs. Out of Spirit

As a tennis coach, I hear many players’ grievances about what they perceive holds them back from reaching peak performance regularly.  The most common excuse is “I am out of shape!”  The truth is that most players are out of shape; and it would take a major lifestyle overhaul to get them to where they should be to make fitness relevant in their play.

There is a reason why professional players are where they are. They work out 24/7 and if footage of their pre-match routines is any indication, they are still working out before they take the court.  The average player simply does not have the time nor the inclination to work out that much.
So outside of fitness, what can amateur players do that would instantaneously make a difference in their play?

The one perfect solution for me has always been the fighting spirit.  It is the #1 differentiator between the winners and the whiners.  I have successfully coached hundreds of players on various varsity teams, college teams, and even professional teams, and the most common trait for those who stand out is their grit.

Here is a perfect example, you take two players and you give them the same exact program.  They must run 1 mile, jump rope 100 jumps, play 1 hour, and serve 15 minutes every day for 6 weeks.  At the end of this self-disciplined routine, one player is always considerably stronger than the other. 

The beauty about grit is that it is not a palpable commodity.  It is how much heart and desire you put into your quest for perfection.  Most players like the thought of hard work but do not actually know or enjoy what it means.  The reality is that a player with a great fighting spirit will always outlast a player who is in shape simply because he/she won’t quit.

So, the next time you think that you are of shape, make sure you test your heart first and see if it checks out with your real desire to win.


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