A game plan for life

Im sitting at the hotel in Acapulco right now. Preparing for the tournament here with Stan and looking back at a hectic but constructive period back home. Its superhot here in Acapulco. Matches starts at 4 pm. Last time I was here was 2002 and back then the tournament was a clay court event. Lost to Mariano Zabaleta in my second round.

26 Feb 2002 Credit: Craig Jones/Getty Images

I take the time to reflect once in a while and write this blog. It’s an investment for me. I hope it’s also entertaining for readers.

Spent the time between Australia and Acapulco stationed on the court at Good to Great Tennis Academy. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to the academy in the mornings. Early mornings has never been a problem for me. I use to be there at around 8 am after a morning work out. Apart from the work on court we are also running a facility now and a team of coaches. My main focus this time around outside the court has been to build up a complete new way of structuring and planning the fitness training. It has taken a lot of thoughts and many hours of planning to get things moving but we are finally there. 

I think all academies or clubs has the equal challenge. The challenge is to make a fitness program that is individual to everyones specific needs. Many clubs and academies has many players of different age and fitness level. Also the fact that we have bigger and far more important things like school and families to take in consideration. Still we wanna have those session done to make progress. We have tested all players and given them a player profile. What we have done now is to give each and every player a designated week before each week. Those weeks are based around the fact that we have 4 different kind of weeks for a player really. Either you are in a tournament week or you have a practices week, or you have a tournaments preparation week or a fitness week. The schedule of fitness depends a bit on what week you are in.

All players have their individual program delivered weekly and the programs are based on the fitness testing and the goals of the players. The application to the players comes electronically and I will write about how that is done when we have tested the system for some weeks. Let’s see how it goes but the first reports looks very promising.

Looking back also to a successful week for Stan and Yannick in Rotterdam. Seeing Stan playing back to back quality matches was a treat. To see him also playing on a Sunday and competing again for a title was just amazing. We have never been doubtful that he can do it but the execution was nice to see. A solid tick in the box.

Stan with Yannick after the final in Rotterdam

A lot of talk about the new ITF rules in the world of tennis. I don’t have all the information and im not a politician but I have many players and coaches working at the junior and Future level and they are NOT happy. So my point of view is from that side. As a coach and supporter for those players. For me I find it very hard to work around the fact that we are cutting jobs in tennis. If I would to work towards something I would turn things around. I would look at it from the other angle and try to make it better for each and every player instead globally. The old system was not bad. But players were perhaps suffering and having a tough time surviving because of low price money. But many players founds other sources of income. League tennis etc. Don’t we want a lot of player competing in tennis? Don’t we want the competition to be strong. Thats great for our sport, thats great for our juniors coming up. I would work around the business model to increase prize money. Find partners. Distribute more funds to the lower level tournaments. Make better events. More practice courts. Better onsite facilities. This does not have to cost a fortune. Just raise the standards a little bit. Work from both sides by trying to increase the income and lower the costs for the players. This is how the product tennis will grow. Instead today the players at future level is treated bad really. They are forced to stay at the official resort to get practice courts (or even be in the tournament), no officials or officials arriving late for matches, no practice balls, pre-qualies with entry fee (I heard up to €50 for the pre-qualies) to get players in the draw that are there, no standard on the courts (I have seen courts where the court is destroyed and the net almost not there), high entry fees just to name a few. Its great that the ITF Junior Circuit gets attention as per giving spots to higher ranked ITF juniors into ITF mens Futures BUT, if we zoom out, do we really want to focus MORE on chasing ITF junior points? Do we really want that? Im always advicing players that I’m involved in to get an education before anything else. Life is to one dimensional with only tennis. At the same time I urge them to keep working on their tennisgame and also do other sports. This new system COULD lead to stress perhaps and that can’t lead to any good in our already fast society. On top of that I question selling the ITF junior ranking to IMG Academy. All the talk about integrity and playing on equal terms??  In my eyes this move morally wrong. ITF should be independent. Its short term money but I see a lot of things that is just morally wrong here.

A survey was sent out to 55 000 players  before making this changes. I was not one of them, and perhaps I should not be. But I have not met anyone that was among those 55 000 people or among those 8 000 people that responded (THANKS for correcting me on the right number of respondents).  I have also never spoken to any ITF official about the development of tennis in general. Im most likely not the right person, but I have again not met any one that have been involved. What are the agenda? Whats in the pipeline? Whats the topics of discussions? With the ATP tour we have regular meetings on how to develop TENNIS. Big and small we talk about sport and how to make it better. I believe it makes a huge difference. Sure ATP has its problems as well. But the discussions are around the events we play/coach at and always close. We have a great chief in Chris Kermode that if easily accessible to players. We have a board with players and tournaments that are working hard to find agreements and that are close to the sport. Fore sure there are disagreements but the talks are there. The topics are on the table. This is where I think ITF could perhaps improve. By actually get involved closer to the court. Closer to players, tournaments and officials. The heart of the sport. Perhaps they are and im sure that ITF is working very hard but I’m certainly not shared of the topics and the ideas going forward. If I’m not shared I’m sure there are more people in the business who feels the same.

This week there is a school holiday in Sweden. My kids are off from school. As a tenniscoach there is no or very little room for planned vacation. You have vacation when your player is resting. Period. I had a great talk with a coach the other day about this topic. Being a coach is tough job (as many jobs are) and the job of the coach should not be underestimated. One of my personal principles is to always put the player first. Whats good for the player. What do the player need now. And then work around that.  Im very fortunate too have an amazing mother to our kids that (almost:)) never disagrees. For sure it helps a tremendous amount to have an understanding player as well. Thanks Stan!

“A game plan for life and the power of mentoring” by coach John Wooden. Great book! Thanks to my coaching friend who gave me this book (you know who you are). Good book that Im just done with. The take aways are again very much about principles for life as fit is for sport. About being a mentor and being mentored. Do you have a mentor? Maybe you do but you don’t know you do? Are you a mentor for someone? Maybe you are without knowing it! Its a good read that I can recommend.

Be a role model with actions. Not words. 

Have a nice week friends!

//Magnus

4 Comments

  1. Great column Norman, please keep it going!

    On your comments about the change in ITF rule, i just wanted to highlight that:
    – Out of 55,000 played requested to take the famous survey, only 7605 responded.
    – The majority of them is 15-20yo boys with no ranking.

    Not difficult to judge whether this is representative or not. 🙂

    If interested, here is the link to the survey results:

    https://www.itftennis.com/media/194255/194255.pdf

  2. Rosey Nugent

    Great article. One correction – the survey. The ITF sent it to 55,000 people. Only approx 8,000 responded. So the changes were made based on 8,000 views, not 55,000 as the ITF implies.

    1. Great. Thanks very much!!

  3. Great stuff!
    Among other things. In a media perspective it now looks that Sweden only has 4 proffessional players on the mens side (ATP ranking). Is that a good strategy? To ”hide” the rest in a new hidden ranking…?

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