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College: My experience – Joe Smithyman (April 2018)

Posted on: April 24, 2018 |

In tennis there’s a precipice faced by many players regarding how and where to continue playing the game after the junior level. For a rare few that choice is to take the leap and turn professional. For others, opportunities change as they follow personal, educational and career goals. However, the best of both worlds approach can be found by pursuing tennis and education at university. It is important to note that moving to college in the US is not the only option. There are plenty of university programmes in the UK that have emerged over the past few years, which include tailored practices and matches comparable to those in the US. Notable programmes include Sterling and Durham who compete in the national BUCS leagues.

However, from my perspective (albeit a rather biased one), there is no better option than to gain a combined athletic and academic scholarship and move to the U.S. A player’s scholarship doesn’t have to come all from sports. The majority of my scholarship for example was built from academic money stemming from the result of my SAT test. As I progressed through the years, I was able to incrementally build up the rest of my sports scholarship too, so by my senior year I was paying very little. Why wasn’t my sports scholarship initially that large? Well, in all honesty I was not the best of players, and I certainly wasn’t setting the junior tournaments alight with my skills. Before leaving for the states I was a lowly 6.1 rating. However, college coaches who viewed my video decided that I could populate the lower positions in the team. This was a role I was more than happy to play as my overall aim was to focus academically and use the tennis to continue to do something I was passionate about athletically. In essence, tennis was, and has been the facilitating agent in my education, work and travel during these past four years.

The college life as a student athlete (that’s what you’re known as) is one which is significantly difficult to replicate anywhere, even the UK. In my own experience, the opportunities that presented themselves are almost priceless. Never did I think I would play a match at Flushing Meadows or fly across the country to simply practice and compete. All the while I was being taken care of by the university for every possible expense. I was waiting for the catch, but there was none. In short, to train five times a week in an environment tailored to each athlete’s own needs whilst continuing higher education is an opportunity that is hard to turn down.

Of course there are sacrifices to be made as there is with anything worth doing. Spending the majority of the year away from family and friends whilst bedding into a new culture is a big task. Facing illness and injury are difficult prospects as well, particularly when taking a short train or car ride home is out of the question. However, issues such as these are character building and can be tapped into to diversify oneself among the thousands of graduates looking for jobs out of university. I believe that the variety of challenges I faced during my time in the states has allowed me to grow and develop in a way I wouldn’t necessarily have done if I’d stopped tennis and stayed in the UK. In my senior year I was lucky enough to be named captain of the team. This allowed me to work closely with the coach and also experience a leadership role that came with the responsibility of caring for a large team and address all manner of issues. This particular opportunity has also aided my own personal development and I will certainly use this experience in future challenges.

Moving forwards, tennis has enabled me to gain roles working at Wimbledon with IBM and continue coaching during my time off during the summer and winter breaks. In October I start an MSc in Management at the University of Bath. Again, tennis has enabled me to gain a coaching role so I can continue earning whilst in education. The US college route is certainly a challenge. I firmly believe that this route provided me with opportunities, but I still had to go out and take them. The journey was what I made of it, and in the end, the more I practiced, the luckier I got.

Joe Smithyman, Former STA Student-Athlete

NCAA Division 1 – Niagara University

Bath University – MSc in Management

 

Find out how SotoTennis Academy helps players prepare for US College with the ACES Programme

Or for more information you can contact us at info@sototennis.com

www.sototennis.com

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Coaching the Irish Davis Cup Team (April 2018)

Posted on: April 19, 2018 |

I feel fortunate to have crossed off one of my big ambitions in tennis last week by being part of the coaching team for Ireland in their Davis Cup tie in Norway. This was something I didn’t achieve as a player, and the week was everything and more than I had imagined a Davis Cup tie to be. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts from the week.

So where did the week start? For me it started with a late night flight from Malaga to Dublin. I have to admit to experiencing a few nerves, as even though I knew most of the guys, the fact that it was my first Davis Cup experience so close to the action and it was extremely special for me to ‘representing’ Ireland. I am not Irish, and am very proud to be British, but with irish grandparents and a Dad who supports Ireland over England in Rugby (when it suits him ;-)), I have brought up to be very proud of our Kiernan/Carney heritage and irish music/whiskey/Guiness has always taken a prominent position in the family Christmas get togethers. And to make it extra special/emotional my Uncle (who was extremely proud of our Irish heritage) passed away just before Christmas too early, so this is a one I felt I carried my Uncle Michael with me on the flight over…This was for him.

Day 1 – Travel

Due to the long flight over and late arrival time, day one was fairly lay low for everyone and sleep was needed before we hit the practice courts the following day.

Day 2 – Practice Day

This venue in Oslo was the national Tennis Centre for Norway which was an impressive facility.
I had spent days before trawling the internet for footage on the team. Casper Ruud who many of you will know was much easier to find footage of, so I felt my scouting report was accurate, but their number 2 Viktar Durasovic not so easy, so it was my first chance to run my eyes over him. This moment is always very bizarre at tennis events where the player is hitting and the coach from the other team (player) is standing watching. Everyone knows what is happening and it is a rather awkward stand off where very little detail is picked up, but having that vision of how they swing the racket, their court position, general demeanour, grips, swing size or even more simple sometimes- are they right or left handed! Is all valuable info to have to if nothing else bring a little comfort for the player that we have an idea of what is coming.

First practice for the boys was interesting, they all commented on how fast the courts were and spent their time analysing the bounces and how the court was reacting to spin, but all in all it was 120 mins of feeling the court, feeling the ball and for the most part feeling themselves into the situation. You will notice I use the word ‘feel’ a lot. This sits at the heart of many tennis players and the better they feel a situation and feel comfortable in a situation the easier it is to bring their best performance to the show. The show was now 2.5 days away. The excitement is starting to rise.

There were 5 players in the squad led by SotoTennis player Peter Bothwell, Simon Carr, Sam Bothwell, Julian Bradley and player/coach Daniel Glancy. Captain was Conor Niland who was a former top 130 ATP player and his assistant coach Barry King who was a former Davis Cup Player. There was then physio Nicky Green who has been a big part of the team for years. Later to join would be the president of Tennis Ireland and social media man Kieron. It was wonderful to see how well everyone gelled and spent time off the court. Many old stories of Davis Cup from the boys which helped the young guys feel at ease and lots of information sharing amongst the coaches which I have to say I enjoyed throughly.

Day 2 afternoon – Doubles and specifics

Today was the first time the players competed which was interesting to see, as competition brings with it raw emotions, especially when a player may feel they are being ‘watched’ with selection being made in a couple days for who will play doubles Saturday morning. This brought home the difference between a normal tournament preparation and Davis Cup preparation, as it is unusual for tennis players to be playing for selection given its individual nature.

Back to the hotel for massages cool downs before refuel and our nightly games of ‘shuffle board’. What a game that is by the way!

Day 3 – The tension is building

A relatively quiet day which comprised of 2 practice sessions and the players starting to comment that the court isn’t so fast. I think they are finding their timing! It was also interesting to note the emotional roller coaster these young guns go through on these weeks in which they are representing their nation in front of big crowds. They feel the pressure and they feel the excitement, but notably they link these feelings to how they are hitting the ball. Hitting it badly, mild panic sets in. Hit it well mild arrogance and ego kicks in! Their levels are just trying to find their equilibrium! We got them playing sets in the afternoon which we knew was an emotional risk, but they need to feel this pressure a little and get some serve and return repetition in a live situation. Job done. Onto tomorrow.

Day 4 – The Draw

Practice in the morning which was light for those guys competing the next day. Conserving energy is important at this stage.

The draw took place in the afternoon. We got the draw we wanted. Pete to play Norway’s number 2 to try and get on the board and apply pressure on their young yet experienced Casper Ruud in the second rubber.
The formalities done, gifts exchanged and back to the hotel to prepare. We had found a lovely little Italian 5 mins from the hotel which we went for pre match meal. The boys like eating early after their training and lots good food later we were back in the hotel for our team meeting. The coaches had met each day, but this was the first time we brought everyone together to go through the plan the following day. The boys seemed relaxed yet excited. Time to rest up for game day!

Day 5 – Show Time

The big day had arrived- time to go and fight for your country. I had breakfast with Pete who seemed ‘thoughtful’ yet quiet. The nerves and excitement no doubt jangling in his stomach. He was first up at 12. My stomach was churning. I was loving this Davis Cup experience. I left it will late to put my green top with Ireland on and this was a very proud moment for me. Thinking of you Uncle Michael and both my grandparents at this point.

The simple game plans are discussed. Myself and Pete have a bit of a routine where the plans are discussed as he warms up, it is less formal than sitting down and more chatty in its nature. Important on a day like today that 2-3 clear and actionable points were made to focus on. Don’t over speak or complicate. Now go time!

In the locker room the team came together- great words from Captain Conor and onto the court we went. The national anthem playing as I took my seat directly behind Conor and Pete.

Pete played a good first set without being spectacular and lost it 3/6 down to a couple bad points at the wrong moment and some big serves at the correct moments from Durasovic. Conor turned to me and I have to say I felt good about the match ‘He is doing the right things out there. Important he doesn’t start forcing, keep trusting the way he is playing and chances will start to come his way’ I said. Conor was already on it and passing on his wealth of experience to Pete and getting a great balance of giving knowledge and making him smile which was a great experience for me to see.

From the moment the 2nd set started there was only one winner. Pete started to get on top of him and although a dramatic last game as he served the match out at 5/3 in the 3rd, he had won a match for his country and put them 1-0 up in the tie. An amazing feeling for us all. The most vocal I have ever been at the side of a tennis court, but well worth the lost voice at the end of the weekend.

This is where tennis is a tough sport. The next match started 20 minutes after, so there was literally no time to enjoy this win. It was a quick sandwich, toilet break, high five with Pete and his Dad before making sure back at the bench for Simons match. Brutal.

Simon competed really well in the first few games against Ruud and we saw enough from this to feel Ruud could be got at, but once he got ahead he relaxed and I have to say watch this space with Ruud. The boy can seriously play. 1-1 in the tie.

Another insight into the Davis Cup is how tired the players get on an evening due to the emotional and mental strain that they are under. These matches are different. A ‘fun’ different and I am still loving it!

Day 6 – Doubles and Singles Day

First up was the doubles. Despite a positive performance for the boys, the Norwegians were too strong on the day. 1-2.

I am very proud of how Pete played against Ruud. We had some real ‘out of your seat moments’ and when he broke and held to go 5-4 up in the second set he had 650 Norwegians worried as this weekend was the Casper Ruud show- he is already a big star in Norway. Pete got under his skin and pushed his boundaries but hats off to Ruud who showed his class and steel in the end to pull through. 1-3 tie over.

We were asked if we wanted to play the dead rubber to which we replied yes, but the Norwegians didn’t want this to go ahead. A shame, as what an opportunity for one of the boys to play a davis cup rubber.

After spending time as a team after the match the team were low, but all proud of everyones efforts. We went back to the hotel to collect thoughts before heading out to dinner and an evening of shuffle board and the final round of the Masters to try pull through their fellow Irish man Rory McIlroy and a couple of beers. Great company and stories shared over the week together. Camaraderie at its best. Very grateful for the opportunity to join the team.

I hope I get to experience this amazing event again and I truly hope the ITF don’t make this decision to take away this event. It means so much to so many people and I can only speak for myself in saying it has completed a real personal goal of mine and it didn’t disappoint.

Next step is for the guys to build on their great performances and take them onto the tour where the day job of the week in week out if where these opportunities are made. Good luck guys and thanks for having me.

COYBIG

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

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Cognitive Overload Series (April 2018)

Posted on: April 13, 2018 |
Tags: Elite Tennis, Tennis Coaching

Head over to YouTube to watch our entire Cognitive Overload Series playlist! 

 

Cognitive load refers to the effort being used in the working memory. The working is the part of the brain that consciously processes information and dictates everything we do in terms of learning.

The working memory can only hold 4-5 bits of information at one time and information in the working memory lasts only around 10 seconds.”

The cognitive tennis drills used at the Soto Tennis Academy are aimed to challenge the player’s brain to function at levels greater than what is actually needed to play at an elite level. The Academy aim is to provide an environment where players have  opportunities to  “out train the game” and these cognitive drills are one way that helps to place players under a form of mental pressure.

The way we use this concept at the Academy…

Warm Up exercises: As you will see in the video. We use chaos drills with the aim to get the mind engaged and the body functioning at the start of sessions.

Drill: Each cone is numbered. Players start in the centre of the cones and a number is called out. Player has to get to the relevant number cone and back to the center quicker than their opponent.

Progression 1: Coach calls a number which equates to –1 or +1 of what was called. I.e 2=1 (or3), to cause cognitive overload in the player’s mind.

Progression 2: Coach calls out a mathematical sum I.e 1+2 and player must go to the cone in this instance 3.

Progression: As above, but –1 or +1 off the answer.

Rally Tempo Cognitive Loading exercises:

Player A and B find a nice rally tempo first. Coach challenges player A with a simple skill (Catch and Throw) in between each shot of the rally for 5-10 balls before going back into the rally tempo drill.

Skill Progressions: To include skills such as drive volley, drop shot, slice, kicking ball, volley back to coach.

Skill Progression 2: Randomise the skills named above in between shots.

Question Progressions: Tell player to name a different colour, country, premier league football teams etc. Be creative!

Question Progressions: Randomise the questions I.e mathematical, prime minister, winner of Australian Open.

Next progression: Add a skill and a question at the same time.

Next… Randomise the skill or the questions followed by randomising both skill and question.

Important Point: Drills work better in a rally situation over a feeding situation, as the tempo is more realistic.

As seen by the players in the videos, when returning to normal rallying situations the player feels rewarded by having more time to make conscious tactically/ technical decisions.  This the aim of our cognitive drills.

 

Keep an eye out for more series’ like this one in the coming days!

#TeamSoto

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Access Players at SotoTennis Academy (March 2018)

Posted on: April 11, 2018 |

At SotoTennis Academy (STA) we are proud to be one of the top Tennis Academies in Spain, Europe and internationally.

 

Why?

We care about and investing in all of our players and their individual pathways and goals.

Our full time players benefit from a year-round service in this way but we love nothing more than to give the opportunity to other players to access our environment and culture. Because of this we are delighted to welcome 250+ access players from all over the world through our doors each year to supplement their home training programme, adding value both to their programme and the STA player programmes by bringing variation of sparring partners and of course new friendships.

 

Accessing the STA environment

There may be a number of reasons why players (and coaches) want to access our environment here at STA.

We have players looking to access our expert coaching, our ‘day-in-day-out’ environment, some that are looking for quality hitting partners to enhance their programmes. We spend time working with other coaches as well as players and love to share information with like-minded people.

We can also accommodate families looking to combine their holiday whilst the tennis players in the family train at the Academy.

 

What sets us apart?

Whatever it is players are looking for, we aim to make your visit very personal and individualised to your needs, while still coming away with a true experience of #TeamSoto environment that we continuously drive forward and so strongly pride ourselves on. We are never standing still!

 

The process

Before any player arrives at STA, whether for one session, day, week or month, information on the player’s current programme and goals are collected in a registration form.

Schedules are set with the individual in mind and respecting the wants and needs of all players, whether full-time or access.

We are quick to adapt our schedules throughout the week to allow for the best experience for our access players, as it often takes half a day to know exactly where the best fit is for them within the Academy setup.

Each access player will have a (loose) lead coach throughout the week who will be your ‘go to’ for any concerns, feedback and generally to ensure your week goes as we all want…positively!

 

Sessions

Players will receive a variety of training opportunities and experiences linked in with the needs of the individual. Varying from clay court education to basic understanding of our mental training programme within the Academy.

Players will work with our professional Strength and Conditioning Team in line with their current training and injury history to ensure we are working towards your longer terms plans.

 

Every Wednesday afternoon, we run Doubles Wednesdays at the Academy, which proves to be a big success. Players enjoy a fun filled afternoon whilst developing Doubles strategies and techniques from former British number 1 doubles player Dan Kiernan and his expert team.

At the end of the week we hold our ‘Friday Circle’, which represents the team environment we have here at STA and is an opportunity for us all to reflect and gather after a hard week’s training. Player of the Week awards are given for the player who excelled in our ‘Control the Controllables’ culture as well as small prizes for everyone who we have the honour of welcoming to the Academy on a short-term training week.

 

Afterwards and moving forward

Once back home all access players receive a report from the STA coaches on: how well they fitted with the STA ‘Control the Controllables’ culture; the key areas covered when here; their key areas to work on moving forward. They are then given the opportunity to complete a feedback form to provide their positive and constructive criticism, upon which they are also entered into a draw to win a free access week!

 

When can I come?

Whenever suits your tournament/training schedule! We are open 47 weeks of the year (check out are term dates)

The 47 weeks of the year that we are open, training camp weeks are organised during peak school holidays during which we are pleased to welcome up to 16 access players. The rest of the weeks we have spaces for up to 4 access players.

 

That’s enough from us. Come and see us to try it out for yourself! Get in touch at info@sototennis.com to make an enquiry!

Find out more about STA Training Camps

www.sototennis.com

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More than one way (February 2018)

Posted on: February 5, 2018 |
Tags: athlete, careers, competition, costa del sol, davis cup, professional sport, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

‘There is more than one way to skin a cat’, as I believe the saying goes. And this is certainly true in terms of developing into a Top 100 Tennis Player in the world. Last week’s hot topic on social media was Kyle Edmund and his epic Australian Open campaign, resulting in his first Grand Slam Semi-Final and a move up to #26 in the world. This weekend’s trend was Cameron Norrie, the 22 year old British star that, for some, turned into an overnight sensation with his performances over #23 ranked Roberto Bautista Agut and #21 ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas in this weekend’s Davis Cup tie between GB and Spain in Marbella. Norrie brought all sorts of well deserved accolades; none more welcomed than from Andy Murray, who tweeted:

Image uploaded from iOS

This was not just the fact that ATP #114 (Norrie) took out Bautista Agut: this was Norrie’s first pro match on a clay court, his first 5 set match, his first Davis Cup match. So where has Norrie been hiding?

As I said last week, I picked Edmund at age 14-15 to be a star in this game – see blog ‘In-kedible…’ (below). Well, I saw Norrie aged 17 and I wasn’t so impressed. Yes he had skills, but he had holes in his game and seemed mentally and physically immature. Edmund was ready at this stage. Edmund is the outlier in this sport. Norrie was the norm. Most 17-18 year olds are not ready for the tour physically, mentally or emotionally.

Norrie was fortunate enough to be advised to take his talents over to the US College system where he would have time to hone his skills in an extremely competitive environment. I want to explore a few reasons why I believe this system works so well for so many. Judy Murray will lead me into this with her quote late last night on social media:

Image uploaded from iOS (1)

Support Team

Which pro player can afford 2-3 coaches who are giving you their undivided attention, watching every match, every training session? Can afford a full-time physical trainer? A nutritional team behind you, a medical team that is there for your every need? Your own personal stringer, public relations officer, tour planner (Hotels, restaurants)? Not many, right? This is what Norrie would have had in terms of support throughout his time at Texas Christian University (TCU).

Matches

In his 3 seasons at TCU, Norrie played 97 singles matches and 88 doubles matches. This is amazing when you remember he only played 5 months of the year in college (he spent each fall semester playing ATP/ITF events – which the university would support in expenses and coach support). Norrie averaged 45 pro matches each year throughout college, so was approaching 80 singles matches per year throughout this period. Those who start playing futures right out of juniors are normally closer to 50-60 matches if they are fortunate enough to afford a full schedule. Add in the fact that these matches are played with the support mentioned above, Norrie was given a wonderful opportunity to drill in his game identity and develop a real knack for winning matches and working his opponents out, which is one of his big strengths on the court.

Pressure-free

Whilst you are still developing emotionally/mentally, it is a god send to play these matches without ‘pressure’. Now, don’t get me wrong, of course Norrie would have dealt with massive pressures, representing his University in key matches as well as his early success on the pro tour. However, the security of being at University, getting a degree, the comfort of the support team and the low financial burden of being a college player eases some of that pressure and would have allowed Norrie to subtly play a little free-er.

Nonetheless, Norrie’s ability to deal with pressure was honed by leading his university team and becoming accustomed to playing in front of big crowds with the team expectation. This weekend in Marbella, we saw he was extremely comfortable in this environment, which is why, as stated above, some see it as an overnight sensation, when those closer to him know he has been working and developing these skills for moments like these for years.

Momentum

In Dec 2016 Norrie was ranked inside the top 300 ATP and he had a choice on whether to go back to TCU for his Junior year (3rd year) or to go pro. I know he received lots of pressure from people on both sides. Some pushed the pro route, as at this stage it was obvious he was ready or the tour. At the same time, he had a strong alliance with his ‘Frogs’ from TCU, who were pushing for a NCAA National Title – the pinnacle of College Tennis. Cameron followed his heart and led TCU to a fantastic season winning 21 of his 22 matches that year which is an extremely impressive record.

He then went straight into the grass court season on the back of this ‘winning’, which we all know is a ‘habit’ and in his second week out of college beat Horacio Zeballos who was 48 in the world at the time in Eastbourne. He continued this great run throughout the summer, winning challenges (like Edmund himself) in Binghampton and Tiburon, carrying on this amazing winning streak.

Yes, I believe that if you are good enough you are good enough, but at the same time I strongly believe timing and momentum are key as a player rises up the rankings. Norrie has nailed these milestones along the way to what I believe will see him move into the world’s top 50 and beyond over the coming months/years.

Backs himself physically and mentally

This winning feeling and tight match mentality leads a player to back themselves in these big moments both physically and mentally. These were the first words Norrie spoke after his historic win over Bautista Agut on Friday: ‘I continued to back myself mentally and physically throughout the match. That never faulted.’ I was fortunate enough to be there on Friday and Cameron wasn’t playing well for 2.5 sets (bar the first few games of the first set), but he continued to do exactly that and when the opportunity presented itself he was there to take it. Hats off to you, young man!

 

2018 has already shown that there is life behind Andy Murray in Men’s British Tennis. Cameron and Kyle stories showcase different journeys to a similar destination. If you look into detail at all top 100 tennis played in the world, you would see a number of different journeys to the same destination.

With extraordinary levels being shown by both of these players at different stages of their development, what we can’t get away from is that whether Kyle (aged 16) on the ITF Junior Circuit or Cameron (aged 19) in US College, the game at this level is not for the faint-hearted and does not happen overnight.

Control the Controllables. Day in Day out.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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In-Kedible! Edmund into Aussie Open Semi Finals (January 2018)

Posted on: January 23, 2018 |
Tags: athlete, competition, costa del sol, davis cup, Elite Tennis, professional sport, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

At the risk of sounding smug and saying ‘I told you so’, I have to point out that I am by far not the only person to have made the claim that Kyle Edmund ‘would be a top ATP player’, when I first saw him at aged 15. I made a similar claim (as did many) about Andy Murray when I first saw him aged 13.

I first met Kyle in Portugal in 2010, where I had a team from SotoTennis Academy at the G4 ITF events during the late summer. These events are traditionally strong and provide lots of competitive opportunity for many due to large draw sizes and they are comfortable events to play.

From the word ‘Go’, Kyle stood out to me on that trip. And this was before I saw him hit a tennis ball. ‘Why?’ many people have asked over the years. The same things stood out to me with Andy Murray as a youngster as with Kyle:

  1. Incredibly single minded

Kyle, aged 15, would join in the banter and play mini golf with the group each day, but as the other boys continued the ‘banter’ (which often led to ill discipline and an unprepared mind), Kyle seemed to know exactly when to take himself away from the others and get his mind ready for the primary job he was there for: to win tennis matches.

  1. A strong inner belief

I was lucky enough to share a court with a young Andy Murray on a few occasions. On the Doubles court at an ITF Pro Circuit event, as he was on his rise to becoming an international superstar, Andy shouted out: ‘I can’t believe I’m losing to these guys’. Andy was 17 at the time and he was playing myself and David Sherwood. We were British 1&2 Doubles players at the time; we had beaten Andy and his partner the previous 2 weeks. He was right though: it wasn’t a brat-ish cry, it came from deep within. He knew he was better (he was!) and the frustration was fuelled by this knowledge.

Kyle was the same but in a very different way. He was always very assured on the court and looked like he had a belief that said ‘how high will I get as an ATP player?’ Rather than, ‘will I become an ATP player?’

And I know over the last couple of years he has worked hard on installing even more belief, taking himself from an extremely highly respected player who is top 50 in the world, to the Grand Slam contender we see before our eyes today. I pick this up from the interviews and the way in which he speaks, as well as from his outward positivity that shines through on the court (which maybe goes against his personality, but has made a noticeable difference). Well done to the team around him for this.

  1. A love of the game

Playing it. Watching it. Talking about it. Both Kyle and Andy are ‘tennis geeks’. It is the number one thing in their life and they know everything there is to know about it, no distractions, as this is their passion.

This is the fuel that brings together so many other areas in this sport, whether it is developing mental or physical fitness, or whether it is developing a stronger first serve, as Kyle has done in the off season. The motivation is fuelled by the obsession to be the best they can be in the sport that they love.

My ‘gut feeling’ on both Andy and Kyle had nothing to do with how they hit the ball (granted this is done extremely well by both), but more so from the things that we don’t see on the TV and the daily way they live their life because of the points above.

This result this week for Kyle has not happened by chance. It reflects many hours and the work of many great, committed people, day-in-day-out. Tennis doesn’t lie.

Now I hope we can celebrate an even bigger achievement this week and wish Kyle and his team all the very best for Thursday and the remainder of 2018.

What I know for sure is that Kyle will build on this week, as he has built up a strong structure and core to his work, which allows him to have a sustainable career. I don’t see a Sloane Stephens 0-7 after winning the US Open back in 2017. Tennis is his life.

Good luck Kedders and we will see you in Marbella next week for the Davis Cup – we are behind you all the way!

Dan and all of #teamsoto

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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2017 Reflections at SotoTennis Academy (January 2018)

Posted on: January 8, 2018 |
Tags: athlete, Competing, costa del sol, Elite Tennis, professional sport, Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, Vehicle for life
I am writing this blog a few days into 2018, but the short break over Christmas has given me some time to reflect on 2017 and as ever there has been lots to reflect on here at SotoTennis Academy.
One of the words I use the most at the Academy with the players is the word ‘accept’. I truly believe the ability to accept situations that are thrown our way is a real sign of mental ‘fitness’. This is another saying we use for players to understand that developing a fit mind isn’t too different to developing a fit body- it takes time and work and the prescribed programme doesn’t do the work for you, the day in day out application to it does, but maybe I’ll blog on that another day!
I accepted a long time ago that as an Academy owner I have signed up to many things and that with 16 staff members, 45 players (double the parents), 250 Access Players visiting us each year, not everything will always go to plan! I guess the point I’m about to make before I wax lyrical about my amazing staff, players and parents for all they achieved in 2017 is that it doesn’t always go to plan, it doesn’t always go the way we want and sometimes it absolutely goes a way we never saw coming, not too dissimilar to a tennis match, or even a tennis career. It won’t all be plane sailing and you will have some adversity and many a challenge to over come, but this is the beauty of tennis (and of life). You wouldn’t want it easy, would you?
Onto the year gone by.. Things I am extremely proud of the team for…
  1.  We have players at the Academy from 16 different nations
  2. The team travelling to 34 different countries this year
  3. The 23 Professional Titles STA Players won in 2017 including our first ever WTA title
  4. The 10 ITF Junior Finals that were made and 2 players who have broken inside the top 200 ITF in 2017
  5. The other 33 tournaments won by STA Players
  6. The representation of STA Players in the Davis Cup
  7. The 4 US Scholarships that were given to STA Players in 2017
  8. The 2 ex STA Players that graduated from US Colleges with excellent degrees and prospects for the future.
  9. The UK scholarships that were awarded to STA players.
  10. The ex STA Player that now plays pro basketball.
  11. The team have designed and written a fantastic new website, which is a brilliant resource for the Academy
  12. The new ACES Programme with Sotogrande International School- More info on our website.
  13. The new Mini Van we have, we now have 2. Both with big logos on them! It was always a dream of mine to have that, so gotta mention it!
  14. The new office we have- the creative juices now flow, as does the tea and coffee!
  15. The new STA baby- congrats to STA Director, Nick Morgan and his partner Amy on the birth of Baby Martha!
  16. A big one I’m proud of; in 2017 we covered 108 weeks of International tournaments as a team. Dedication in abundance from our staff, players and parents.
  17. We have opened our door to 250 players who wanted to access our environment, I hope we have 250 happy players leaving who have taken a little bit from what we do at the Academy to help them on their journey.
  18. We have made many new friends. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing the friendships blossom between STA Players, staff and families with the blend of nationalities and cultures and the bonds that last a life time- this is special. And it’s something we should be very proud of our sport for.
  19. We have 30+ different goals and pathways that want to be explored..
  20. We have 1 team! #teamsoto
Thank you to each and every person who has contributed to these fantastic achievements in 2017.
As for 2018, we are ready for anything. We ‘accept’ what we have signed up to, the good, the bad and the ugly albeit we will be doing everything we can to replicate and surpass the above on and off the court!
Happy New Year to you all. Wishing you a year full of health and happiness and hope to bump into some of you throughout 2018.
Control the Controllables.
Dan Kiernan
Director, SotoTennis Academy
dan@sototennis.com
Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain
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Baby Fed: Has he Finally Arrived? (November 2017)

Posted on: November 22, 2017 |
Tags: davis cup, dimitrov, federer, professional sport, Professional Tennis, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

So, has Grigor Dimitrov finally arrived with his stunning victory in London over the weekend at the Nitto World Tour Finals?

Last week, I wasn’t able to get in front of a TV for many of the group matches. However, as always I followed with interest and at first thought, I was a little surprised to see Dimitrov in the draw. Had he really had that good of a year to make the top 8 in the world and in doing so make the world tour finals for the first time? I then switched on the TV on Saturday to watch the Jack Sock semi-final and the commentator announced that Dimitrov will move to number 3 in the world with a victory today. Had he really had THAT good of a year!?

This got the curious side of me going, so my ‘Resultina’ tennis app went into over drive that evening to find out more about this golden year for Dimitrov, as he seems to have gone under the radar.

He started the year fantastically well with 2 victories in the first 3 events of the year (Brisbane and Sofia) and a semi-final appearance in Melbourne…Oh yes, it was all coming back to me, he did have a good year, didn’t he? Well, for the next 6 months of the year he had an average year. He went 15 wins and 13 losses in this period. And in the 3 Grand Slams since Melbourne he won 6 matches – an average of 2 per event. Great for many, but for a player who was tipped to be the next Federer?

As the year moved into the hard court swing, he had an ‘outlier’ of a result given his previous 6 months by winning the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati. Interestingly, after a disappointing US Open a couple of weeks later he took 5 weeks off competition – an important point of note to up and coming tennis players. He didn’t force his year. He recognised the need for rest and recovery as well as dedicated time to work on his game and physical development.

The last 4 tournaments of the year brought 14 wins and 4 losses (2 to Nadal, 1 to Del Potro and 1 closely to the big serving John Isner indoors in Paris). Fair play to Dimitrov and his team who have kept him strong mentally and physically until the end of a gruelling year. The ability to be robust and durable is often a physical trait that is overlooked as a performance measure.

Finishing with a 49-19 record (losing 30% of matches that he played) and he has had a breakthrough year finishing the year World Number 3. A great example of what our sport is about. You won’t win every match, you won’t have an amazing week every week, but your ability to roll with this and manage yourself through the year is critical to the success of a player. This is something that we really try to educate our players about here at SotoTennis Academy.

The pattern that Dimitrov had in 2017 is a similar pattern to his career. Dimitrov shot onto the scene with his familiarity to Federer in technique and game style and his good looks.

2010 was a breakthrough year for Dimitrov, as he took the Challenger Tour by storm and ironically celebrated 2 wins at Futures level against David Goffin, who happened to be his opponent in the O2 finals this weekend!

At this stage, comparisons were frequently being made to Federer, predicting Dimitrov to be the ‘next one’ to come through. Is this a realistic expectation that Dimitrov has not matched? Or are we guilty of applying these big statements to every player that shows some level of potential from an early age? After all, at a time when Nadal, Federer, Murray, Djokovic (Wawrinka, Del Potro) have been around we really have been treated to a golden era in the Men’s game.

It has taken Dimitrov 7 years to finally reach the heights that so many expected. And I think this is perfectly normal! Maybe some don’t, but I believe it is another reality of our sport. It takes time to mature physically and mentally, to be secure in your game, to feel comfortable at each level (and believe me there are many layers to professional tennis even throughout the top 100) and many more.

Anyway, back to his macro development. Some figures for…

Federer vs. Dimitrov Year-End Rankings:

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 17.45.35

We can all speculate to what happened at age 24 for Dimitrov as ranking dropped from 11 to a year end 28, which is somewhat significant at that level. My guess is that he plateaued a little as he moved close to the worlds top 10 whether through lifestyle choices, ability to perform week in week out, ability to perform at Grand Slam level over 5 sets which brings a big challenge to many. Again this is normal. Not normal that the plateau comes at 11 in the world; Dimitrov is special, but for all players I have worked with at professional level, this is always a big one to watch. Players all get stale and have plateaus at certain levels. The ones who are prepared to make a change in their mind set, their training, whatever it may be are the ones who continue to get over those bumps in road and importantly they aren’t disheartened by this reality.

So this brings us to the end of the 2017 season (bar Davis Cup final this weekend) and it begs the question. What happens in 2018?

None of us could have predicted the way that 2017 has gone with the re-emergence of the ‘old men’ winning all 4 Grand Slams between them, or the long term injuries of the top 3 players in the world. So for me, 2018 is one of the most fascinating years yet as we have the blend of youth (Zverev, Kygrios, Thiem, maybe Dimitrov albeit he is 26), the old guard (Rafa and Roger), and the injury comebacks (Murray, Wawrinka, Djokovic, Raonic, Nishikori). Sit back and enjoy the ride! The only prediction to come from me is I think we may see the first slam for one of the #nextgen . Maybe the big man from Germany!?

Control the Controllables.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ (November 2017)

Posted on: November 9, 2017 |
Tags: athlete, Elite Tennis, professional sport, Professional Tennis, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

So, it has been over a year since my last blog with all the excitement and developments at the Academy taking up most of my time! In order to gain some inspiration I have been asking players at SotoTennis Academy over the last few days what they would like to read about. What is interesting? Why is the point of these blogs? I think we all agree it is a nice medium to be able to share thoughts and opinions and maybe ask some thought-provoking questions. One of the topics which came out loud and clear is a bit of a taboo subject in tennis…PARENTS.

Lots has been written on this and, in general, these articles tend to tell a parent how to be a parent. Well, I am a parent, and we don’t like that!

I believe tennis is a team sport more than we realise. It is only one person performing on the court, but I think we all know by now that the strength of the team around the player leads to a much greater chance of success, than a player who is on their own, or worse still, a player that has a ‘toxic team’ behind them.

I would like to talk about the ’team’ (players-parents-coaches) . I want to start by sharing some of the common statements I have heard over the years and if you read until the end, you will find out whose side I am on with this…

Common statements: about parents (from players/coaches)

  • ‘I wish they would just trust me and let me get on with my job’
  • ‘They are always asking me about tennis, tennis, tennis, do they not realise I don’t want to talk about it all the time?’
  • ‘They are happy when I win, but annoyed when I lose’
  • ‘It is the worst part of the job, I try and avoid them if I can’

Common statements: about players (from parents/coaches)

  • ‘We have sacrificed so much to give them this opportunity and they waste it playing rubbish like that’
  • ‘They don’t know how lucky they are, we never had this opportunity when we were younger’
  • ‘Why can’t they just do what (insert name) does’
  • ‘If they really want it then they will always make the sacrifices needed’

Common statements: about coaches (from parents/players)

  • ‘They always spend more time with (insert name) than my child/me’
  • ‘They are only in it for the money’
  • ‘They haven’t been to watch me/my child play for a few weeks now (over the weekend)’
  • ‘We are really struggling financially, if you believe in (insert name) will you not be able to help us out?’

I think you get the idea by now and I am sure you have all heard these said or maybe even been partial to one of these comments over the years. All sound a bit negative? Why?

Because we all care!

Yes, all of us. I know, I have been in each position, as a player, as a coach and now as a parent. When we care so much and have such a passion for anything, it brings emotion – real, raw emotion. This emotion when misguided turns into negativity, the negativity can be toxic and in turn this is what ruins relationships whether this is between coaches and players or coaches and parents, or the worst of all, players and parents.

So my question is: how do we take this raw emotion, this care, this love and translate this into a positive situation for everyone in the team?

Direction

When you get the whole team on the same page, with the player having a clear understanding of the direction they are going with their games and for some, their careers, life becomes a little clearer for everyone involved. In simple terms: where are we? Where are we going? How and what are we going to do to get there? For us at STA this means Road Map, Goal Setting, Annual Planning, Weekly Programme.

If we add objective measures to these plans, which all the team agree and sign off over a given time period, this removes some of the emotion attached to the development of the player. The little things become clearer and we can measure processes instead of the only measurement we used to know: winning or losing.

In my experience, if this is done well, it goes a long way to calming the emotions within the team and allows the player to work in a clear manner with the support from the key people around them (coaches and parents).

Communication

This is often the downfall of any relationship, but can also be the making of any relationship. Clear, honest, consistent communication is the key.

At the Academy, we send parents weekly reports. At first my coaches used to grumble, as it was seen as additional work, but they soon realised it was saving them work, as the communication became more efficient and consistent, which naturally reassures parents and helps build trust in the coach.

Respect and Understanding

Parents

  • The player is a parent’s number one most important thing in their life. Imagine if someone trashed your prize possession (a car, house, mobile phone (for some ;-)) how upset you’d feel. Well, it’s 100x worse when it is their child, who they feel isn’t being looked after properly; it is important we remember this.
  • They work hard, really hard to support their childs dream.
  • They want to be helped, they want to be communicated to. Sometimes just a simple ‘Matthew looked really happy on court today’ can make their day. A “thank you for taking me to tennis” from a player can make a parents day.
    • Note: This was a big thing I realised when my kids started to play tennis. I craved getting some feedback from the coach, not for long and nothing to do with the content of the session or how well he/she was playing etc., just a simple comment (positive or constructive), so I know my kid is OK, or in some cases not OK.
  • It is not a normal parental instinct to trust everyone with their child, so expect to take some time building the relationship. Trust is earned not given.

Players

  • They are not robots! They will have bad days. A bad day doesn’t mean they don’t want to play tennis.
  • Losing is hard, it will bring emotions attached to it when they want to win. It takes time for these coping skills to develop in order to be able to deal with adult emotions.
  • Being on the court on your own can be scary. Especially when all parents and coaches are watching. Players are often ‘pleasers’, and presence of parents/coaches alone will often bring its own pressure. We need to respect this.
  • Players can’t and won’t perform to their very best every match. Each player has a range of performance, which is significant. Their level over the course of the year will equate to their average at the end of the year. They will have some good days and some bad days. This is normal for all top athletes.
    • This range of performance explains why on some days a lower ranked player will beat a higher ranked player (as the lower ranked player played to the top of their range and the higher ranked player to their average or low range). Parents: when these results happen, nothing is wrong!
  • Tennis can be a lonely sport at times (especially as a professional) and yes players make lots of sacrifices, but sometimes they just want to be a kid/young adult. This is OK.
  • They want parents to be…parents! It is the number one thing that older players comment to me when I ask.

Coaches

  • They have a life outside of tennis. It is important we respect that time (evenings/weekends).
  • They are human beings and are likely to work harder and respond better to positive reinforcement and appreciation than the other way.
  • At the end of sessions, coaches normally have somewhere else to go whether it’s another session, a short lunch break or back to their families in the evening. I would advise that players and parents who want to speak to a coach on any point of importance set up a meeting time where you will find them in a more relaxed and approachable place.
  • They give more attention to players who earn it through hard work and attitude. Players, remember that as your actions will dictate the attention you receive.

So whose side am I on?

I am on the side of anyone who buys into being part of a team: playing their role in ensuring a player has clear direction, who works hard on their communication within their role, who respect and understand each team member without making quick emotional judgements.

We do this then we are onto a winner!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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The Unsung Heroes of Tennis (May 2016)

Posted on: May 2, 2016 |
Tags: Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Something pretty special has been happening within British tennis over the last few weeks…Yes, Andy Murray is the high profile story that we all know of, but away from the spotlight of the back pages and of Sky Sports, Naomi Broady has moved into the women’s world top 100, and on the men’s side Kyle Edmund continues to rise. Only last week Dan Evans moved into the world’s top 100 for the first time. Only those who are so close to the sport can quite appreciate the magnitude of these achievements. The players deserve so much credit and deserve to take the plaudits, but it has got me thinking about the engines that make these stories tick along day-to-day. In formula one we see them loud and clear. Football: arguably the coaches are bigger names than the players, parading along the touchline – like Mr. Mourinho! In tennis, what provides an environment for these players not only to develop but also to help them survive and live day in day out during life on tour? This blog is dedicated to a select few of those amazing people who dedicate their lives to one person to help them achieve their goals of being a top professional tennis player.

At this point, I have to mention some names of coaches who have done the hard yards over the years with the players above mentioned. Kyle Edmund has John Black, James Trotman and present coach Ryan Jones to thank for keeping his boat moving faster. Dan Evans has worked with Graeme Adams, Leighton Alfred, Mark Taylor, Nathan Rooney and now has Mark Hilton in his corner. Naomi has her father Simon to thank for years of support before ex-STA Player Andrew Fitzpatrick took over the reigns over the last 10 months with great success.

Last week, I was in Madrid for the Mutua Open and I heard comments around some of the players’ coaches such as ‘What a great gig this is’; ‘Does he actually have to do anything?’  Often there were up to 3 coaches per player (more likely a combination of fitness coaches, physics, doctors) in their support team. A great life? Yes! A massive personal dedication and commitment? Absolutely.

So what does a traveling coach do and why I am dedicating a blog towards their appreciation? The blog is written out of a passion and an understanding of these unsung heroes within the game of tennis.  I feel it important that players, coaches and parents alike understand the sacrifice that these coaches make in order to provide a better opportunity for the players to perform and create a career.

Firstly, I want to explore whether having a traveling coach is actually needed: surely these players know as much about the game as the coach themselves? At this point I want you to imagine going to the gym on your own every day for the next 5 years, then imagine doing the same with a personal trainer by your side to motivate, inspire and give you purpose. Which one is going to get you, fitter? This is the ‘Trainer’ aspect of a traveling coach. Keeping a player motivated and with a clear direction.

Now imagine hitting 1000’s of tennis balls over a large period of time in a competitive situation where the stakes are extremely high. Your focus is on doing what you can do to get the job done right? And whilst doing that do you think we pick up bad habits? Andy Murray spoke to Sky Sports after his win over Rafael Nadal in Madrid about the developments he has made on his second serve over the last few months and referenced the technical ‘bad habits’ that professional players get into with so much focus being on the tactical and physical side of the game at this level. This is where the coach needs to ensure they are a good ‘Teacher’ for their player to stay on top of the small, necessary adjustments.

Lastly, Imagine traveling the world on your own, staying in average hotels and coming into contact only with people that are your direct competition. You are away from your family, your friends, your home comforts. You have to deal with the ups and, let’s be honest, the downs in tennis that happen so frequently on your own. Now try and do that for the next 10-12 years whilst building a career. Difficult, ay?

This is where the coach has to be a ‘Coach’ and a ‘Companion’ and often a ‘Counsellor/Psychologist’. At the lower level (and by this I mean outside the world’s top 20, where players can afford to have a larger support team, each with their own specific roles), one coach needs to be this for one player, and often for 3/4/5/6 players at the same time due to affordability issues.

To give some nice examples linked in with the aforementioned players:

Andrew Fitzpatrick started working/traveling with Naomi Broady in July 2015 at a ranking of 230 and is now ranked 79 in May of 2016. Naomi had 8-9 years on the tour without an official traveling coach. Her investment in Andrew has been very much justified and the fruit of it is starting to bear. But make no mistake about it; this was a brave decision by Naomi to dig deep into her pockets to speculate on this appointment. She (and Andrew) deserves a great deal of credit for this.

Mark Hilton started working/traveling with Dan Evans in December 2015 at a ranking of 186. Dan is now ranked 86 in the world in May 2016. For an additional insight into the magnitude of this success story. Dan had 300 ATP points in December 2015 and has more than doubled his points to 646 in the last 6 months. Some going!

Let’s take a minute to applaud these coaches who have sacrificed up to 45 weeks away from their friends and families each year in order to support the player’s careers and the multiple roles they play within their one role. I don’t want us to spend too long on it though – that is the last thing that these coaches want. They don’t do this for the limelight and that is what makes them so special…the unsung heroes of this sport!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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STA’s 2015 (January 2016)

Posted on: October 2, 2015 |
Tags: careers, Competing, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, sport science, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

It’s the time of year where many sit down and reflect on their year just gone, we all sit down and watch SPOTY on the BBC, we start thinking about our New Years Resolutions and importantly it is the one time of the year that we all stop and spend time with our families and loved ones.

The question is often asked of a Tennis Academy, was it a successful year? I guess this question can only really be answered if you have clear measurements in place of what success is to look like. In some fields, I guess this really is pretty simple to define. Let’s take the recent high profile sacking of Jose Mourinho, no one can argue that he hasn’t had an incredibly ‘successful’ Managerial career to date. How is he judged? By the number/frequency of trophies he wins. Six months after taking Chelsea to a Premier League/Carling Cup Double he was fired for not bringing enough ‘success’ to the club this season. This shows the black and white nature of football at this level. Winning and losing are the most important measures for a club owner (as this links to the financial gain for the club).

If we were to look at that here at STA I would say we have a great ‘success’ (in line with our goals set) throughout 2015. This has not come without lots of failure and heartache and not without hours of endless work put in behind closed doors by the players and staff alike.

So here it is in numbers… Go!

53 Titles

26 of which were at the Andalucia Circuit here in Spain

3 National Titles

And 24 International Titles…Wow, that’s a nice reflection!

26 internationally ranked players

Of which …

8 Tennis Europe

10 ITF Juniors

8 ATP/WTA

1 Davis Cup Representative

3 players represented their countries

At a private Tennis Academy this can’t be the only measure of success when we are dealing with children of 5 through to professional Tennis Players aged 22, but rest assured it is an important measure for us at the Academy, as we can’t get away (and don’t want too) from the gladiatorial nature of the sport as one does battle again another, no holds bars, no outside ‘help’ allowed, just me and you. It is not for the faint-hearted when we talk about ‘mental toughness’.

That being said, we very much pride ourselves on what we believe are also very important measures of a Tennis Academy.

Player welfare/happiness – A player spends 25% of their day on the court/in the gym looking to directly improve/develop their ‘performance’, but what about the ‘other’ 75% which we know is so pivotal in terms of their overall development as a person and in turn their mindset going into their 25% performance work. A big challenge for us or any international Tennis Academy, but a challenge we take very seriously.

Player development – I was recently fortunate enough to spend a few days with Louis Cayer (LTA Head of Performance Tennis & Davis Cup 2015 Winning Coach) who talked to me about ‘developing’ a player being very different to ‘improving’ a player. And I couldn’t agree more. We need to have the ‘vision’ as a tennis coach of what we want our players to look like: act like, think like, play like and much more before we can put the ‘stepping stones’ in place to develop this player.

Keeping Options Open for Life- When your player is 18 years old, are they in a position where they have options? Here at STA we set up an initiative called ‘BE KOOL’ which stands for ‘Keeping Options Open 4 Life’. The main objective of the programme is to ensure that our players have all the relevant information in what their options are through the benefits that tennis gives them in terms of network and transferable skills. This links into the 2nd objective which is for players to develop a perspective on their tennis careers which we believe leads to the ‘performing’ better in the here and now.

Over the last three years, we have had 12 players graduate from the Academy to go to a US College Scholarship, which is the small matter of $1,000,000 in value over the 4 years. A fantastic return on all that emotional, financial investment from players and parents alike.

Coachable kids are employable kids – Through environment and strength of values within a programme, great things can be achieved in terms of the type of ‘people’ that come out of your programme.

This is a day-to-day driver in our programme here at STA through our Performance Behaviours that we demand from players and coaches alike.

Last, and certainly not least, as I reflect on 2015, how can I go without mentioning the Worlds Best Tennis Nation, the 2015 Davis Cup Champions! What a year it has been for British Tennis led off the court by Coach Leon Smith who showcased the value of teamwork and believing in each other, to the on-court leader Andy Murray whose years of dedication and determination came flooding out in each tie as the year went on. Like a steamroller leaving all in his wake, NO-ONE was going to prevent him lifting the famous trophy. A fantastic opportunity for British Tennis to build on, and that I am sure they will do, but spare a thought for where the nucleus of their team spent their formative years developing their game, outside and mainly on the clay courts in Spain.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and thank you for your continued support you give us here at STA.

Here is to Happy and Healthy 2016. From there on in it is up to you.

Control the Controllables

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Back to the Future (October 2015)

Posted on: |
Tags: Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

October 21st, 2015. Today. Unless you went through this day without switching on the television or browsing a social media site you will all know that this is the day that Marty Mcfly and Doc Brown took a little look into the future in ‘Back to the Future’. This got me thinking…

If we could take a little look into the future or even ‘go back in time’ to ‘talk to our younger self’. How could this benefit our tennis journey?

I know there have been a couple of excellent blogs around this on Pete Sampras and Greg Norman who have written a letter to their younger self. I liked the insight in these blogs, but something was missing for me in terms of it being ‘tangible’ for a young aspiring player. Sampras and Norman are almost superhuman in their achievements, so I thought it would be cool to speak to players who we can associate with a little more and those who are still very much in the early stages of their tennis journey, so I spoke to a group of players here in Greece at the ITF Pro Circuit events and asked them

If you had 2 minutes with your ‘younger self’ aged 14 what piece of advice would you give ‘you’ with regards to your ‘Tennis Journey’?

Some of the answers I received:-

‘Learn from every match’

‘Wish I had worked harder in EVERY session’

‘Results don’t matter- developing your game does’

‘Don’t worry about other players results’

‘Make sure you have a consistent and level mind’

‘Take care of the small professional areas… The details’

‘Back yourself in the big moments in matches’

‘Take on board what coaches say 100%’

‘Watch lots of tennis so you can learn’

‘Spend time building other interests away from tennis’

‘Spend more time enjoying other players company rather than keep self to self’

I am sure you would agree some really nice pieces of advice. No mention of technique, of tactics or even physical side of the game. The feedback was overwhelmingly aimed towards the mental aspect of the sport and more than that the areas that are IN YOUR CONTROL.

The most interesting part of this little experiment was that ALL players talked about the same things, so from this, we can derive that these areas must be pretty important when it comes to developing as a tennis player (and as a person).

So there we have it…from the words of the professionals. I have been through my tennis playing career and am 10+ years into my coaching career and I believe the players here in Greece have pretty much hit the nail on the head with regards to the advice.

Take care of all those things in your control, plan well and commit to this process with a smile on your face and you won’t go far wrong!

Over to you guys as players (young and old) to make the decision to act on this advice now…someone out there will.

Good Luck!

Control the Controllables.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Simple Excellence (July 2015)

Posted on: July 2, 2015 |
Tags: competition, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy Spain

At the risk of sounding oh so simple… I wanted to share a couple of my views from my last month ‘on the road’ which has taken me from Wimbledon to Dublin. From U14 Tennis Europe events to Grand Slam Senior events with some ITF Junior events, it has been fantastic to see a range of levels.

Soto Tennis Academy players have been competing at Junior Wimbledon, U18 ITF events/U14 Tennis Europe Events in Edinburgh and lastly our Pro Team have been competing on the grass courts on the East Coast of England (Frinton and Felixstowe) before taking us to Dublin this week for the Irish Open $15,000 ITF Futures Event. Notable successes for Lilly Mould who made her first International Semi-Final, Anna Arkadianou who picked up her first ITF Junior World Ranking. Lloyd Glasspool and Pete Bothwell continue to go strong this week in Ireland and Alex Parker has shown some nice consistency to rise 600 places in the world. The Team will continue in Ireland for a couple more weeks whilst others go to warmer parts of Europe in Portugal, Macedonia, Turkey. Exciting times ahead for all involved at STA.

Of course, I have seen differences across the levels in many areas that go with International Level events from the facilities to the price of the sandwiches. In general, though a tennis tournament is just that… a tennis tournament. It really doesn’t change so much from the time we first played in the Adidas Grand Prix events in terms of the process we go through of signing in, warming up, waiting around, warming up again, timing your eating, then playing a match, dealing with the emotions of the win or the loss and I would like to think then cooling down, showering, reviewing our performance (and maybe getting back on the practice court after)
 However, there are 2 very simple areas that have stood out consistently for me over the last few weeks for those players that are having real success whether it is Novak Djokovic winning Wimbledon or Dan Evans winning a Futures event and it firms up my long-term beliefs on this..

They have a coach/team who ‘care’- and I mean really cares. They are invested in the person before the player and truly have a desire for that player to do well for the player and their families. You see this with ‘Team Djokovic’ and it is certainly reciprocated back in every interview we here from Novak. GB Davis Cup would be another great example of this, as they move into the Davis Cup Semi-Finals for the first time in 34 years! That team has been on a 5-year journey lead by Leon Smith and their relationships stem from a fundamental ‘care’ for each other.

They TRY! Always.. Every day, every ball. And by try I mean they really try, they don’t step up to play a point until they are fully ‘ready to compete’.  If we say a tennis match is average 180 points for a 3 set match, so we agree that to win that match you need to collect 95 of those 180 points. Your opponent has 20 points in the match where he/she does not try 100%. All of a sudden you need to win 75 points to win the match and your opponent still needs to win 95. This isn’t a fair game now, is it!?

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Ask Mr. Kygrios if it is that simple! Or 99% of Junior Tennis Players I have seen the last 4 weeks.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Sport Science at STA (July 2014)

Posted on: July 2, 2014 |
Tags: Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sport science, sports science, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

In the modern era of tennis, the importance of “fitness” is synonymous with elite performance. You only need to watch the marathon duals between Nadal, Murray, Federer and Djokovic (amongst others) to see it for your own eyes. The feats of physical prowess are something to behold.

So what does this mean for a High-Performance Tennis Academy? Is there a magic formula? Who are the Guru’s to listen to? Well, the first question is a simple one to answer, whilst questions two and three are the topic of debates that can rage long into the evening.

Let’s start with what a good academy should do, and in particular how we approach it at STA. Very simply, we have a dedicated team of well-qualified professionals who support the development of our tennis players. Players have individual programmes, based on a tennis specific needs analysis. Their physical maturity is tracked, and the emphasis on specific aspects of training is altered accordingly. Their fitness goals are integrated as part of their tennis programme to ensure that at whatever age their physical development is enhancing their performance on the court. It is all quite simple really, and in truth, it should be. We are of the belief that much of the skill is in the delivery.

So what about all the blogs and articles that talk about “this way to train, or that way…” Well, we are also of the belief that all types of training, delivery formats, theories, and philosophies have some merit. If there were only one-way of doing things, life would be boring! As a team, we are continually reflecting on our own practice, researching new practice and asking others about their practice. An open mind is an important trait, but only if you have the ability to rationalise it into something that you understand then decide whether to accept, reject or trial it as part of your own practice. Good practitioners will ensure the objectivity of their practice in the form of evidence, but will also challenge themselves to find new and innovative ways to do things.

That is our view at STA. We believe that Sports Science and “Fitness” should be simple. Good people, delivering evidence-based programmes tailored to the individual and reflective of the environment in which they train. We are transparent in our assessment of the players, and communicate what they need to do, and how to go about doing it. Every time we work with athletes, we are educating them about the importance of training, and how they can become better at it, both under our supervision and when they are reliant only on themselves. An autonomous athlete is a professional athlete.

If there is one area we do discuss a lot, it how hard can we push a player, and to what degree does physical fitness play in “toughening” up players mentally. This doesn’t distract us from the nuts and bolts of being good scientists and practitioners, but these are the debates had between coaches and practitioners in the real world of tennis. And we’d be happy to have them with anyone else out there too if you have an opinion!

So what is the moral of the story? Well simply, we believe in the importance of physical fitness to overall tennis performance, and tennis development (and so should you!). We do the basics and then try to build on those basics with all our players. We place emphasis on delivery, the education in delivery, objective results, and priorities that will enhance tennis performance. But above all, we don’t look for any magic formula’s just good science, excellence in delivery, and some bloody hard work!

Nick Morgan

Head of Sport Science, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Tennis: A Vehicle for Life (June 2014)

Posted on: June 2, 2014 |
Tags: careers, spain, Tennis Academy Spain, Vehicle for life

How many thousands of people around the world wake up early every morning, bright eyed, bushy tailed ready for what the day has to bring as they chase their dream? In the world of tennis, we are surrounded by inspired youngsters who dream of walking onto the freshly cut green grass of Wimbledon or the beautiful red clay of Roland Garros. They work for years and years making sacrifices that many could not even dream of. Leaving home at a young age, missing out on their friends 16th birthday party, their school prom, and making the decision to sleep 9 hours a night rather than spend countless hours playing Call of Duty. So what is the return on this investment, this large financial, emotional, and time investment that players and parents contribute from a young age?

A very select few receive a direct return on that investment when they achieve their ‘dreams’ of lifting that Wimbledon trophy or pulling on their National shirt while listening to the anthem belt out. So does that mean all the others are failures? Wasted time? Wasted money? Wasted emotion? No, it does not…far from it.

I am a massive believer that we get out what we put into this life, but we need to be a little smarter in where we search for the return on investment.

I recently read an article in Forbes Magazine that discussed the 15 ideal traits of a quality employee. When I first read it I thought they were writing about how to become a successful tennis player!

Here are a few examples that I felt were very relevant to the skills we pick up from our tennis careers through training, competition and the way in which the ‘lifestyle’ demands we manage our lives’:

Action Orientated – someone who takes action takes chances in this life. Ever gone for a big return on break point in a pressurised match? Ever made a big potentially ‘life-changing’ decision. Maybe making the decision to join the SotoTennis Academy! I promise it will change your life for the better! 🙂

Ambitious – isn’t this what we are as tennis players? The reason we get up and hit a fluffy yellow ball over the net day in day out?

Autonomous – arguably the biggest trait we need as a tennis player. Unique to tennis, we are not allowed to be ‘coached’ throughout our matches from a very early age. This creates independence in our character rather than in team sports we can get ‘carried’ along.

Leadership – from an early age we are our own boss. In tennis, players employ coaches and must take a leadership role in their own development. The individuality of the sport leads to great leadership qualities being learned through time.

Culture Fit- 99% of high-level tennis players have trained at an Academy/Club where they have to ‘fit’ into the way that Academy works. Yes, it is an individual sport, but our ability to work within a team environment is critical to the success of our career.

Attention to detail – from how we look after our equipment, to how we prepare for each shot, to how we ‘plan’ our trips (hotels, flights, pick-ups, etc.).

Hard Working – this is a must to get to any respectable level in the game of tennis.

Passion – you don’t play this sport to the level you do without passion! It is a must to keep that fire burning inside you that makes you get up and go again each morning or after every loss.

I urge everyone out there to continue throwing yourselves into what you are doing, into what you believe in. If you do that you will not fail… You cannot fail! You are acquiring so many skills along this journey that will not only set you up to be a better brother/sister, son/daughter, Daddy/Mummy, friend, but a better employee, and a person who will have many opportunities open for them through continuing their passion, hard work, ambition and driving it using their leadership skills with a great attention to detail.

The world is your oyster. The first step is to conquer the tennis world, next stop: you can use those acquired skills to attack anything you want too…I promise.

Control the Controllables

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Three Reasons for the Success of Tennis in Spain (March 2014)

Posted on: March 2, 2014 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

After 4 years living/working in Spain, it seems like a good time to surmise my thoughts on why Spanish Tennis has been so successful over the last 20+ years and continues to be a powerhouse throughout the world. I have not attempted this till now, as I have not wanted to throw out random thoughts – after 4 years I hope the thoughts carry a little more substance.

We could explore many intricate details, but I aim to keep this to 3 main points which are: Unconditional Effort, Accessibility of Quality Competition, and Rafael Nadal

Unconditional Effort

Unconditional Effort sits at the heart of the Spanish Tennis Culture. In short: if you do not give unconditional effort at ALL times you stand out like a sore thumb – it IS what you do, it is the norm. This actually goes against the Spanish workforce and attitude to work ‘Mañana.. Mañana’, but is very clear for all to see.

An example of this was at a tournament this week in Seville. As with many matches on a clay court, you can have an easy scoreline yet a close match due to the difficulties in finishing points on the clay courts (especially in junior tennis). So what tends to happen is if a player is a little better than his/her opponent in all areas it leads to a relatively easy scoreline. I was watching one boy who lost the first set 6/0 in 45 minutes and in game 1 of the second set you would have thought he was winning the match. This is very typical at all events we go too at STA and extremely refreshing to see. Kids (in general) will naturally follow the crowd. 

 Accessibility of  Quality Competition

Quantity   

In Andalucia alone, we have 362 tournaments in a calendar year. This works out to 7 events EVERY weekend throughout the year.  This is a phenomenal amount of tournaments and makes competing without travelling big distances extremely easy.

In the National Events (Nike Junior Tours, Rafa Nadal Tours) they run a 128 Qualifying draw and a 64 Main Draw for each age group. This offers an opportunity for EVERYONE. Players enter an event if they believe this is the best for their development and if they want to play matches, they play matches!  The key point: If you enter the tournament you get in the tournament

Quality

As I said above, the quality of matches is high, as players are fighting like dogs for every point. The cream rises to the top but has to work to do so. As tennis is more accessible to the masses (due to weather, facilities, and the number of tournaments/matches available) this leads to greater strength in depth across the age groups.

An example of this would be top 50 ranked UK Players who train at STA – they play local events in Andalucia 2-3 times a month. It is rare for them to win an event and is a great accomplishment if they do. In the National Events you can guarantee a quality opponent from the first match to your last.

With no easy matches, this leads to an ‘every ball, every match’ mentality. Once a player gets used to competing at this level of intensity week in week out, it becomes the norm.

Rafael Nadal

2 important words in Spanish Tennis…Rafael Nadal

Rafa has set up his own National Tour of events. He has played an instrumental role in every small detail of the events. From the Wild Card Opportunity to the educational seminars that are in place for coaches/parents/players.

As mentioned above, these events run across the country with 3 National Events, the top 7 points winners advance to the finals in Mallorca  The 8th Player is the one that receives a Wild Card based on the following criteria:

  • Effort/hustle on court
  • Sportsmanlike conduct
  • Coach Conduct at side of court
  • Parent Conduct at side of court

Rafa will not only be present at the finals but will play a big role of involvement in speaking to the players and passing on his philosophy on the sport. In last week’s event in Seville, he sent his Mum and Girlfriend to the event who were present the entire tournament. They chatted to all players and parents, and they ran workshops on the importance of the above areas (Effort, Sportsmanship etc). This really is taking ‘inspiration’ to a new level.

In my 4 years in Spain, I have heard many stories about Rafa and Uncle Toni who pass on information to other coaches/players and show a massive willingness to educate and also continue to be educated. Getting better never stops.

I want to leave you with a little slogan that Rafa has on all his stationary at the event

Juega al Tenis como Si fuera lo mas importante, pero se consciente de que no lo es’ 

Translated into English…

‘ Play Tennis like it is the most important thing, yet realise it ‘actually’ is not’ 

Success does not happen by accident…

Controlar los Controlables.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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2013 Year End Review (December 2013)

Posted on: December 2, 2013 |
Tags: Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, Tennis Academy Spain

How do we measure the success of a Tennis Academy? Are we successful if we have 1 player who breaks into the ‘holy grail’ and is a world top 100 tennis player? What about the other 30? What about the coaches?

You may think I am now going to go on and give you the answers to the above questions. Unfortunately, I am not, but I do aim to share a few of STA’s ideas on what we are trying to achieve and how these questions continue to drive us forward on a daily basis. And as is tradition with my end of year blog, I will share our successes from 2013 as an Academy.

I would like to start by talking about our biggest success here at STA (in my opinion): our player and staff retention. I am proud to say that all staff members that were with us at Christmas 2012 are still with us.

The foundation of what we do at STA starts with consistency of staff and messages that are driven. And when we are in a position to have players in for a period of 2-3+ years, it means we are able to plan, progress, and develop our players with a longer term philosophy which can only be good for the players’ journey.

Consistency of players and staff plus consistency of training outdoors gives us a great springboard to produce an environment conducive to players performing to their best capabilitites. In 2013, out of a possible 480 tennis sessions (48 weeks x 5 days x 2 sessions/day) we have missed 8 sessions on court (note: these sessions happen in the classroom or gym, so are not missed) and we have only missed 2 sessions since April. We are blessed (touch wood!)

2013 Honour’s Board

  • 6 professional tournaments won
  • Junior Grand Slam Main Draw matches won
  • Grand Slam Qualifying
  • 3 World Ranked Players
  • 6 Junior World Ranked Players
  • 6 Tennis Europe Ranked Players
  • 2 scholarships to U.S. College
  • Becoming a ‘Babolat ‘International’ Academy
  • 28 players from 11 different countries currently at STA
  • Over 30 local events won… and many more finals made
  • Support staff of 15
  • Hundreds of friends made
  • 1 new STA member born and another on the way
  • 1 amazing marriage celebrated… and celebrated… and well celebrated!
  • 1 football match played and comprehensively won!
  • Over €1,500,000 generated in the Sotogrande economy

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part in STA throughout 2013 which includes parents, players and staff and wish you all the very best of luck in all areas of your life throughout 2014. Have a wonderful Christmas, be thankful for what we have and I hope to see you all in the not too distant future.

Remember, Control the Controllables

Merry Christmas,

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Belonging (May 2013)

Posted on: May 2, 2013 |
Tags: Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, wimbledon

1994, Holland… Myself, Mark Hilton, Simon Dickson and David Sherwood arrive at the ‘Windmill Cup’ (a top Under 14 European event where the best juniors in the world congregate each year). We walk into the club with that feeling of a knot in your stomach. Who is playing the tournament? What do they think of me? Do I belong? ‘Oh God, there is Juan Carlos who won Tarbes (World Championship Under 14s)’ ‘I hope I don’t draw him’ etc…

We have all been there, whether it be the school disco, your first day at school, a new job or even your first day at a new tennis club/academy.

The week goes on and gradually you become more comfortable with the ‘others’ to the point that you are talking freely with your peers and your heart rate slows down, so all becomes a little more clear.

Wednesday night is Karaoke night.. One boy from Chile called Fernando belts out an inhabited version of Phil Collins  ‘Another Day in Paradise’.  Others follow and show whether they have the guts or not. I didn’t…Maybe this also showed in my confidence (or lack of) on the singles court. I would have been up there for a duet!

I have had this same feeling at different times in my tennis life. Notably walking into the changing rooms at Wimbledon for the first time. I also had it at my first futures event, it took me 6-7 tournaments to belong at that level and this was a pattern throughout my playing time at each level and to a lesser degree as a coach. Do not underestimate the importance of feeling like you belong and its relationship to your performance. When a player is comfortable the rest often follows.

Now lets fast forward to May 2013, I am in Rome with one of players from the Academy, Joshua Ward-Hibbert. We were kindly invited by Frederik Nielsen to spend a few days practising and getting involved in the world on the tour (currently 19 in the world ATP Doubles and 2012 Wimbledon Champion). Freddie is a very popular guy on the tour which has been great for Josh and I, as we have met many players!

Josh is making the transition from a relatively successful junior career into the ‘pro game’. He is currently playing at the futures level where after 6 months he is starting to go deep into the Main Draw events and looking like he belongs at this level, so  I wanted to introduce him into the top level of the game (the Masters series events where the top 50 players in the world compete) so that he can:-

  1.  Know the level – this is the level he wants to be after all. It is key he knows what to measure himself up to.
  2.  Networking – the feeling of ‘belonging’. Having breakfast with Murray and lunch with Dimitrov, not to mention hitting with these top players means Josh is now ‘known’ at this level. The next time it will be easier.
  3.  Inspiration – I know it has inspired me to work even harder with all our players.

As we arrive early evening, we walk into a room full of tennis players all sitting with their trays from the buffet (just like in Holland all those years ago) except this time I recognise 50% of the players not through personal experience of seeing them in real life, but from seeing them on telly!

Robson with her team, Wozniaki on a table with Janowicz, Niemenen, Berdych, Stephens, Bryan Brothers, Baghdatis, Ferrer, the list goes on. The next day we arrive for  breakfast. On one table Murray and his team, another Williams and their team, to Kevin Anderson, to Wozniaki and her boyfriend Rory Mcilroy.

It hit me nothing has changed! From Under 14 tennis through to highest level in world tennis. It is still a game for individuals with your on court rivals mixing off the court.

Cliques are formed, friends are made, enemies are avoided, numbers are exchanged and I am sure hearts are broken whether through romance or the world of doubles partners!

The difference, livings are now being made! Super stars are born! But the same things ring true, we love the life that tennis brings us, the friendships we make, the countries we experience and opportunities we have. The same potential downside is there, the long weeks on the road, missing family/friends, sleeping in hotels (albeit nicer ones), the airports, the train stations.. The upside outweighs the downside though…

… and if this is not the case then I suggest you dedicate your life to another sport/passion.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot to tell you, the young Phil Collins from Chile was Fernando Gonzalez!

All the best to everyone over the coming clay court season.

Control the controllables.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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2012: The Year for Sport (December 2012)

Posted on: December 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, sport science, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

2012: the year for Sport. Anyone watching SPOTY last Sunday would be testament to that. A year for all involved in sport to feel highly motivated and ready for 2013, it has given us reason to do what we do and most importantly has inspired a generation. I know it has inspired me!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been reviewing 2012 for SotoTennis and even though we don’t have Bradley Wiggins in our set up we do have some very notable successes and some more subtle but equally important and proud achievements.

Starting with the important people – the players.

January could not have started better, we had our very own Grand Slam Champions! Full-Time Player Josh Ward-Hibbert alongside STA Access Player Liam Broady won the Junior Australian Open Doubles. A moment that will stay with me for a long time and a very proud one at that. Josh also went on to make the quarter finals of the singles in Australia, as well as 5 Grade A ITF events Doubles titles in a row and a career high ranking of 9 in the world juniors.

In the same week, we had our first professional player qualify for a Grand Slam in Valeria Savinykh before losing to eventual semi-finalist Sara Errani. Valeria went on to break the top 100 in the world under our team’s guidance and notably Dominic Mahboubi who did a great job with Valeria. She achieved this by qualifying and winning her first round in Miami Masters beating a top 40 WTA player along the way.

We have had 10 different FT Players competing at ITF level and notable ranking increases for Sam Bayda and Peter Bothwell and then Alex Stiteler who moved into the Top 200 ITF rankings with 2 ITF tournament wins.

David Miladinovic and Jake Fisher have competed well at Tennis Europe Events with both rising significantly int he rankings, but more importantly have started their international tennis journey. Alongside Bradley Stoneham who has had victories at 2 Southern Spain Championship Tournaments, the future is bright in this age category. Morad Mackey is working hard to join this group too.

Dakota Norton, Danny Bristow, Andy Lynk,  Josh Curwen , Chaney Norton and James Mackinlay,  have all experienced the ‘winning’ feeling in Spain and are ready to try their luck on the international scene in 2013

At the futures level, Josh Ward Hibbert and Mikey Suleau have both picked up their first world rankings and will be joined on the tour with TJ Bate, Ryan Moffat and Callum Henderson in 2013.

We welcome new FT Players Mariella Blackwell, Isaac Sturgess and Ryan Mcelvenny who all bring the qualities we look for in a STA Player and we are excited about what lies ahead for them.

With regards to our Access Players…did someone say Strawberries and Cream?!

Freddie Nielsen and Jonny Marray only went and won Wimbledon! Words cannot describe how happy and proud I was for the boys on that day in July – the same day as my son’s Christening and another day that will live long in the memory. We hope the boys will be back to meet you all in 2013 to share their inspirational story with you.

We have had visits from US Open Junior finalist Liam Broady, top 200 in the world ATP Doubles James Cluskey, Evan Hoyt top 50 in the world ITF,  former European number 1 U14 Ana Brogan. U12 National Champion the last 2 years Luke Hammond and Finn Bass. Katie Swann National Finalist, George Hutchins National Semi-Finalist,  Joe Tyler and Will Davies (both top 5 in the UK) and many many more. All who have brought something different to the Academy and in turn we hope that we have provided the same in return.

As on SPOTY- all the athletes thanked their ‘support staff’. Do not underestimate the importance of these guys behind the scenes. 18 months ago I had to fill all these positions and not very well may I add. So, now at the end of 2012 it gives me great pleasure to look at the STA team, the experts we have in the team with the number one quality ‘they care’ and boy do they work.

I am excited to announce our new Head Coach is Nathan Rooney who has once again proved to everyone what an asset he is on and off the court. Nathan has also been completing his LTA Masters Performance course which is no mean feat and certainly a massive asset to all at the Academy. We have added to the coaching team with Joe Dixon, who has slotted right into his role and is a big hit with all at the Academy.

Our Sport Science ‘support team’ has gone from strength to strength. It is hard to imagine that Luke Passman has only been with us for 12 months, as he has transformed the way our players are looked after from a Strength and Conditioning point of view, as well as the attention to detail been executed in monitoring of training loads at the Academy. We have been joined by Rob Chave in recent months who has strengthened the team significantly and is working with Luke to ensure our players continue to move forward physically and ultimately we have them on the tennis court ready to play in good health.

Nick Morgan, a performance director alongside myself for the Academy, as well as leading the Sports Science team has brought in Hannah Macleod to run our nutritional programme; we are extremely lucky to have Hannah and she has added such a nice blend of knowledge and ‘aura’ as she brings in her Bronze Medals from London 2012 – and Yes Hannah we all saw you on SPOTY! (Hannah was a key member of the GB Women’s Hockey Bronze medal Team).

Christo Schultz arrived from the States a few weeks ago and has already added value to the team with his great hitting ability and energy that lifts the place.

On the Operations side, my amazing wife, Vicki, holds this ship together and has to put up with my obsessive moods and demands. A special woman to run our family and our business while I flap around!

Our Education Manager, Louise Tavares, has been brilliant and provides the players with a strong ground for the future. This alongside our partnership with Sotogrande International School which grows year on year puts our student-athletes in a  strong position.

Over the last 12 months we have had 2 players move onto US College both with full scholarships. Ella Taylor went to LSU in September and Joe Smithyman arrives in the States early 2013 to Niagra University. This is something we hold very close to us at the Academy.

The players have been looked after with great passion by Lorraine and Billy Bate as ‘Accommodation Managers’ – a role that is integral to the success of the Academy. Thanks guys!

We have been fortunate to have some great press this year on a National Level

  • Times Newspaper UK
  • BBC 5 live radio
  • Sky TV
  • LTA website

Our STA Graduation piece has been a big success. 90% of our players have completed 70% or more of the scheme including skills such as:

  • String rackets
  • Writing a blog for the website
  • Looking after a budget on a trip
  • Entering/withdrawing from events
  • Booking flights

Reading back over this blog it sounds like it is fiction and I am making it all up. I just pinched my self and can assure you all that it is not. I could not feel more positive as the Director of this Academy in what we have all collectively achieved. Nothing is perfect and we will continue to have difficult days, but we must keep our eyes forward on the clear objectives we all have in place and continue to take baby steps towards them. Taking care of what is in our control on a daily basis is not a bad place to start. This Academy is built on ‘good people’ and will remain so over the coming years.

I will leave you all now to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013, lets start there and see where the rest of the year takes us.

I hope you enjoy the video of the Academy – maybe puts it better than my blogs.  http://vimeo.com/55550315

Play to Win

Merry Christmas

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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The ‘Modern Day’ Slam (September 2012)

Posted on: September 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, US Open

So far this year I have been able to experience and hopefully offer an insight into the grand slams in Australia, France and, of course, Wimbledon. This week I find myself at the US Open in the ‘big apple’ and it is my first experience not only at Flushing Meadows (the park where the US Open is held) but in NYC.

I have to admit I have fallen in love with the city and the tournament. There is so much here, such a vibe, the city is alive and the climate has been perfect ( to date).

The tournament brings a different feel to the other slams and in particular, Wimbledon and its tradition with the loud music at change of ends, the noise from the crowd during the point as the players slug it out and of course the ‘night matches’..

I write this as we travel back from Andy Murray’s demolition of Milos Raonic under the lights. The US Open makes tennis ‘cool’ and in an era where kids are fighting for all that is cool, this can only be good for the sport.

Anyway, back to the real reason I am here: Josh Ward-Hibbert, our own SotoTennis Academy player and I hope to get across a little insight into how a day works at a ‘junior slam’.

Match day

Josh was second match on after 11am, so we set about a plan by working backwards on the basis that he will be ready to play for 12.30.

Josh eats breakfast at 8.15am with the help of our nutritionist Nick Morgan (who we are lucky enough to have with us on this trip). We then get the 9am bus into Flushing Meadows. It is bizarre, but very effective here in NY, as they have big coaches that leave the hotel every 30 minutes. Normally at grand slams you call and they send a car to pick you up. We have been on buses with Brad Gilbert, Mark Petchey, Judy Murray and many of the senior players at different times. All sitting in NYC traffic together, if you have good ears you pick up all kinds of gossip!

We get to the centre for 9.30am and head to pick up rackets from the stringer, then to the gym for his pre-hab work and warm-up for practice. Nick is in Josh’s ear making sure he is hydrating and taking in the right fuel for the battle. I take the opportunity while he is on the bike to start to discuss the match and the game plan for today. I know Josh so well now after 3 years of working with him that I like to keep the chat light and the message very clear. Today we have 2 very clear areas that we talk about and we leave it at that.

Josh is looking very intense in his practice and is showing great footwork around the ball which is an area we have worked on lots. I can tell he has his ‘game face’ on. I want to make sure he hits enough serves, as he has been out injured for a few weeks and has not had his rhythm on his serve, so I remind him of the time and that we only have 10 mins left of the court. I don’t normally ‘coach’ before a match, but we spend a little time talking over technical points that are our ‘go to’ points on his serve and it seems to help, well he thinks so which is the main thing!

Back to the locker room for a quick shower before taking on a light snack again and having one last light chat about the match, only to reiterate the same 2 areas. I then leave Josh to be on his own for 30-40 mins before the match.

This is the sort of preparation we are after from Josh all the time and being so close at hand to educate this culture is key to his development. I must say he is starting to act professional and this is becoming habit which is very encouraging, as was his performance in a 6/4 6/2 victory over a hot up-and-coming prospect from Korea.

 Day off during the tournament

Today was slightly different, as Josh was only playing doubles and not till 6pm. Originally, we had decided we would get the 7am bus to the centre so we could get a good practice; I must stress Josh decides and drives this, which is perfect for me and what you want from your player. We then spoke and I mentioned that it may mean being at the centre for 14 hours in a row and 12 before he plays. Josh decided that practicing a bit later would be better. It meant he could sleep for longer and have a later breakfast. We then went down to the club where he got 45 mins with his doubles partner Evan Hoyt and then we lucked out and got another 50 mins on the courts to work on some specific areas. This is almost unheard of at a professional event, to find such court time, as it is normally dog-eat-dog for every minute on a court with 4 players to a court. We did not complain.

At lunch we sat with Evan and Ben Haran (Evan’s coach) and talked through some doubles tactics. This was to be the first time they have played together, so it was important they knew each others strengths and weaknesses on the doubles court, as it really is a team game and they must compliment each other to go far here.

In the end they played at 5.30pm due to a quick moving court (matches did not last long on their court). When they went on, it did not seem like we had been at the club all day and the decision to sleep in for longer was a good one on this occasion. Due to the uncertain nature of match length, whether this is not always the case, as you are relying on things out of your control.

Another good day for the boys, with a strong team performance to advance to the next round.

Cool downs, massages and refueling is on the agenda after the match and then sleep to go again for a ‘match day’ tomorrow.

I for one am loving my 4th slam experience of the year and am learning all the time.

Excited to get back to my team and players back at STA in a few days.

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Wimbledon: The Highs and Lows (July 2012)

Posted on: July 4, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, wimbledon

What a two weeks…the highs, the lows, the rain, the roof. Wimbledon fortnight: whether you are watching on TV, reading the paper, following online or there in person, nobody can deny the incredible drama we were treated too. I truly am proud of our sport.

From an STA point of view, all of the above!

It started what feels like years ago with Valeria Savinykh who lost in the last round of qualifying, but was not to be denied a chance on the hallowed turf at SW19. She quallied with her partner Mariana Lucic for the women’s doubles and made it through to the second round.

Next to have a go were our Access Players, Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen, both good mates of mine. We were members of the same German league team for 5 years (TC Logopak) and Jonny put up with my snoring for a couple of years while we lived together.  As well as Jonny and Freddie know each other, they have not played together many times. In fact when they were with us at STA last year getting ready for the clay court season,  the following week they faced each other in the final of the Challenger .

Anyway, they got together to play 1 day before the tournament after being granted a Wild Card into the event, unheard of really for a Brit-Dane partnership. Freddie’s Scouser accent fooling the AELTC! In the first week these boys got through 2 tough matches, in the 2nd round against Ivo Karlovic (and Frank Moser) – I have never seen anyone half volley his serve before, never mind for winners – Freddie did! Then on the middle Saturday as the junior event started they took out the 8th seeds who they know so well from our National Premier League Club days – Aisam Qureshi and Jean Julien Rojer in a mouth-watering 5 setter.

As I said above the juniors also started on the middle Saturday. Liam Broady (STA Access player) was playing, with his coach Mark Hilton continuing to do a great job. Liam was ready to play and he cruised through his first round.. Monday (2nd week) was to STA full time player Josh Ward-Hibbert’s turn.. I know first-hand how prepared and excited Josh was for his ‘home slam’ as he put it the day before. I must say I really fancied his chances, he was serving big, looking sharp and had found a nice ideal performance state in the proceeding weeks. This was all to blow up in his face while he hit a serve an hour before his match. I could see from his face he was in trouble, but being the brave lad Josh is, he tried to play, but to no avail. Josh was forced to retire, and give up his Junior Wimbledon chances.

Even though Josh and Liam tried to play the doubles (they were 2nd seeds) and won a match somehow, serving at 30% was not going to cut it against the best juniors in the world. Very disappointing for the young lads, but also the reality of an extremely difficult sport. As long as you can keep a level head throughout your career it is easier to ride the inevitable highs and lows.

Liam then had a win over 14-year-old Kozlov from the States. Remember the name, he is going to be a superstar. Unfortunately, only to lose a tight 3rd round match to Couchaud from France. His Wimbledon never really got going like last year, but he will continue to work hard under Mark’s expert guidance.

So back to Fred and Jonny. Into the quarters (they couldn’t, could they!?) I had jokingly remarked to Kevin (Jonny’s dad) after their second round match that they were going to win Wimbledon if they continued to play like that. I can assure you it was a joke, even though they were playing extremely well and looked so calm out there, like they belonged on that stage.

Myself and Mark Hilton had watched most of the quarter-final only for Josh and Liam to be called for their Junior Doubles whilst Jonny and Fred had moved into the 5th set of their quarter-finals. In between cheering the young guns on, we had a sneaky look on the Wimbledon app on the iPhone where it told us the boys were serving for the match.

A semi-finalist at Wimbledon doubles gains entry to the ‘last 8 club’ – Wimbledon member for life, unlimited tickets, their own area during the championship alongside the greats. We did not want to miss this moment, so we ran across to court 3 to see Jonny serving it out. Euphoria carried around the stadium, they had made the semi-finals of Wimbledon, 3 months earlier playing in places such as Sarajevo to climb the ladder. They couldn’t, could they?!

The next day it would all come to an end. They were to play last year’s finalists, 11 times Grand Slam Champions, the Bryan Brothers. 3 hours, and four sets later, they were in the final! They could?

A few months ago, we had been setting a date for my son’s christening. The only weekend we could fit in was Wimbledon final weekend, it was a risk we took 6 months ago when we booked it. My only concern was the boys’ singles/doubles final. I would cross that bridge when it came, but here we were with Fred and Jonny in the final of the Wimbledon Men’s Doubles. As much as I would have loved to have been there and experienced the atmosphere, my son’s weekend came first (if I was coaching Fred and Jonny this may have been different…don’t tell my wife!)

We did of course get a large screen put up where all our family and friends were and screamed and shouted at the TV, and well the rest is history. Freddie Nielsen and Jonny Marray you have shown us all that anything is possible, we should never give up on anyone and I believe that there are thousands of aspiring tennis players (including our own STA players) who have ‘hope’. Two weeks ago they couldn’t, today they can. Thanks boys! You will always be a Wimbledon Champion!

And players, never stop dreaming.

Same time.. Same place next year!

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Wimbledon: How to beat the Greatest of All Time! (July 2012)

Posted on: July 3, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, wimbledon

Andy Murray going for his first Grand Slam and to be doing it in front of his home crowd, his home slam. Well, he is British after all this week isn’t he?!

So the match, how does Murray beat the 16-time Grand Slam champ, 6 time Wimbledon champ on the court he has owned for the last 10 years? We are seeing a very different RF at Wimbledon to the rest of the year, he seems so assured, the swagger is back, he is ‘feeling it’.

  1. Murray must get off to a strong start. In his previous 2 slam finals, he has been overrun early doors and in turn lost some belief. He needs the crowd on his side and needs to keep a calm, clear mindset to execute his plan.
  2. 1st serve percentage: Murray served above 70 percent in both his quarter and semi final and this is going to be key for Murray. If RF gets a look on Andy’s second serves it could be a long afternoon.
  3. Play to win mentality: RF will be all over any short balls that Murray gives him so it is important Andy gets after his shots and does not fall into a passive mind set.  He has to win this final. RF will not hand it to him.
  4. Tactically, I would like to see Murray getting RF running, opening up the court then trying to get him to open his racket face with Murray being pro-active looking to knock the volley off. If Murray doesn’t do this, RF will!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Wimbledon: The Tournament (July 2012)

Posted on: July 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, wimbledon

So here we are that middle Sunday of Wimbledon – just another of the amazing traditions this beautiful, prestigous event has. Unlike the other 3 slams that play each and every day of the fortnight.

Already 112 men and 112 woman have gone home from the singles draws, we have had drama, golden sets, giant killing acts, sunshine and the usual strawberries and cream, rain, prize money equality debates, late night Murray ‘edge of the seat’ stuff. The real action starts tomorrow (weather permitting) when the last 16 players, and more importantly for STA when Josh Ward-Hibbert’s campaign in the Junior Singles starts, and JWH and STA access player Liam Broady in the doubles. Both boys are more than prepared and ready to go after good weeks at the Grade 1 in Roehampton last week as well as a great few days training. It’s an exciting time of year for the boys to be performing in front of the magnificent Wimbledon crowds.

It has been a great week’s preparation for Josh, as we have had Luke Passman (our Head of Strength and Conditioning) over which serious integrated work has taken place. This is a big philosophy here at the Academy and to have the time and opportunity to learn across fields together and bring each others expertise into practice with a player while being surrounded by the best junior players in the world has been invaluable. We spent many hours watching Josh and the other top players while also taking lots of video footage for us to go through.

An example of some of the work we have done is on Josh’s returns from his athletic ready position becoming wider and stronger from the ground up to the timing of the return on impact. There is clear crossover there between the classical ‘tennis coach’ and ‘fitness coach’. We have worked together with Josh in the gym and on the court to ensure the same strong and clear message is sent and received in order for positive change to happen. The future of tennis in my opinion has been seen by the teams surrounding Djokovic and Murray. It is a win-win for us coaches, as my knowledge of the physical aspects of the game are growing as are Lukes on the technical, tactical sides of the game.

Back to the green grass and a good night’s sleep for us in preparation for what we all live and breathe for – the moment our name is called out to play at SW19. Game set and match Mr Ward Hibbert and/or Mr Broady would be nice to hear tomorrow or maybe even next Sunday!

Over to you boys.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Roland Garros: Day 5 – Every Point (June 2012)

Posted on: June 6, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, roland garros, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

As we get to the business end of the French Open it gives me great pleasure to say that our boys are still alive and kicking…It is not what both players wanted, they would of course want to be in the singles as well as the doubles, but what they maybe don’t quite realise yet is that to gain the experience of playing deep in a slam either singles or doubles will be invaluable to their development and is all experienced ‘banked’. Tomorrow they play the French pair Favrot/Couchard in the quarterfinals and will need to be ‘at it’ from the start.

With the doubles rules nowadays…

  • Sudden death deuces
  • At one set all, a super tie break (to 10 points) is played for the 3rd  set

More than ever, every point counts. Even when serving at 40-0, you lose concentration and go to 40-15, you are now 2 points away from facing a break point. We are working hard on getting the boys to ‘reset’ after every point. You are always a point or 2 away from either getting back in the match or your opponents getting back into the match. Today the boys were a set and 3-1 up cruising and all of a sudden a sudden death deuce point – 10 mins from winning the match, but at the same time 20 minutes from losing it! So back to the set 3-1 40-40 point. Josh served to Kyle (Edmund) who hit a great return which Josh picked up on the half volley, it landed around the baseline and Kyle hit an amazing lob for a winner, break back and back in the middle of a dog fight for the boys only for the Umpire to get out of his chair to check the mark on the baseline…Kyle had called Josh’s (half volley) shot out before he hit his ball. The rules state that once a player makes a call their call must stand and in turn his lob did not count. The umpire checked the mark (which you do on a clay court) and the ball was touching the line and then called the score ‘set and 4-1 Ward Hibbert and Broady’ the margins in the sport are tiny!

I like my players on a doubles court to think , ‘OK 15-0, now lets get to 30, OK 30-0 now to 40, no problem 30-15, lets jam the big lad up and really take care of this point to get to 40-15’ and so on and so on. It is constant reset and go again, when ahead push for more, when behind, take time and get one point back at a time. I don’t see this way of thinking at Junior level yet, the boys are getting better, but still not ‘on it’ every point. Whereas the top doubles players in the world will not give you an inch ever, like a steam train coming at you over and over and over again. The improvements that can be made and we have not even discussed tactics or technique yet…another day!

Back to Paris and I had the opportunity to commentate alongside Jonathan Overend for BBC Radio 5 live on the Tsonga/Djokovic match and what a match it was. I certainly was not short of things to talk about there: the drama, the storyline, the ups, the downs. Who needs cinema these days when it comes to the latter stages of the grand slams? I must admit I have had a little taste of commentary and it is most certainly something I would love to explore further over the years…We shall see!

Tomorrow, Kyle Edmund is first up after a brilliant gutsy display today taking down the number 2 seed from Italy, Quinzi – remember both names! Josh and Liam are on 3rd for their doubles quarterfinal.

Each day is an exciting one!

Bonne Nuit

‘Jouer pour Gagner’

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Roland Garros: Day 2 – Preparation (June 2012)

Posted on: June 4, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, roland garros, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

You may recall me writing a blog about the great man himself Roger Federer back in January. STA Access Player Liam Broady was fortunate enough to ‘warm’ him up for his match. Here we got to see Rogers pre-match routine and I must say it was more ‘relaxed’ than I had imagined. Fast forward 5 months and to yesterday’s blog and I was fortunate enough to meet RF in the changing rooms moments before he went on for his 4th round battle with Davide Goffin – it looked more like RF was warming up for a comedy show with his mates. His ‘chilled’ nature was amazing to see – almost horizontal!

Well today, Josh Ward-Hibbert became part of Rafael Nadal’s pre-match routine – he played the part of the ball machine. Rafa arrived 3 hours before his match to the practice court with a face like thunder – `business like` is how I would describe EVERYTHING he did. With the class of the man he stopped and shook our hands before storming to the baseline with his weapon in hand and ‘booooom’ the first ball was struck. This continued at a frantic pace for the next 30 minutes. Josh I must say held his own and did himself proud in front of a crowd that must have been 800 people or more. The session finished with another thundering forehand precisely, and at the speed of the light into the corner, and Rafa had collected his bag, signed a couple of autographs and he was off (not before he kindly stopped for a photo and handshake with Josh – class!) Not a smile, not a hint of relaxation. Rafa was getting in the zone, his zone, his zone that he gets in like no other ever has (in my opinion). His mind was being placed in his steel cage and we were fortunate to witness it happening. He left us and went on to advance to the quarter finals with an emphatic 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 victory against the 13th best player on the planet!

The 2 greatest players to ever play this sport and two completely opposite ends of the spectrum. I mean completely opposite ends! I feel so lucky to have witnessed both first hand.

The massive glaring similarity for me though – they both have a very clear pre-match routine. Yes both are very different, but they know themselves inside out and know what gets themselves going. Rafa does not know how to get Roger motivated and Roger does not know how to get Rafa motivated – they don’t need too, they know themselves very, very well!

Earlier today, I had breakfast with Luke Saville and then shared a taxi to the grounds. Luke Saville is the current World Number 1 Junior. As we spoke, he was very methodically sorting his drinks for the days, he was planning the time he left the hotel and you could see from speaking to him, was very comfortable with how his day was going to go. I see great similarities between Luke and the great men discussed above and it was no surprise that he put in a world class performance.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Roland Garros: Lessons Learned, Experiences Banked (June 2012)

Posted on: June 3, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

I tell you what a Grand Slam is not…dull!

From lunch with Gasquet to a bit of banter with Roger and hopefully some real learning in-between for Josh, today has certainly been packed with experiences.

Unfortunately, Josh went down today- he got himself in a set winning position at 4-2 40-15 chance for double break, before the whole match unravelled before his eyes. The ability to ‘re-group’ is certainly a lesson that I hope he takes from today. Never more so on the big stage (where everything is magnified) do you need to take your time and use your routines and make time almost stop, as in the heat of the battle with hundreds of French fans gunning for you, time, and in turn the match can slip away from you.

Josh responded like a champion and got back on the practice court with his doubles partner and STA Access Player Liam Broady in the afternoon and got his energy moving in the right direction. How you respond to adversity really is a defining quality and Josh stepped up.

So as I said above, Mr Gasquet parked himself on our table for lunch, after a few pleasantries with his team they were separate to our group, but I did spy his lunch and can report he ate lots of chicken, rice and bread as well as some kind of recovery drink – are you reading kids?

In the junior changing room, the juniors got to rub shoulders with Tsonga, although the fans outside still have not made their mind up who is Tsonga and who is Josh. Then the man, Roger Federer, walked in. I felt a tap on my side, ‘what’s up Dan?’ And there he was, RF. We exchanged a few words, and then stood and watched Cibulkova/Azarenka, which RF was following. I had the privilege of a running commentary by…Roger Federer! Much to his satisfaction Cibulkova closed out the 2nd set and he particularly liked the drop shot to set up the pass on match point – still a kid at heart and a pleasure to be in his company. It really struck me how chilled out and relaxed he was minutes before his match, laughing and joking. Years of winning and knowing his game do that I guess.

In other news Kyle Edmund and Luke Bambridge produced strong performances to carry the British flag on jubilee day – I really believe the culture of this crop of juniors is excellent and we are going to have more household names than Andy Murray in the coming years.

Time to sign out for the day, but let me share a text message I received at 11.45 pm just now

‘Dan, can Josh hit with Rafa at 12.30 tomorrow?’

I guess tomorrow won’t be dull either.

One again I feel lucky to be part of this amazing experience.

Play to Win and God Save the Queen!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Roland Garros Day 1: Doctor Doctor (June 2012)

Posted on: June 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Well not the ideal start to the Roland Garros experience… but maybe just what the doctor ordered (pardon the pun).

I have not been well at base camp for a few days, but as I arrived in Paris yesterday I took a turn for the worst. In between practice sessions, bed has been calling and today I managed to see the Doctor on site who has ordered me to the hotel with antibiotics and numerous other pills to take. The last time I saw the Doc was in Melbourne for the Aussie Open. It is so convenient at these events and is one of the many reasons that I call it a ‘real tournament’.

The boys do not realise…yet, how amazing these events are. It is what we all spend hour upon hour on the practice court and in the gym for. Very few make the grade, but those that do lead a brilliant life. I hope it inspires our boys to where they want to spend their career. It beats Graves Indoor Tennis Centre British tour any day!

So what makes a Grand Slam so special? The crowds, the excellent services the players receive, the courts, the general atmosphere. It is an ‘event’.  Today we turned up early to gain our accreditation (our pass that gets us in everywhere, like Gold Dust!) We then cheekily jumped onto one of the outside courts and ended up practising for 1 hr 40 mins – the last 45 mins in front of over 100 people including The Times’ tennis writer Neil Harman, among other autograph and photo hunters all homing in on JWH. A funny story as we entered the grounds – some little kid ran up behind us with a big grin on his face, got in front of Josh ready to ask for his autograph, looked him straight in the eyes, his smile left his face and he ran back off.. It was JWH not JWT! (Jo-Wilfred Tsonga) it seems to be a common theme here.

After practice the guys handed their rackets in for stringing – there are over 20 stringers here all working tirelessly around the clock, the players are nothing without their tools! Then it was off to the changing rooms, not before the boys signed in for doubles. They nearly missed the deadline in Australia and had till 7pm to `enter`, so this was monitored closely. Each player get their own locker, there is fruit, drinks, TVs with all the courts on and a really nice environment to chill out inside the changing rooms. Today, Tommy Haas was in there preparing for his match vs Gasquet. It is great for the players to rub shoulders with these guys.

There is a nice cafeteria for the players, an area to chill out with computers, you can get a free hair cut, a full medical centre which I took good use of today…you start to get the idea. It is a ‘real tournament’.

I feel fortunate to be here and hope this clears up fast, so I can first and foremost be there for the boys and pass on good energy, but I also intend to take in the whole experience and if it does not motivate the players, it is most certainly inspiring me for more.

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Day 3 from Milan: Margins (May 2012)

Posted on: May 4, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Well the sun is finally out here in Milan…

Let’s hope this is the start of the summer in traditionally rainy venues for Milan, Paris and London where the tennis calendar all magnetise over the coming weeks. A grand slam in Sotogrande sounds like a better idea to me!

Since I last wrote, Liam Broady won a strong match on an indoor court than can only be described as ‘ice’ – his mind was strong and he took his chances when they came – tactics went out the window on this court! Luke Bambridge continued his great recent form with a good win over well favoured Belgian Cagnina.

We ate at my now new favourite restaurant around the corner from our hotel! The service was second to none: our table was filled with bread, fruit, beautiful side dishes and this was before we ordered! The little details this restaurant went to mean this restaurant will always stand out for me. Oh yeah we also had the pick and mix factory complimentary at the end of the meal…Margins make a difference!!

Back to the court. Today has been an early start, as Kyle Edmund and JWH were first up hitting at 8am. We arrived at 7.45 to find the clay courts playable after all the rain – great news!

Josh has been preparing for his exams the last few weeks meaning his has not prepared as he would have liked for this event on the court. He hit the ball well today, but came up short 6-3 7-5 against a very talented French Player Hayls.

Pre-match JWH chat involved looking for his set plays, looking for big targets on returns and an acceptance mentally that he may not be feeling the ball 100 percent given the circumstances, an error Josh has made in the past. Today he performed well, he served at 60 percent 1st serves, made 80 percent of returns, but they escaped him when it mattered.. Margins!

In the first set Josh had a break chance to get back to 4-4 and missed a smash by a centimetre…margins! In the second set Josh showed a real brave fight and from 4-2 down won 14 out of 15 points in a row looking like a real player then at 5-4 30-0 Josh missed a second serve return on the tape at the top of the net, his opponent reacted well to win 12 out the next 14 points for victory…Margins!

You want to know why as coaches we ask for hours of dedicated work with purpose day in day out? It is to make sure we turn those small margins in our favour – going from a good player to a great player, just like my new favourite restaurant around the corner.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Day 2 from Milan: ‘Sign-in’ Sunday (May 2012)

Posted on: May 3, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

So what happens the day before the best junior players in the world do battle for the top spots in the world, leading to big contracts, wild cards into the big events and in turn a CAREER which is what everyone is chasing in this sport (and it is not easy!)?

Well, Sunday is traditionally ‘sign-in’ day.  This is when players arrive at the venue for last minute preparations, have a hit on the match courts and ‘sign-in’ to show that they are present and ready to play for the following day. As this is a Grade A event – there are 7 Grade A events through the year  (the 4 grand slams plus Brazil in March, Japan in October and this one in Milan every May) – for some unknown reason you do not have to sign in. Strange, but true.

Sunday is also the day when the final round of qualifying is played – the day when those on the edge of the top 50 fight for the opportunity to show their worth against the best. You can guarantee one if not more of the qualifiers will go on a run in the main draw to quarters or beyond.. It always looks like an easier draw on paper to play someone ranked lower, but those that qualify have their eye in and have won 3 matches on the courts already, so are always dangerous. As it happens Josh will be playing Hayls from France who has qualified and will be a great challenge for Josh.

We have some notes on him from our team in Australia and as Josh has a day off tomorrow (well, a day off from playing matches), we will spend time going through tactics and making sure the research is done and that Josh is clear on his game style and how it fits against his opponent.

Josh is very much still in his development stage and we will spend lots of time looking for a performance the JWH way- this is important for Josh that he has a clear mind approaching the match. We will then decide together on a couple of areas we want specific feedback on and I will (or I will ask another one of the UK Coaches) to chart a specific area, so we can measure his improvements. I will also be getting some video footage for us to look at – technology these days makes it so much easier to get that instant feedback; the big majority of us are visual learners this is a great tool to have…And the player can’t argue with you when you are watching it together on screen!

Back to ‘sign-in’ Sunday. Today was a little different as it rained and it rained and it…rained! The boys got some court time this morning, but not as much as we would have liked, as the indoor courts were being used for matches. So this afternoon, we came out in the drizzle and set about some short physical work.. We did not want to kill the guys, but it is important they are mentally and physically active, so we warmed up well and fired up some sprints followed by a non-contact game of footy. We allowed the players to win 5-4 to build confidence and keep them happy…honest!

Then back for food, a chat through Josh’s programme, as we have not seen him for a couple of weeks and a general touch base catch up.

Tomorrow is another day, preparation is key, we know it is supposed to rain, so we have booked the only indoor courts available at another club for 9.30 to make sure our guys get court time. Who knows, these little edges may pay dividends come the end of the week, and if not end of the week most certainly over the next 5-8 years, as long as the players keep pushing for the extra edge. The ones who do – remember their names!

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Day 1 from Milan! (May 2012)

Posted on: May 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Well here I am in the land of pizza, pasta, ice cream, the san siro, fashion shows, and…it’s raining! This is the first of a succession of world class junior events that I am fortunate enough to experience over the coming weeks. First stop, Milan! For the ‘Trofeo Bonfigilio’ where names such as Federer, Murray, Edberg, Wilander have all graced the courts over the years.

This is an opportunity for us as an Academy to really find out the standards we are after, what are the best juniors in the world doing, how do they think, play, eat, act. It is vital experience for Josh and Liam, but I believe the experience we pick up as coaches can really help all the players at the Academy – that is my goal anyway!

Since I last wrote, STA has grown and we have 5 new full-time players, with 4 starting in July. We will formally announce them on the website in the coming weeks. I am excited at all prospects and believe we have STA players coming – respectful, hard-working characters who are desperate to learn.

As this is a Grade A event – the top 50 junior players in the world are here, boys and girls. Awareness of standards is a key part of our job as a tennis coach. I will be more than happy to feedback to readers on areas of interest from the event and I can hopefully give you a feel through blogs and pics of what these events are really like!

Now off to make sure I have a bed to sleep in and make sure I stay away from their famous ‘gelate’ as long as I can…

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Busier than ‘El Conejo de Pascua’ (April 2012)

Posted on: April 20, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

This month, Senior Coach Nathan Rooney gives us his take on Easter at STA…

So it was not just the ‘conejo de pascua’ that was working his socks off this Easter over in the South of Spain, we had over 45 players from various different clubs around the UK participating in our Easter Camps which made for a fantastic atmosphere in what can only be described as one of the most enjoyable two week camps I have ever been involved with!

Aside from the colourful training kits, funky haircuts and dodgy accents, one thing was astonishing and that was the level of knowledge across the board that all players possessed – massive credit due here to all the coaches back in the respective clubs who are working tirelessly on ingraining fantastic habits and knowledge into all the players! We had players aged from just 7 right up to 17 from clubs such as Solihull Arden, Shotley Bridge, Edgbaston Priory, West Hants plus many more including our very own STA players.  Aside from some temperamental weather, at times the camps ran as smoothly as Tiger Tim’s slice and all players seemed to benefit from their experience on the European clay AKA ‘The Dirt’! Everywhere I looked we had players sliding left right and centre, ball marks being circled then guarded by the call bearer like an ancient artefact had just been found, grunts so loud they would make the hair above your eyes stand on end and all this with the upmost respect and sportsmanship on display for all to witness – it really was refreshing to see.

There were very few tears or tantrums from players (and only a few from the coaches) during the camps with only one broken bone to report but it must be noted that the player in question still managed to embark in some serious doubles training even after braving the A&E ward of Gibraltar. For those of you who are unaware, the A&E ward in Gib general is about as reassuring as Michael Fish was in his hay-day when informing us to expect dry weather with sunny spells across the nation…in the month of April!

On a more serious note it was inspiring to spend so much time on court with players from all over the UK who were hungry to learn, compete and mix with other players of varying ages, standards and genders. It really rung true how important it is in this industry to remember the number one rule in Tennis, and that being to ‘love the game’. Not all the players who were with us during Easter will win Wimbledon or reach the dizzy heights of stardom but one thing is for sure, if they continue to listen to their coaches and support teams back home who work day in day out giving all the players the opportunities, support and ingredients to succeed they will all prevail as winners in one sense or another.

I look forward to seeing you all next Easter!

Nathan Rooney

Senior Coach, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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March Madness (April 2012)

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Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

We are in the middle of our first week of Easter Camps and yes we are having our first rain since February half term – the last time we had a big group! We cannot complain as the sun is nearly always shining and our tennis has not been affected, just a few stressful hours with re-organising – all part of the job!

March has been another exciting month for all at STA. Valeria Savinykh has come within a  whisker of being our first ever Top 100 player in the world. She has the same points as the girl who is 100, but is 101! This will change in the coming weeks and it is down to her continued hard work and dedication with recent success in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami where she had wins over 2 top 100 players to qualify and win her first round before US Open winner Sam Stosur stopped her progress.

Joshua Ward-Hibbert has continued his doubles world junior dominance by winning his 3rd Grade A event in a row out in Brazil- this moves him up to Junior World Junior 14!  Perhaps the biggest landmark achievement came from Andrew Fitzpatrick who has defied all the odds and financial strains of being a young professional tennis player to win his first Professional event out in Israel. When we started working together 18 months ago Andrew was 100 in the world and a big goal was to reach top 600 in the world- he achieved this through his victory at the Futures in Israel. It goes to show what can be achieved with a clear vision and focus, mixed with hard work and dedication.

I apologise this is a short blog this month (it may be a relief to some of you!), but with us having higher ‘camper’ numbers than ever before here at STA, the work is relentless these couple of weeks, so back to the planning for tomorrow..

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Attitude is Everything (March 2012)

Posted on: March 31, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Blue skies and heat that would not look out of place in the middle of July and we have only just reached the end of Feb.

I am often asked the question: What’s the weather like in the winter out in Soto? I can hand on heart say since the end of October (typically when we had a group of 30 players) we have missed 1 hour of tennis due to bad weather.  It has been stunning for months and has helped us create the ideal environment for our players to excel.

I have always believed that playing outdoors helps the development of a player, and having experienced this first hand for two years I have seen nothing to change this view…

  1.  Players have to ‘earn’ the point leading to a greater discipline on the court and in their point construction.  There is no `cheap` points which leads me to number 2..
  2.  Mental strength- knowing you are in the match for the long haul and not looking for the easy out.
  3.  Physicality- rallies are longer and this leads to generally hitting more balls and having to use more energy in doing so, which naturally increases your physical capacity.
  4.  Environment- Fresh air and blue skies naturally makes you more `up for it` day in, day out. I am not saying this isn’t the case whilst playing indoors in cooler climates, but it is less of an effort for this to happen.

During the month of February we have welcomed two new full time players in Maya Gaverova and Aba Omodele-Lucien. Maya hails from Russia and has been as high as 350 WTA, but has suffered from injuries over the last 12 months, so she is on her journey back up the rankings. Aba comes as a Harvard graduate where he captained the tennis team there and followed in James Blakes footsteps of whom he is a good friend. Both players fit STA like a glove and follow all our morals and values that we drive day in, day out from Punctuality, Preparation, Focus, Intensity and most importantly respect. We are looking forward to watching them grow under our wing here at STA.

This next person shows how far STA has come in the last 18 months…he has chosen to use us as an International Clay Court base out of all the choices out there and he did not leave disappointed- Evan Hoyt a member of the GB Under 16 World Champs team joined us with his coach Ben Haran for the week and we are looking to build a relationship with Reeds School for years to come…Likewise we are building a partnership with

Matt Thomas who brought a team from Warwick Uni of 9-12 year olds who were an absolute pleasure. Matt and his team once again show what educated, talented coaches we have back in the UK who are doing fantastic jobs. The kids were professional, dedicated, fun, respectful and a real credit to their programme. They reminded me a lot of the team Richard Crabtree brings to us every October which is another example of a brilliant programme getting results with no fuss. Two of Richards players, Tom and Jess Dawson joined us for the week and again fitted right in, as I knew they would coming from Richards programme. These kids cannot fail in life if they continue these great values that have been installed from an early age and I tip my hat to Matt and Richard for their hard work in bringing that to their culture.

I can’t go without mentioning my old doubles partner of years and years, David Sherwood! One of his players Georgia Lawson came over for the week and again was a credit to her coach Dave and her programme at Graves in Sheffield. I love the time we spend with these players when they come in and it is always hard seeing them leave- only for hours later to build a new relationship with a new player, but we strongly believe in keeping the relationship strong with the player, coach and parents and we are here to help these guys in whatever way is needed. Whether this be to provide a facility, provide an environment or offer our expertise on and off the court.

February has been a great month…..hard working respectful players, a great staff of workers, new strong relationships and a blue sky has certainly made that easier..

Excited for March…

PLAY TO WIN

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: Roundup (January 2012)

Posted on: January 22, 2012 |
Tags: australian open, costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

I write my final blog of our Aussie adventure as I wait in the airport for my first of 4 flights where the next 36 hours will be spent thinking of my family at home and the big hugs that await, reflecting, reviewing and developing the next stage of planning, watching a movie or 2, wrestling with the guy next to me for elbow space and hopefully getting some much needed sleep!

My memories from the trip in one paragraph…..and gooo!

Day one straight from the airport to see STA player Valeria Savinykh and STA access player Freddie Nielsen both qualify for their first grand slam, to sharing a tournament car  with Tsonga, onto great performances by Josh in round 1 and 2 in the Grade 1 Junior ITF in Traralgon, while dashing back and forth to Melbourne for STA access player Jonny Marray- warming those guys up for their doubles  match, talking for hours and learning so much from the guru, Louis Cayer!

Watching ALL the British boys progress through round 1 in the Junior Australian Open in 45 degree heat, the night matches,  being able to sit in the players box for our British warrior Andy Murray, getting to know Ivan Lendl and the antics behind the scenes, to standing next to Rod Laver and Liam not knowing who he was…onto his arena to hit with the Greatest Player of all time Roger Federer, Josh advancing to the quarters with performances to be very proud of, the post match interviews, the meals with the boys, the epic Murray-Djokovic semi final under the lights till 1am! And to cap it all off,..Josh and Liam becoming Australian Open Doubles Champions…. And breathe!!

The end of the trip like this is always a weird one, as I am desperate to get back home to the family and see all the guys at the Academy, but tinged with other emotions- a little sadness that the trip is over, as you get used to being around the team and all the excitement that has surrounded the last 2 weeks, but my overriding feeling is pride… I’m very proud of the boys, I have seen first hand for 20 months what a credit Josh is to his parents with his respect and work ethic and I am very proud of how himself and Liam handled the situation, the attention…I am proud of the achievement for SotoTennis Academy. We are only a small team and have not been open for too long, but to see the rewards for those who follow our philosophies over a long space of time is a great feeling.

Anyway, that is enough of the emotional reflection stuff!

Onwards and Upwards into 2012 and lots to look forward too.

We are increasing our travel squad trips and will be at ITF events in Uzbekistan in March and Nottingham in April. For the Under 14s we will be in Nottingham and Magaluf  in April. And our pro squad will be spending a few weeks playing Futures in Spain and nearby Portugal.

Our new crop of players are working hard at base camp and hopefully taking inspiration from Josh and Liams success these last couple weeks. Who wants to be the next one to stand up and be counted? I look forward to finding out…

We welcome Matt Thomas and his team who are bringing 16 players for clay court training later this month and Phil Atess and my old club Shotley and Benfieldside who is bringing a group out…

My flight has been called so its ‘See ya’ Australia and ‘Hola’ España (in 30 hours!)

As my Dad would say onwards and upwards!

Play to win, and remember… You speak to yourself more than anyone else, SO make sure you are saying the RIGHT things.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: The Icing on the Cake (January 2012)

Posted on: January 21, 2012 |
Tags: australian open, costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Australian Open Champions! Sounds good ay?!

I am so happy for the boys and am still buzzing from the excitement of the day, the week, the trip…

Today started well – we had a chilled morning, the boys were not playing till 6.30 pm, so we took it easy, went into town and saw a couple sights with a relaxed lunch at Wagamama’s, I could get used to this. I could tell the boys were ‘on it’ all day and felt very confident for their final later. I had to put a bit of a rocket up their bums after the semi as I felt they came out flat; it is always easier to give these talks after they win and is a good time to catch your players and drill home key learning points – the boys were in agreement with me and reacted like Champions.

We went down to the courts on what was another belter of a day in Melbourne and we were all so into practice that the session was almost 2 hours – we hit loads of balls and played points with Luke Bambridge and myself against Liam and Josh (I won’t disclose the winners – I’ll let the boys have their moment!) and the boys were looking sharp. This is what it’s like being a top player in the world I told them and I am sure it has wetted their appetite for more.

The match before was taking forever in the 1st set then all of a sudden it was set and 4-0 this is one of the things that makes it so difficult as a tennis player, as on the previous day the match before the boys was 6-0 4-0 to one player and 40-30, so we got ready to go then all of a sudden the other player won the set 6-4 and the boys went on over an hour after they had now prepared for…If you are a footballer, you always know your kick off time, as do golfers and pretty much every other sport!

From the first point of the match there was no doubt in my mind that it was the boys’ Championship – they looked hungrier, sharper, more experienced, more tactically apt than their opponents and nothing was going to stop them becoming the first British Grand Slam winners in an overseas Grand Slam (doubles) since 2000, when 2 good friends of mine James Nelson and Lee Childs won the US Open!

Forty five minutes later here we were at match point- another big serve from Liam and a physical presence at the net that only JWH can have and the ball sails long…Game set match and Champions Ward Hibbert and Broady! Brilliant boys!  My mind shifts back home to my wife Vicki and the kids and all the sacrifices we have put in as a team (Nick, Nathan, Dominic, Vicki) in setting up the Academy 20 months ago and here we are with our first Grand Slam winners – a small tear comes to the eyes and goose bumps over the body, this is one to savour and it could not happen to two nicer guys!

Photos, interviews, massages and more food intake is all becoming part of the daily routine for the boys and today was no different…they have taken it all in their stride, but I can sense an excitement in the boys that was great to be a part of.

We head off to Rod Laver to cheer on the next British participant in Australia, Andy Murray…What a privilege to be a part of that match at such close quarters – WOW! Is all I can say to the drama, the athleticism, heart and level of tennis I never thought I would see. Truly impressive and inspirational for the boys as well as myself.

I promised the boys I would take them for a beer, as it was Josh’s 18th last week and Liam the week before, but by the time we got into town all the pubs had shut, so we had to settle for an orange Fanta in McDonalds and sharing stories from the day. The boys won’t have realised it, but that was one of my favourite parts of the trip!

Back to Spain on Sunday, I’m dying to see the family and all the team/players at base camp. I will always look back at the Australian Open 2012 with nothing but smiles and laughter, and I hope we look back at it as the beginning of a new chapter for SotoTennis Academy.

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: Birthday Boy (January 2012)

Posted on: January 20, 2012 |
Tags: australian open, costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

It is late here in Melbourne after getting in from British player Colin Flemings mixed doubles quarter final – he followed Djokovic/Ferrer on Rod Laver Arena. I had considered going straight to bed, but I feel there is so much that has happened in the last couple days that I really wanted to share it with you!

I have to start with this story – Colin Beecher, another British coach who is out here (it has been a great team spirit) was asked to hit with Andy Murray after his walkover match. Within the first few minutes of the hit- Ivan Lendl is really shouting at Beech if he misses a shot and abusing his technique, really badly! Beech does not know what is going on and after 20 minutes, they can’t hold the joke any longer as Andy and Ivan are cracking up.. Andy has told Ivan to be really tough on Beech and abuse his technique as a prank. It’s great to see that these top guys have a sense of humour. It has done Beech no harm as he practiced with Ivan today for well over an hour and I was fortunate enough to meet Ivan and watch him in action- he still hits a great ball and seems an incredibly relaxed nice guy.

Since I last wrote JWH has advanced to the quarter finals of the boys singles and himself and Liam Broady into the semis of the doubles. Josh has put in two top class performances against the world number 8 and 9 juniors and showed a real maturity in his game, so he should as he turned 18 today! I have also been very impressed with how Liam has bounced back from his tough singles defeat, it shows great character! A shout out to Kyle Edmund too, who is the other British junior who has advanced to the quarter finals.

Fingers crossed for more good performances tomorrow…

So, possibly the experience of the trip so far was today when Liam was asked to hit with Roger Federer, yes THE Roger Federer, on Rod Laver Arena. Liam asked me to go on court with him and what an honour it was! We met Roger and Paul Annacone at the practice desk and right away Roger spoke to me about our junior days and about all the British guys we both know. We talked through old times at events, and matches – I felt like I was talking to a  long lost mate! He had great things to say about a good friend of mine Simon Dickson who beat Roger at under 16 level- Roger remembered and we joked that Simon has been getting jobs left right and centre on the back of his name ever since!

The practice was relaxed, smooth, even witty at times. Rogers hard work has been done and it was very much a `feel` session and boy does he have some feel!

We finished up with some more banter and he showed a great interest in our Soto Tennis Academy players and the Academy himself- I offered him a scholarship, I will await with eagerness to see if he takes it up! I reckon I could do something with that talent!

The trip continues to surprise, excite and motivate…

Its 2.10 am and I’m done in. The alarm goes off in 5 hours and I’ll be ready to go again..

We are not satisfied and won’t be till Saturday night..

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: Game Face (January 2012)

Posted on: January 19, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

As I sit here at the end of another day I feel as if people may think I am putting this enthusiasm on from the trip! As I have yet more positive news from the day! But I can assure you the trip has been brilliant and each and every day brings a new challenge, a new experience and I feel very fortunate to be in a position to lap it all up…

Today was GAME DAY!  Early brekkie with the boys then down to the courts- Grand Slams are brilliant, as you have ‘professionalism on your door step’…what do I mean by that? You have physios on tap, sun cream, water, towels, good changing rooms, new balls for practice, most of the guys get new clothes from sponsors including sweat bands, players re grip rackets. This is all great, but one gripe with some of the guys is, why they don’t do this for every tournament? As they obviously do it for the slams, they feel it helps them play their best tennis! Their preparation today was spot on, from breakfast to physio for rub or tape, the timings of eating their food, their liquid intake. The way they dressed, equipment checks blah, blah, blah. But hey, this translates into good tennis on the court and I will be driving these areas with all of our players as it ‘makes a difference’.

Anyway, off that extremely high horse and back to the tennis. First up for the Brits were Kyle Edmund and Luke Bambridge – 2 wins in what was by now 32 degrees (and felt like 40) on court! Liam was next up – playing a straggly looking Italian who generates power from who knows where, but he does and did with great venom and success giving Liam a real tough 1st set. 5-5 break point down and Liam produces the magic that makes him the player he is and he does not look back. Off he comes 7-5 6-3 for a couple interviews and a massage – living the life! It is now 35 degrees and feels 45 degrees on court. Good idea with the black top Dan –  fruit of the loom thick cotton at that!

Josh is next up on court number 7 as it approaches 40 degrees, 50…You get the drift.

A great performance by Josh with no major worries and a 6/1 6/2 victory over Australian wildcard Matthew Tanza. All 4 Brits through. Vamos!

The boys have earned a day off singles tomorrow, but are up 4th match for doubles against a pair from Israel.

I spent time watching Djokovic and Fededer practice at close quarters and in the space of 2 minutes saw them both then Nadal/Sharapova/Ferrer/Ivanovic walk past and then Goran Ivanisevic…Maybe this star-spotting will get old, but it hasn’t yet. Videos to follow so look out on our facebook and twitter pages!

Not long been in from dinner- what a lovely city Melbourne is.. Vicki we are coming back here with the kids!

Excited for what tomorrow will bring…

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: Preparation (January 2012)

Posted on: January 18, 2012 |
Tags: australian open, costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Just a quick update from Melbourne after a great 2 days of training with the guys. All the British boys seems ‘on it’ and we have had a high intensity on the courts with everyone`s mind switching to Sunday when the Junior Aussie Open begins! These preparation days are so important from the food/drink intake , stretching, sleep and how they are mentally preparing and at the age of 17 these are invaluable lessons at the highest level of the game, a grand slam.

There has been a buzz today as the boys received their accreditation at Melbourne Park and we cheekily went to the grounds for 8am this morning and got onto the courts for 2 hours before we got kicked off! We were the only juniors to get that court time, as we are not supposed to be on the courts till Sunday! It certainly meant for a great environment with Rod Laver Arena shadowing over us…

As I write this the ‘big news’ in Australia has just caused another stir by winning through to the 4th round against Federer on Sunday – Bernie Tomic and I must say, he has won me over after a couple of years where I was unsure of the fuss! He is the real deal and I can’t but admire his ability to step it up on the big time – he seems to genuinely love the big stage and is taking the hopes of the nation on his shoulders as we have witnessed with Murray and Henman over the years. Pressure is a privilege is a comment we use a lot at the Academy and the mind set of enjoying big moments and he must certainly does that. As I sit here and write I would say he WILL be top 10 in the world in the next 2-3 years.

Onto the middle Saturday here in Oz – and it’s not quite as packed as Wimbledon feels, but there is definitely an increase in capacity. The fact Heineken were running a promotion may have contributed to that!

It’s been another great day for the boys, rounded off by getting the opportunity thanks to Leon Smith (GB Davis Cup Captain) to sit in the players box at Hisense arena Murra-Llodra night match. And what a match it was. YouTube clips galore and a flawless performance by Mr Murray. It was a great honour for me to sit where I was and take in the amazing atmosphere and I was sitting directly behind Ivan Lendl and up close and personal with the way Andy’s team work. It all seems a bit of a dream still.

One week in and I can already look back and say I have learnt so much from this trip and the coaches/players I have been fortunate to spend time with.

Off to bed now and will report back after tomorrow, as all the British boys play tomorrow. Liam plays 2nd match after 11am and JWH 3rd match after 11, so another exciting day, hopefully with news of some great performances…

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Aussie Open: Double Trouble (January 2012)

Posted on: January 17, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

Today started a little later for me- 6am! Up and at ’em as they say!

A couple of phone calls and a few e mails later and it’s time for brekkie with STA access player Jonny Marray and Jamie Delgado before their first round dubs.  The guys must get sick of me, as I am always pestering them with questions on tennis and opinions – today is different as it’s game day, so I leave them to their routine and the conversation resembles something that would not look out of place on Sky TV’s Sunday Supplement- for those who don’t know what that is, its men talking rubbish about their opinions on football!

We travel to Melbourne Park and walk past Nadal, Del Potro and many more on the way to our practice court – all normal now! I am soaking it all up!

I spend the next hour with Louis Cayer hanging on every word he says as we warm up Jonny and Jamie and then Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins – I even find myself playing some points and rolling back the years, so I think, the boys will have a differing thought I am sure. It was amazing to play on the courts at the Aussie Open and I can’t write an email to myself quick enough with all the knowledge Louis has reeled off – he really is the guru!

Jonny and Jamie are up first and come out flying against the 4th seeded Poles but can’t quite convert their break points.. It bites them as the Poles convert their first break point to win the set. The boys match them shot for shot and make them look far from the US Open finalists and end of season Masters Finalists that they are. But no sooner have I thought that at 4-3 to the boys with a break in the second,  5 mins later they are all shaking hands after 2 breaks and a hold – ‘eat those thoughts, Dan’ I hear them cry!

It is an amazing experience for me to be around this level again and to see that all these guys are humans and make errors, but just know their games so well and have the confidence to back themselves under pressure.

Colin and Ross kept the British flag flying with a strong performance and on to round 2…

For me another train and back to Traralgon with Josh and Liam to prepare for the Junior event!

Still enthused…Still learning…Still missing the family. All part of the travelling tennis coach I guess.

Onwards and upwards to another day..

Play to Win.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Race Against Time! (January 2012)

Posted on: January 16, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

My eyes are open and I feel awake and I look at my phone to find it is 4am! I think they call this jet lag – anyway I am up now the brain is ticking, the adrenalin is running for the day ahead. I spend time dealing with e mails then get to speak to my wife back in Spain before settling in with Man City Wigan Monday night football at 6am on a Tuesday – kinda weird! The day started badly – Sergio Arguero did nothing and he is my main man for my fantasy football team.

Anyway, on we go to the court and prepare to do battle in the round of 16.. Logistics are key for me today, as I have Josh in Traralgon and he plays 2nd match after 9am and I have Valeria in Melbourne at the open playing 3rd after 11am. It’ll be fine, Valeria follows 2 men’s matches! Anyway Josh does not get onto court till gone 12 due to the 2 girls spending more time with their towels at the back of the court and their seats at change of end. Oh yeah, and they had bathroom troubles judging by the ‘breaks’ they were taking!

Josh put in a decent performance, but came across a strong French player who is already established on the Men’s tour. It was a great experience for Josh and the end of a strong week going into the Junior Open. From there I jumped in a taxi and made the 1.32 train to Melbourne. The bad news was the first match on Valeria’s court was 6-0 6-0 6-2, I mean when does that ever happen- seriously! No problem, I will be there in 2 and a half hours and Malisse vs Bennateu will definitely be close to that. Halfway through the journey Valeria texts me to say Malisse has retired after first set and she is on in 20 mins- tough for Valeria to have that put on her in her first grand slam, but even tougher for me who is stuck in a hot train while desperately wanting to be there for Valeria and support. I get off the train, manage to grab a taxi while checking the score on my phone.. I arrive at the court as the officials are leaving- I have missed it. Never in a million years will there be  a 6-0 6-0 6-2 men’s match followed by a retirement, and never in a million years will two girls play a longer match than they did in Traralgon earlier in the day.

I was gutted to miss it, but I got the scoreboard photo to prove I was there and got to de-brief Valeria after her match. I then took the opportunity to get familiar with Melbourne Park as it is my first time here, and I was very impressed with the set up and atmosphere, not to mention the heat!

I then had an afternoon of meeting one old friend after the next as well as seeing Rafa and Roger in action on the practice court. I chatted for hours with Aisam Qureshi, Jean Julian Rojer, Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen who were all good friends when I played on the tour.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Oz…so far! (January 2012)

Posted on: January 15, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

G`day! What a start to the trip!

I hope I am writing with the same enthusiasm at the end of the 2 weeks!

So, after a long old journey from Gibraltar to Heathrow…Heathrow to Singapore (no upgrade…but that is another story!) a boost smoothie later and back on the plane next to my 2 friends – the twins (aged 11 months) cute…but noisy! Singapore to Melbourne and now switch to domestic terminal – somehow manage to hide 3kg of weight (from my bag!) to ensure no extra Ryanair costs and on I went to Sydney. As I was getting on the plane I hear a shout ‘Kierno!’ Who the hell knows me in Melbourne?! It was British players Ross  Hutchins, Colin Fleming and coach Louis Cayer- it was good to see them even if I was in a daze at this point!

We arrived in Sydney and shared transport to their hotel before on to Melbourne Park. As they left the car at the hotel, I was asked if I minded sharing the car to Melbourne Park ‘of course not’ was my reply and in stepped Jo Wilfred Tsonga, surreal moment!

I was going to Melbourne Park to see STA full-time player Valeria Savinykh and STA access player Freddie Nielsen who were in the last round of qualifying for the Aussie open. I kindly got a coaches pass off Jonny Marray (top 100 ATP doubles player) and was now mixing with the stars! From Murray to Sharapova to watch Nadal, Djokovic and Klijsters up close and personal entertain the crowd. I heard Freddie’s name called, so off I go to support and watch a stunning performance from a good friend of mine. It was an absolute pleasure to be there to see Freddie, after 10 years as a pro, qualify for his first grand slam – standing next to Carolina Wozniaki (world number 1) who was supporting him for the full match was another surreal experience. Well done Fred and straight over to Court 13 where our own Valeria Savinykh was in action. I hr 20 mins later a cry of come on and a fist pump in my direction and we have our first ever STA Grand Slam main draw player – I am very proud of Valeria and her great determination in a fine performance.

Off to the player’s lounge to see Valeria’s mum and after a great catch up with Freddie and many other familiar faces, it was a quick dash to the train station for the 18.25 train- myself and Si Broady (Liam’s dad) arrive at 18.27 without a ticket and with a full blown sprint! We managed to shout and get the train to wait! Phheew!

Two hours later we arrived at Traralgon for the Junior ITF Grade 1 with STA players Josh ward Hibbert and Liam Broady.. at last bed! I was still so excited and spent time up loading pictures from the day and catching up with my gorgeous wife on the last 56 hours which were a blur, but full of excitement and pride.

The last 2 days in Traralgon have continued in the positive manner with 2 great wins for Josh including  a win over the world junior number 18. But what has been most pleasing has been the process in which those victories have come- following the JWH (Josh Ward Hibbert) way and playing the game we have worked so hard on as a team the last 18 months.

Liam lost a toughie, but has stepped up big in the doubles to date.

Tomorrow morning Josh has his 3rd round in Traralgon at 11am and Valeria her main draw in Melbourne at 3pm. It is 2 and half hours door to door. So who do I watch!? You kidding me…not a chance I will miss either!

More from me tomorrow, hopefully with more good news – not just the result, but the way in which they both approach their matches, which I am confident will be great.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

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A Year of Champions (January 2012)

Posted on: January 10, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

World Champions, Country representation, a National Champion, Grand Slams, a BBC Sports Personality of the year nominee, British Tour Champions, and an AEGON Masters Champion- looks good on paper ay? Well this is only the start!

What a year 2011 has been for STA! Big thanks go to Nick Morgan, Dominic Mahboubi, Nathan Rooney, Vicki Kiernan, Amanda Wenban, Paul Coneyworth, Joma Ormrod, and Mark Hilton to name a few of our hard working staff over the year…

The team have all put work in above and beyond their duties and everyone realises what we are trying to achieve and I must say it is a pleasure to be a part of it. Some of my highlights include sitting with the team watching our first ever STA Player Josh Ward Hibbert strut his stuff on Court 12 at Wimbledon on middle Saturday at 7pm with a big crowd- the same week sitting with Liam Broadys coach Mark Hilton, while he won the thrilling 13-11 in the 3rd quarter final over Robin Kern, followed by a class act semi final display on Court 3. Sitting at home watching Josh & Liam’s score come through via twitter feeds, while winning the Orange Bowl doubles in December was a great moment. Watching my boy Luke Hammond (who I have been fortunate to work with from the age of 5) stand up to the pressure and perform on the big stage to win the U12 UK Nationals. Valeria Savinykh reached a career high of 119 in the WTA rankings, and made the final of a $50,000 ITF event in Turkey last month.

The faces of our Development group, as they are starting to make in roads into Andalucía Tour Events – there is something special about watching players develop from such a young age and make giant strides in their games. This never gets old for me and makes the long hours on the court, gym and office all worthwhile.

I am very proud of Andrew Fitzpatrick who has gone up 1000 ATP Ranking spots to 650 ATP as well as pick up 5 British Tour titles before beating Josh Goodall and Dan Evans (both top 5 in the UK) to win the British Tour Masters in December. Andrew epitomises what we want our players to be about and I can see great things coming his way in 2012.

We are also proud of the work our new players Dakota Norton, Chaney Norton, Taylor Bate, Ella Taylor and Mikey Suleau are bringing to the court every day – we have a great group there, who, after long training blocks will be ready to get stuck into tournaments in the New Year- watch out!

None of these successes have come easily for the players and it is an honour each and every day to see the work these players put in and the long hours that go into making themselves experts of the game. We will be expecting and demanding the same in 2012!

The year is starting with myself going out to Australia with Valeria, Josh and Liam. I will be blogging and ‘tweeting’ from Melbourne, so make sure you follow us @sototennis or our Facebook page SotoTennis Academy to keep up with how they are getting on!

I hope you have a happy, healthy 2012 and treat yourself to a trip to Sotogrande to visit us- no rain since October and a motivated, knowledgeable, good-looking team awaits!

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Black Sheep (December 2011)

Posted on: December 20, 2011 |

It has been a couple of months since I last updated and `blogged`, as I have left it to the more interesting players and coaches!

Lots has happened since I last wrote, Josh Ward-Hibbert has moved into the world top 100 juniors. I am always a big fan when people get what they deserve and I can assure you, all the success Josh gets is fully deserved. Andrew Fitzpatrick does what he does best and cleans up on the British Tour circuit and continues to make significant progress up the ATP Rankings. We also welcome with open arms our 4 new recruits to STA. Chaney and Dakota Norton come from Perth, Australia after 9 months at Brugera`s Academy. This is a real positive reflection on our teams work, as we realise there are many Academies to choose from so it is a compliment when someone decides to come here, but our goal is to look after these players for years to come – that will be the real compliment if they stay! Taylor J Bate joins us from Alicante and is already trying to seal his name as the hardest ever worker at STA! And who can forget Mikey Suleau – after all there is 6ft 8 of him! Mikey is 18 and from the UK, and has been a real credit to the Academy already with his work rate and dedication. Just watch out for the name!

We have just started our ‘pre season’ – this is basically an opportunity for our travelling players to have some significant time at ‘base camp’ and get some real work done in areas of need before the start of 2012. We often use this as a big physical block for players, as it is hard to develop these skills when on the road and during regular competitions. Valeria Savinkyh is back for 3 weeks in preparation for the Australian Open and she comes with our 2nd Russian Maya Gaverova who was top 300 WTA and we all excited to have her on board.

It very much has an ‘Academy’ feel right now with so many players and coaches around and it really is a great environment to be developing their games- I wish I had these opportunities as a player!

16 months in – I look around the courts and see the players around in the cafeteria and speak to the parents and we are at a stage where we have all of our players who are dedicated to ‘doing what it takes’ to make improvements and I am very confident if we had a player who turned up with the wrong attitude they would stick out like a sore thumb. They would be the ‘black sheep’. This defines the philosophy of what we are trying to set up. If the black sheep is the one who is not working and showing the right attitude I feel we are onto a winning environment. For years I have seen Academies with the black sheep as the player who is the ‘professional one’…crazy ey!? But very true…

Long may this continue and long may the white sheep rule the roost here at STA!

Have a great festive period all and prepare well for 2012 in what I know is going to be a great year for all here at STA!

Play to Win.

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

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Fresa (October 2011)

Posted on: October 2, 2011 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

You can picture it now – clear blue skies and 35 degrees, spanish tapas, strawberries, chocolate, waking up to find yourself so close to the person next to you…Where are you? On honeymoon? A holiday of a life time?

Not me!  I have all of the above but…I am back on the Futures tour with a couple of our SotoTennis Academy players, Alistair Barnes and Andrew Fitzpatrick!

Let’s start at the beginning..

  1. Clear Blue Skies and 35 degrees – We certainly have that- Only problem it is double that in our room and we have no AC!
  2. Spanish Tapas- We had that, but went cheap as you have to on the futures tour and I am not sure whether I had ‘Pollo’ or ‘gato’.
  3. Strawberries- I’ll leave that till last!
  4. Chocolate – All I see are bottles in the room – Protein shakes everywhere! Chocolate flavoured, but not the type of chocolate me and the missus have during X Factor- Galaxy any day of the week!
  5. Waking up so close to the person next to you – Not what you may have had in mind…as mine and Andrew’s feet touched our beds were so close, and come to think of it stuck together bearing in mind number 1!
  6. Back to those strawberries – Well very strangely this is the name of our room- not 102, but ‘Fresa’ – about sums it up folks!

Fingers crossed for another win later – and we may upgrade to Kiwi!

Vamos!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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The Realities of a Great Sport: You Can’t Always Win (October 2014 )

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Tags: competition, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sports science, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

I would like to thank James Cluskey (Irish Davis Cup Player) for sending me a quote he read in Roy Keanes Autobiography from his Sports Psychologist Bill Beswick, as it has helped label some of the strong thoughts I have had on this subject for a long time.

Let me share the quote with you first and then I will look to show some specific examples of this within the tennis world. I hope the examples and objective data provided will help some of you understand your own thoughts and feelings which can only be a step in the right direction in making some progress with how you control these emotions.

“Sport is all about disappointment. It’s about dealing with the disappointments. It’s not the highs. There are so few of them. It’s the defeats, the injuries. Great careers carry massive disappointments. It’s how you cope with them. You have to look forward, home in on the positives. Take the positive out of every negative. Look to the next game”

This may sound a little bit pessimistic, but I can assure you it is realistic. Maybe I can give a little insight that may give you a different perspective.

Let’s take Roger Federer- I have chosen RF as some would argue (including myself) that he is the greatest Male Tennis Player of all time. He has 17 Grand Slam victories to his name and has won 81 Career Titles. If anyone in the sport of tennis doesn’t have to deal with disappointment it’s him, right?  RF has had to deal with losing in 73.6% of weeks that he plays a tournament throughout his career. Out of the 306 tournaments, he has played on the ATP Tour he has lost in 225 of them! In simple terms, Roger Federer has averaged losing in 3 out of 4 tournaments that he has played throughout his career.

When we break this down even further it is what makes tennis a stand out ‘difficult’ sport when it comes to ‘dealing with disappointment’. Within every match, we lose almost as many points as we win. To give an example of this: In the 2008 Wimbledon Final between Federer and Nadal, it was 188 points to 187 points in Nadal’s favor. He had just won Wimbledon yet had to deal with the emotion of losing a point on 187 occasions within the 4 hours and 48 minutes that they competed. When we then think about how we feel when we make a mistake or we lose a point and we think about the reactions we see up and down the country to losing a point from the racket bangs to the head hangs, to the groans and the moans and the whinges. Is this sustainable emotionally? Do Rafa and Roger feel the same pain? Of course, they do, they are winners, they hate the feeling of losing, but they know it is part and parcel of the game. They have learned how to ‘cope with them’.

To bring home the realities of this in our sport I would like to share a few facts and figures:

-During every Grand Slam Main Draw, 127 players lose during the tournament

-During every Futures MD event- 16 lose on the first day and 31 lose every week

-Roger Federer lost EVERY week bar one that he competed in 2013

-Tobia Kamke ranked 93 in the world has won 11 matches and lost 23 matches during 2014

-Donald Young ranked 69 in the world has won 23 matches and lost 29 matches in 2014 AND his ranking has significantly increased throughout 2014! He has had a good year!

-Francesca Schiavone (and Former French Open Winner) currently ranked 83 in the world. She has dealt with losing 27 times on the tour this year whilst only winning 22 matches.

And don’t forget, not only are they losing matches, they are dealing with ‘losing’ often over 100 times within each match! So how do we typically see junior tennis players deal with the natural disappointments of the sport and how can we help them to ‘cope’ with these disappointments better? What we see in the large proportion of players is the extreme reaction to losing points and losing matches.

Losing points

Racket banging, moaning, groaning, shouting as mentioned before…the list goes on. These are all behaviors seen on the surface, the more destructive work happens on the inside. The negative thoughts: ‘Why bother playing?’ ‘Give up’ ‘what is the point’  and even worse players building up or even down a career with one shot, one point, one match. ‘If I can’t beat this girl how am I ever going to play at Wimbledon?’ We can’t perform to our capabilities with these thoughts at the forefront of our mind. These thoughts paralyze us. They lead players to feel ‘demotivated’ and in turn, effort/application drops. It feels easier to deal with the pain that way. It is not…

Losing matches

All players react differently and we see many different reactions from comfort eating to silence to punishing ourselves with physical activity. The key issue being IF you do have an extreme reaction to a loss it shows that you do not have a ‘tolerance for failure’. This needs to be built up over time.

This then leads to often 2-3 days of ‘mood’ whilst we get over the loss and in the meantime, we are wasting valuable practice/preparation time for the next event. We then build up the next tournament in our heads and can’t bear that feeling of ‘losing’ so play another tight match and the cycle continues….

So how do we help players to ‘cope’ with disappointment and break this cycle? How can we help speed up this process? (Remember there is no magic wand here, just dedication and hard work in the correct environment)

Education

Awareness

This is important for parents and players alike (I hope a blog such as this can have an impact).  It is important that players know this is a normal feeling…a natural feeling. We are not made to enjoy disappointment. We have to learn the coping skills as we go, it will not happen overnight as you won’t be hitting BH returns like myself overnight- it takes time, effort, energy and commitment day in day out and as ever there will be difficult times along the journey.

Mindset

This can come from the environment that you are in…

Support Team (Parents play a big role in this)

Players you are around.

What do you reward? I would suggest rewarding effort and attitude instead of rewarding winning. First questions after a player come off the court: Did you have fun? Did you work hard? How was your “x” process goal’?

What we are after in our players?

Philosophical View- I love Rafa Nadal’s saying: “Play the game like it’s the most important thing in the world, but… Understand it is not”

We want players to fight and fight as hard as they can, but at the same time, we want players to understand that there is more to life than tennis. We want players to understand that tennis is an amazing vehicle in life that will provide life opportunities, friendships, and skills. These thoughts can not only soften the blow of the inevitable disappointment but will also allow our mind to stay clear whilst in the heat of the battle, therefore, reducing the amount that we are to be disappointed…Otherwise known as winning!

Control the Controllables

If you can measure success in terms of doing everything in your control with unconditional effort then you retain ownership of your success. As long as you are doing everything in your control you cannot fail to have success in this life.

This way of thinking may help you get over the disappointments a little easier…

Good luck!

Control the Controllable’s

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Could it be Magic? (September 2011)

Posted on: September 20, 2011 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

The search for the holy grail?! In tennis terms, the search for top 100 tennis players in the world!? How do these players achieve this? What are they doing that we are not? Surely oh surely these coaches in Serbia, Spain and Russia have some magic potion that they are sprinkling into their players water…. After re-reading that last line- I think I will leave that discussion for another time! Are they pulling rabbits out of a hat!? Waving their wands? Abra cadabra and all that?

Come on look at Novak Djokovic – 64 wins to 2 losses this year, surely Harry Potter is his coach!!?? The Wizard of Oz? Paul Daniels? David Blaine?

OK, I am getting a little carried away now, but you get my point!

Of course not, is the answer. So what does make champions.. well… champions?

I am by no means claiming to be a big expert in this area and I have not gone to the depths of research as Matthew Syed has in his book `Bounce`…or ‘The Talent Code` by Daniel Coyle which discuss the theory in great depth that to master any skill requires 10,000 quality hours of practice.

I will attempt to put my humble spin on it. The key word for me in the statement I have highlighted above is QUALITY. If I was asked what champions have in common, I would break it down into 3 areas:

– QUALITY of Training Environment/Support Team – this does not mean facilities, but the environment that is set through players and coaches alike..

– Simplicity of goals/objectives in your game performed with the upmost QUALITY day in day out

– QUALITY of mind – the ability to believe and fully commit to your game style

Here at Soto Tennis Academy, we are striving for the above and demanding this from ourselves as a coaching team and our players. Will this lead to a champion in the future? This I can`t guarantee, but what I can promise is we will continue to push our boundaries in the pursuit of this… I can also say that the magic wand will stay in my daughters wardrobe for her next Halloween party!

September has been an exciting month for the Academy with Valeria Savinykh making her first WTA quarter final out in Tashkent and I am off to Sevilla tomorrow with Liam Broady for his quarter final match in the futures up there after a great few days training with us at STA. I am also excited to announce that we have had 3 new full time players sign with us last week- onwards and upwards as my Dad used to say as we climbed mountains in obscene weather up in the Lake District!

Remember…

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Team Soto (August 2011)

Posted on: August 1, 2011 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

It feels as if I have not written a blog for a while, so it is tough to know where to start! We have had a great summer – I say WE as we very much are a team now with three new additions over the summer. Dominic Mahboubi and Nathan Rooney have joined STA as Senior Coaches and under Nick Morgan our Head of Sports Science, we now have Paul Coneyworth, who will lead the Strength and Conditioning at base camp. We have been around Europe this summer with players at various events with notable successes including Luke Hammond winning Under 12 British junior Nationals, Ella Taylor going from unranked to 680 in the junior ITF rankings, as well as two great showings at Under 18 and 16 Nationals (quarters and semis respectively). Great credit goes to Nathan Rooney for his hard work with Ella.

Josh Ward Hibbert has had a fun summer. After his successes on the grass he moved to Morocco with Dominic and had a great week along with access player Sam Hutt- again big credit to Dominic for this.. Josh went on to represent and lead GB Under 18s into the finals of the European Team Championships where they finished a credible 5th place- a proud moment for STA.

Andrew Fitzpatrick has continued his rise up the ATP rankings and currently sits at 850 – in a great position for a strong end to the year, and he continues to be a great example of ‘finding a way to do it’.

We have reached the end of year one at STA, and I feel very excited moving into Year 2 – we are ready to create the environment for our players to continue to excel. New players such as Valeria Svinkyth (138 WTA) and Alistair Barnes as well as our ‘French connection’ with coach Didier Lanne bodes well for the future.

I can’t move on without mentioning our development/pre-academy groups aged 9-17.. They have progressed incredibly well and we are all really excited to help with their development over the coming years- watch out tennis in Andalucia- the boys and girls are coming! Vamanoos! (That’s what you shout right kids!?)

I want to dedicate this blog to give a little background on our new coaches, as I can`t stress how important it is to have this strong team unit around, as an Academy and as a player.

Firstly, Dominic Mahboubi comes to STA with years of playing/coaching experience. Firstly, he played to a high level back in the UK as a junior. He then moved to Spain at a young age to learn his trade under some highly influential coaches in Barcelona including Rafael Nadal`s coach Francis Roig. After a successful 8 years building up Barcelona Total tennis and working with many top 100 players in the world , he moved to Switzerland to work for Swiss Tennis Academy – the lesser of the 2 STA`s!!! He saw sense and wanted to move back to sun, sea and tapas and we were fortunate enough to get him on board. He brings a great wealth of knowledge and incredible energy and drive- welcome on board!!

Over to Nathan Rooney- I have been lucky enough to work with Nathan in the past and I can guarantee spend 10 minutes with him and you will feel his love of the game of tennis. Nathan was a very good player himself making it to the top 1000 ATP and with it, many playing experiences.. As a coach he has worked with top Juniors in Europe as well as top 100 WTA players before helping British number 4 Dan Evans immensely last year. This is another great catch for SotoTennis and along with Dominic they will both make a massive difference to STA and its players…Welcome RD!

Last, but not least Paul Coneyworth- Paul is coming on board to work alongside Nick and the coaching staff in ensuring that the players are in the best possible shape. He brings a modern day approach to fitness and has a wealth of knowledge from his 5 years at a performance centre in Highgate, as well as a strong Rugby League background. Paul fits into our philosophy and like the whole team, is young and enthusiastic and is ready to make a difference.. Welcome Paul!

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have these guys on board and now, time for the hard work. We are starting back up this week with an `audit ` week from Medical screenings to performance analysis- we want to leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of excellence. We strongly believe as a team we need to be accountable for our players and their development, and we intend to do everything we can to help them with this- watch this space.

On a sadder note, I want to give a shout out to Amanda Wenban who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the last year, and has been a massive part of getting this project off the ground. Amanda is moving on to bigger and better things and she will be greatly missed by the team- Thank you Amanda!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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I believe…do you? ( June 2011)

Posted on: June 20, 2011 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

As we approach the end of year one, I have to say I am extremely encouraged and excited by the progress the team has made and what better way to see the progress in action than with a couple of our players here at the greatest tournament in the world, Wimbledon.

Joshua Ward Hibbert who has been with us for a year and started ranked outside the top 500 has shown great improvements with wins over world number 17, and is now inside the worlds top 140 Juniors. He is a testament to what we are setting up at the Academy with his work ethic on the court and humbleness and attitude off the court. These improvements were shown this week after he gratefully received a Wild Card into the Junior Event at Wimbledon and went on to beat world junior number 17 in front of 1000 people on court 12. In the same match Josh broke the record for fastest Junior serve ever recorded, with a 133 mph bomb going off.. he over took some guy called Tsonga! You may not know him, but Roger Federer does! Tomorrow we have STA Access player Liam Broady competing in the quarter finals of the Junior Event at Wimbledon and what an exciting prospect Liam is. His coach Mark Hilton has done a brilliant job with him and on the back of his success at the ITF in Roehampton last week do not be surprised to see him on your TV screens for years to come. Josh is through to the last 16 of the doubles too which he plays tomorrow. Great experiences and well deserved for both players..

Andrew Fitzpatrick is working his way through the rankings and had some success out in Japan Futures to move inside the world top 850.

Our younger pre-academy players are more than holding their own, and have introduced themselves to competitions in Andalucia and are taking to the tournaments very well…

Luke Hammond, who is a player I have coached since he was 6 years old and who accesses the Academy, made me extremely proud the other day when winning the Under 12 UK National Clay Court title; who would have thought it when he was breaking my cones in footwork exercises all those years ago.. Still a long journey ahead of course at this age, but nice to get some well deserved success.

These are some notable successes for the Academy players, but on a wider note, I am excited to announce the arrival of 2 great new coaches on-board the STA Team.

Dominic Mahboubi brings years of experience on the WTA, ATP, ITF tours as well as 8 years working at Barcelona Total Tennis where Francois Raoux (Rafael Nadals coach) was his mentor. Nathan Rooney will also be joining the team and has years of experience playing to a high level, and has been travelling and coaching top players on the ITF and ATP tours, and like Dominic, will be a brilliant addition to the team.

We are all excited to have them on board and this will enable us to continue striving for excellence including more quality individualised programmes, more teams on the road and, all in all, a better service to our players and groups who come to the Academy.

Now that I have given a little update on things at STA, I wanted to also briefly discuss what I have picked up these last 2 weeks at Wimbledon from the top players, whom it has been a pleasure to be around and amazing for our younger players including Liam, who got the opportunity to hit with Novak Djokovic. Our Head of Sports Science, Nick Morgan was asking me last night what these top players were like and 2 words came to mind;  Impressive and Comfortable.

Impressive in stature; these guys are serious athletes and have spent many years getting themselves like this. Impressive in their court demeanour by creating an aura around themselves. Impressive how they deal with people, the fans, and the younger players; ensuring they all have time for the younger players – Nadal has hit with a junior every day at Wimbledon and always has time to speak to them. Djokovic was giving  Liam some advice and sharing stories with Liam’s coach Mark. Impressive how easily they make the game of tennis look; their efficiency of movement and technique makes the game look so easy.

They are comfortable with who they are on and off the court and in front of the cameras. They look like they belong when walking onto that Centre Court, almost `at home`. When made to stretch for the ball they move so well and look so comfortable on the ball, like they have so much time even when the ball is coming at over 130 mph. Comfortable with their team around them; I have seen them all share jokes with their `entourages` and look genuinely happy in their company.

Two vital ingredients to becoming a champion and maybe the glue to bring all of these ingredients together is BELIEF. Let me share a story told by Novak Djokovic to Mark Hilton this week during a practice session. Novak said “ there are some amazing players in the futures events, some really great players who never make it out of this level, they get stuck! The difference between us top guys and those who are still at their level is the belief we all have and this has helped us get to where we are today”

He didn’t talk about hitting the ball harder, with a different grip, he talked about the belief it takes.. and who are we to argue with a man who has lost 1 match from 47 this year and may well be the 2011 Mens Wimbledon Champion…

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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Who are the ‘Captains’ out there? | Sport Science Blog (June 2011)

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In tennis we so often discuss, and for endless hours, the necessary traits that distinguish the world class tennis players from, well, the rest! Debates of this nature are commonplace, but unfortunately rarely end up with a simple checklist. At SotoTennis, myself and Dan try to tackle this subject as often as we can, not least because the outcome of these discussions directly impacts the way in which we work with players now, and would like to see us working with players in the future.

I recently read a great article in the Independent; it was entitled “Should it be bulldog spirit that defines an England captain – or vision and strategy?” The article discussed the merits of leadership and compared the nature and/or traits of John Terry versus Andrew Strauss. In simple terms, the culture of football has seemingly led us to define strong captaincy and leadership as having a ‘big heart’ and ‘running through brick walls’. In contrast, Andrew Strauss, the current England cricket captain is required to utilise vision and strategy through tactical execution of field placing’s and bowling changes – almost how do you get around or over the wall as opposed to through it!

The article provoked an interesting perspective on the attributes required to be successful in tennis. Now I will openly appreciate that the difference between football and cricket can largely explain why different traits are required from there necessary captains, in addition to the fact that John Terry and Andrew Strauss need to lead a team/ squad of others versus the tendency to view tennis as an individual sport. However, ask yourself this – does a tennis player not need to display all the attributes of a captain?

I believe that they do – they need to be motivated or motivate and inspire themselves, they need to be the experts of the game, understanding tactics and psychology, and when under pressure, continue to make the right decision. I would imagine many might suggest you need more of an Andrew Strauss than a John Terry, but don’t assume that ‘lionheart’ traits are defined by extrovert displays of emotion – just ask Federer or Nadal.

This blog has the potential to stray into a number of tangents, so perhaps I am at the point of needing to summarise what I believe are the two key points that are important. Firstly, if a tennis player is going to be successful they need to display all the attributes we associate with good captains. Secondly, do we actually coach or teach the traits that we believe are important in good captaincy? The top players all have great skills, but what wins them the matches, tournaments and accolades is the fact that they play the game incredibly well – arguably as a true captain leading by example!

Nick Morgan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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From Business to the Court (May 2011)

Posted on: May 31, 2011 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, sport business, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain

April and May have been fantastic months here at STA! Not only did we have 2 highly successful Easter camps with some great kids and parents in attendance, but STA player Andrew Fitzpatrick won his 4th successive British tour event, a reward for his month long hard work over here in February, and we had 3 top 100 ATP Doubles players Freddie Nielsen, Johan Brunstrom and Jonny Marray all accessing STA from the UK, Sweden and Denmark before going on to win their ATP tournaments. It was great for our younger guys players to be surrounded by `professionals` in the truest sense of the word.

This has inspired my choice of topic for this months blog….

From Business to the Court….

Bill Gates and Roger Federer…. Surely these guys are different. One portrays a swagger and ‘coolness’ about him from the minute he steps into the public eye. The other a ‘geekiness’ about him. I aim to explore a couple of the similarities between success in business and success on the court.

As with any successful entrepreneur in any field of course they need a phenomenal drive and determination to succeed as well as an inner belief, but there is more to it then that. Maybe these guys are not the best examples as they have obviously got ‘it’ , whatever ‘it’ is; they are extremely unique individuals who have risen to the top of their fields without even a question.

So let’s explore a tennis player who has reached the top 100 in the game after years of trying and a marketing director who has made their way through their business pathway at a reasonable rate and arrived on the board of a blue chip company -my comparison to top 100 in the world, pardon my ignorance!

I gained a degree in Marketing whilst studying at the Louisiana State University in Business and Marketing and one of the big keys to successful marketeers was the system they had in place and the checklist called the 4 Ps:

  •  Price
  •  Place
  •  Product
  •  Promotion

This sits at the core of any Marketing company with obviously more detail underneath. It is clear, it is easy to remember and ensures all are on the same page.

Now let’s take a tennis player.. How many ‘talents’ go astray? How many players ‘make it’ and are seen as `not the most talented`? Are we maybe concentrating on the wrong traits while looking for ‘talent’?

At STA we were recently fortunate enough to have Freddie Nielsen (Denmark Davs Cup Player), Johan Brunstrom (Swedish Davis Cup Player) and Jonny Marray (GB Davis Cup Player) who all have been or are in the top 100 in the world. All are in and around 30 years old and are ‘making it’- they are making a good living from the sport through their playing level! Being around them for a couple weeks and it was obvious why they had ‘made it’. Not through their hitting ability which is of course great, but because of the 4 Ps of tennis

  •  Professionalism – a very broad term I know, this starts the minute you wake up in the morning till the time you go to bed at night. From what you eat to how you rest, the way you look after your equipment and many more…
  •  Perseverance – these players are all in and around 30 years old, the road has not been easy but they `got there` and are still going… The average age of a top 100 ATP player is currently 27 and for WTA 25, you WILL  go through some tough times.
  •  Precision  –  attention to detail from warms up to nutrition to a 321 first rally of the clay court season which is what I counted with Johan and Freddie. Are you taking care of EVERY shot you hit?
  •  Purpose- training and playing with an objective each and every time they go on court. What is your game style? How can this drill suit the way I play? What motivates me to get up every day to trin for 6 hours?

As well as the most obvious P…Practice Practice  Practice!!

These are all clear, they are easy to remember and it sets out a simple system to stick to… Becoming a professional player is a Business, so we need to treat it the same.

Maybe these are the guys we should be following if we want to become a `professional` tennis player, as the pathway is more realistic than Roger Federer and Bill gates!?

Play to Win!

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

www.sototennis.com

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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