I recently wrote a post explaining that I don’t actively promote who I work with. And I don’t. I don’t expect them to promote me either. If I’m good at what I do, they’ll tell other people. If I’m not, they won’t, and they won’t work with me.
My primary goal isn’t to make money. I have a “real” job for that. Rather, I love being able to help athletes at all levels, whatever the sport, get better. It’s a privilege seeing my clients working to achieve their potential, and it’s an honor to be part of that experience and their improvement.
But there is one person who I do want to mention, and it’s someone who encouraged me to talk about our working relationship. So I am. Many of you who are reading this will know Indian/Illinois racquetball player Dr. Alok Mehta. He’s one of the fiercest competitors I know, and has amassed medals and titles across all levels of the amateur divisions, and has qualified to represent his native country of India on several occasions. If I detailed his successes in the sport, we’d be reading for quite a while.
Every client is different, and my relationship with Alok is unlike any other client. Most need to work with me regularly, sometimes a few times a month, and some just once a month. Alok works with me sporadically. He doesn’t need me to teach him how to train, and he doesn’t need me to teach him how to swing a racquet. Alok needs me to keep him driven toward his goals. Once every few months, I’ll get a “I want to talk” message, and we’ll have a conversation that serves as his checkup. What’s working? What isn’t? What are his goals? What is he doing/not doing to achieve these goals? These are some of the questions that might be discussed.
Alok drives me crazy sometimes, but I love working with him. And at times, I don’t think I’m helping too much. He says otherwise. And if he thinks I’m helping, then we keep at it. He’s a fierce competitor, never quits, and HATES losing. Just like me. Are there more things to improve? Yes! But he’s willing to keep working to get better. I love that about him.
A few weeks ago, Alok and I set the goal of winning the Indian National Championships. As a 54 year old, playing competitors much younger than him, we knew it would be hard. But goals should be hard. He lost 11-10 in the final.
Most athletes would be crushed by the result. Not Alok. He wrote me shortly after: “No regrets. I’m actually not even sad. I feel great!!! Thank you for reigniting the fire in me!!!”
That’s why I do what I do.
I've worked a lot in niche sports or with those scrapping at the bottom trying to find their way up. It's hard, very hard. He's a wonderful example of what it's like from a firsthand experience of a tennis player trying to achieve her potential. I encourage you all to take the time to read it.
This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to help the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) with broadcasting one of their grand slam events, the Paola Longoria Experience. The four day event was a testament to the popularity and national visibility that Paola Longoria (in the image above) has crafted in Mexico. Coming from what most would consider a niche sport, Longoria has demonstrated how an athlete can become a household name to those who may not even know much about the sport he or she plays.
What's my thought of the month from all this? For an athlete to truly be successful, they must work hard within and external to their sport. Over the four days I closely watched Longoria. And, quite frankly, I was impressed, not just by her athletic ability (she won the singles title, her 99th by the way) and her ability to interact with fans of all ages. No, what impressed me most was how much time she spent with these fans.
Before and after every match, fans crowded around begging for photos, autographs, and selfies. Did she ever say no? Not from what I saw. After the event was over, she stayed long after every other player, until every fan who wanted to had been given time with her.
Longoria sacrificed her time on this occasion. She could have easily used her influence to keep fans away, to limit her exposure, or to tell them she was too busy. They would have understood. But she didn't, and because of that she left the court a winner on it and a winner off it.
Longoria is one of the most famous athletes in Mexico, and achieving this level of popularity as a woman from a smaller sport says a lot. And it has not been achieved by accident. Hard work, dedication, and significant time commitments have been necessary. It is has been a long-term investment for gains that have taken time to materialize.
Athletes, coaches, and sporting organizations that want the same exposure and financial rewards as Longoria must recognize the work that's required. It's not something that will just happen. Are you going to put that work in?
Last week was a big deal for one of my athletes, as Guatemalan international racquetballer Maria Renee Rodriguez earned a silver medal at the Pan Am Games with her doubles partner Ana Gabriela Martínez!
This was the first Pan Am medal won by any Guatemalan racquetball player, and, as you can imagine, it meant a lot to MRR.
I encourage you to spend a couple of minutes to read her blog about the nerves, pressure, excitement, and joy of standing on the podium in a major event.
This is why I do what I do: to see athletes and coaches achieve their potential.
Five years of work went into this project. Kudos to all my colleagues and especially Adam Nicholls for seeing it through to completion.
The development and validation of the Adolescent Sport Drug Inventory (ASDI) among athletes from four continents.
Winning, Effort, and Sustained Effort - I discuss a passage from Tim Grover's book Relentless.
There’s a long blog post coming up, for which I make no apologies. A year of experiences takes time to explain!
I began competing in racquetball 11 years ago when I entered my first tournament as a novice to find out whether I really did love the sport. Eleven years later, I still do.
Although I have improved steadily over the years, I have never had an opportunity to really train and improve like I wanted to. I knew I was a decent player, but how good was I really? I was also now a coach of athletes, and I was asking them to work and train at a level I had never done myself, at least in racquetball. I knew that if I could do it with my busy lifestyle, anyone could do it.
At the end of 2017, I asked my wife Terra-Leigh whether she would support me training and competing seriously for a year. I wasn't talking about becoming a full-time competitor, of course, but spending more time training and traveling to compete. Something would have to give, and that something was primarily family time.
Competing seriously is something I’ve never been able to do before. Yes, I’ve played in a variety of tournaments over the years, but I’ve done so knowing I haven’t been able to give them my best. Work, family, and a lack of training all affected the outcomes. I hated losing a match, knowing the outcome could and would be different if I had been able to put in the work. I hate losing, but if I lose to a better player than me then I can accept that and work on getting better. But losing to someone you know you could have beaten if you had the time to put in the work… that I really hate.
I was now 38 years old, and I knew that physically the opportunity for becoming my very best was slipping away. No one beats time! I wanted one shot to really play this sport like I knew I could. Terra-Leigh agreed to support me for one year. She’s an amazing woman!
January 1, 2018, began a new me -- someone who was dedicating a large portion of the year to training and competing in racquetball. My life and daily schedule changed completely. With the help of OSU faculty member Melissa Jensen and strength and conditioning coach Chantel Anthony, I developed a nine-month training and competition plan.
I won’t describe the weeks and months of training, other than to say it was lonely and unpleasant. I didn’t have a training partner on or off the court, so the only person who pushed me was me. The gym, court, and yoga studio became regular features in my life. We won’t talk about the planks and wall sits. It was all hard. I can’t really describe how hard it was.
My nutrition changed a lot. I quit alcohol completely. I quit desserts, candy, and chocolate completely. I really mean completely! I tracked my exercise daily. I logged my workouts to set improvement goals. It was an all-or-nothing approach. If my wife was willing to deal with my time away from our family, then the least I could do was take it seriously. In many ways, as an amateur I trained harder and was more dedicated than most professionals. I committed everything to being my best for nine months.
I had a successful year. My training and diet worked, and I improved off and on the court. I challenged myself to play the very best players I could. Some I beat, some I didn’t. But I have no regrets. My fitness improved consistently; so did my power, my speed, and my agility. My weight and body fat percentage came into line. I became living proof that my training program works. If I could do it, so could others.
I challenged myself to play the best, to discover how good I was and how good I could be. For more days than I could count, I trained alone. As I said before, it was hard. But I had goals and one shot to give it my best. And I regret none of it. Did I miss the ice cream, or having a drink, or taking days off, or coming home an hour or two earlier? Yes, I did! But sometimes you have to give up something good for something better.
I finished playing completely in early October, but September was my primary goal. I tracked data three times during the year: January, April, and September. Here’s what I found:
I was never that interested in the actual numbers, but improving each time I measured them. I was interested in the improvement.
As 2018 comes to a close, I asked myself whether I could continue to become better than I am now. Absolutely yes. I’m still improving as a player and learning more and more in every tournament. Having only played in maybe 35 racquetball tournaments in my life, I’m still a novice in the sport. My skills as a player continue to improve faster than my physical attributes decline with age. But the time has come to focus my attention back on my family and on helping others achieve their goals. Continuing with my own athletic goals are unsustainable and unfair to my family. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy.
The year 2018 is one I will remember for the rest of my life. I gave everything and pursued my goals relentlessly. I bettered myself in so many ways. So I ask the question: if I can do it, even with a job, family, and many other responsibilities, why can’t you? My year was not based on my skill level, ability, or because I had “talent” and a future in the sport. Rather, it was based on my desire to become my own GOAT. It came down to commitment and discipline and a desire to fulfil my goals.
I have new goals for 2019, but they are professional goals this time. I challenge all of you reading this to set New Year goals and achieve them. Only about 8% of those who set New Year resolutions achieve them. I was part of that number. If you'd like to discuss how this could look for you in the new year, give me a call, send me an email, and let's talk it over!
In this short video, I discuss a quote by author and performance coach Tim Grover about abilities, skills, and how best to use them. I also discuss what does and does not make athletes and coaches successful.
In this short video, I discuss Tim Grover's comments about taking advantage of success and pushing forward rather than resting when an athlete reaches the top.
My wife and I have really enjoyed hosting professional racquetball athlete Marie Renee Rodriguez for the past 10 days. We spent a considerable amount of time working on developing a training program, practicing weight lifting, spending time on the court, discussing strategy, practicing emotional control, and analyzing her game. It was a busy period but we both gained much from the experience. Be sure to click on her name and keep up to date with her career progress!
In this short video, I discuss a few quotes from Tim Grover's book Relentless, in which he talks about the difference between saying you'll give 100% and doing it. I also discuss the challenge of staying at the top once there.
"No matter how many years I'm in this business, I still shake my head at pro athletes who can't make the decision to commit themselves to excellence. This is your body, your livelihood, you only get a few years to ride this wave. Are you going to ride it or lie on the beach whining that the water's too cold?" Grover (2014, p. 153-154)
One could argue that this could be applied to any of us in the sports fields: coaches, managers, athletic trainers, officials, ADs, owners... the list goes on. I took the plunge in 2017. The water's cold, but it tells me I'm alive.
Yeah, of course I want to be a great coach/athlete! Wait, I have to study? And work? And... homework?!?!
Wait, so it might take longer than a few sessions before I see improvement?
“It would have been useful if someone had told me (about mental skills) seven or eight years before, at the start of my career… It takes a considerable period of time to develop natural sporting mental skills.”
Sir Steve Redgrave, 5 rowing gold medals achieved at 5 consecutive Olympics (from In a Golden Age – The Autobiography; photo Getty Images).
What is Mental Toughness? Jones and colleagues said THIS is what makes a mentally tough athlete:
1. having self-belief in one’s ability to achieve goals;
2. being able to recover from set backs and having an extra determination to succeed;
3. having a high amount of self belief that one has better abilities and more qualities than their opponents;
4. having a high amount of motivation and desire to succeed;
5. being fully-focused on the task even when there are distractions;
6. having the ability to regain psychological control following uncontrollable events;
7. having the ability to overcome emotional and physical pain;
8. being able to accept and cope with the anxiety experienced in competition;
9. thriving on pressure;
10. having the ability to not be affected by good or bad performances;
11. having the ability to remain fully focused even in the face of distraction;
12. the ability to switch the focus on your sport on and off.
Of course, this is all easy on paper. It takes training to be able to do it. That's my job!
Jones, G., & Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2002). What Is This Thing Called Mental Toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sport Performers. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology .. 14. 205-218. 10.1080/10413200290103509.
A quote from a chapter I'm reading by Richard Dean about sports psychology in rugby which is worth sharing. Thanks Richard!
"More than one player has expressed to me how hard it is to leave a stadium having performance poorly, knowing that the errors/s they made are now being relentlessly replayed, montaged and analyzed on 24/7 sports new channels. Being forced to live in the shadow of your own performances can be a cold and lonely place...
Who will help you; out on the field, exposed to the eyes of the world? When it's you and your opponent, when you know that if you lose, you will probably be criticized for it. Who will help you?"
Well, I could of course. Just a suggestion.
A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Rafael Filippini, the owner of Gearbox Racquetball. He has some great advice for athletes in niche sports trying to become successful on and off the court.
We discussed the sport of racquetball, the importance of professionalism in sports, and what athletes can do to boost their visibility. I hope you take the time to listen, learn, and apply.
Closed Captioning is available and sharing is encouraged!
Recently, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Tharon Austen Drake, a medal winning U.S. Paralympics athlete. I wanted to share something Tharon said about qualifying for the Paralympics, which I wrote down at the time and has stuck with me since.
"I missed the Olympics by one spot: I got a hat, a bag, and a drug test. It wasn't that fun."
Clearly, that unfortunate experience of just missing out has stuck with Tharon, and he has made significant performance strides since (see photo). He has set challenging goals for the future and that experience has changed him.
If you're an athlete, make every effort NOW to achieve your potential. Learn from Tharon's experience. Thanks to Paula Costa for the photo.
I interview World Racquetball Tour Professional Jaime Martell (Mexico) about life on the tour, how he trains, and what his plans are for the future.
Stay current with my professional activities and recent articles.