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‘Musical Chairs’: The Complexity & Dynamics of Player and Coach on Tour

Aadrian_rattenburys the Tennis season draws to a close, tennis players on the Tour are not only looking forward to a short but well-earned rest before the preseason preparation for another year long grinding schedule but also who do they want as their coach – ‘The Hiring and Firing’ season. Already this year coaching changes by players have been numerous, some unexpected or without apparent logic. Some players have reached for the ‘default’ button and resorted to their mother, father or brother or simply engaged a ‘hitter or sparring partner’ to travel with them.

A good example of the player/coach arrangement and potential issues is Caroline Wozniacki who prefers now to be coached by her father. Wozniacki knows it well as she has been coached by Piotr for many years. Since turning pro in 2005, Wozniacki has had ups and downs in her career and has also hired some notable coaches like Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and David Kotyza. But she’s not managed to work with anyone for a long period of time and has gone back to work with her father, each and every time.
‘I realized that the best combination for me is just having my dad as my coach,’ Wozniacki said. ‘He’s coached me since I was seven years old when I started. There’s no reason for me now to ever have to change again. The only reason I did that was because my dad wanted to stay at home more and kind of relax. But I think we got to a mutual understanding now. I think it’s very hard because I think you spend so much time with a coach, you have to also really have a chemistry. If you spend so many hours every day, if you don’t get along off the court, you’re going to get annoyed on the court. Sometimes it can even be a great coach, but maybe not for you. They fit better to a different playing style. There’s a lot of things that go into it and it’s not easy.’

The ‘musical chairs’ and ‘hiring and firing’ of player/coach associations brings into focus one of the major commitments that affect both the players and coaches on the World Tour.

The relationship between a professional tennis player and his or her coach is definitely a unique one. While in team sports like football, rugby or cricket, the coach is employed by an organization that functions pretty much like a company, tennis coaches are hired directly by the players. This creates a sort of ironic situation, in which the coach, who supposedly is the boss and should have a commanding position, is in fact the employee in the relationship. At the end of the month, he or she picks up the pay from the player, and not from an organization or a company.

A team sports coach can get away with not being liked by every player and the players have to follow the coaches’ directions as they are employed by their organizations. Tennis players, on the other hand, can fire their coaches at any time, if something is not going according to their own expectations. WTA sources have indicated that the ‘average’ life of a player and coach working together on the Tour is three months!

This unique type of player/coach relationship requires a lot of work from both parties. It is almost like a marriage, as they spend a lot of time on the courts together, travel together (moving endlessly from place to place every week), eat together, and in most cases live in close proximity for much of the year. In some cases, particularly in the women’s game, that can include parents! Consequently, as Wozniacki alluded to, stress and pressure is inevitable unless player and coach are aware of that and are willing to make an effort towards preserving the relationship on good terms.

To outsiders, the life of a full-time tennis coach seems glamorous, even glorious. Tennis insiders know the truth: It might well be the worst job in sports.

At the very least, it’s not the high-paying, low-output job it looks like on television. To casual tennis fans, coaches seem to do little more than watch matches from the stands. But away from the spotlight, there’s work to do. A lot of work, much of it menial.

Someone has to book a practice court. Someone has to get rackets restrung. Someone has to push players in the gym and go on the court for as much as five hours a day, often in the sun. Someone has to count calories and plan proper meals. Its 24/7 with match scheduling that can often mean late night finishes and not returning to the hotel until early hours of the morning.

And then there’s the whining, griping, racket-smashing and lamenting of players who fail all on their own, without any teammates to ease the pressure or pain. Coaches bear the brunt of their anger and petulance. They do all this while being away from family and friends for 40 weeks a year, or more, between tournaments and practice.

Often players will look to blame their coach for their own shortcomings, rather than face up to themselves and ‘look in the mirror’. A case in point where a leading player on the women’s tour blamed her coach for losing a match against a much lower ranked player from being 6/1, 3/1 up in the match!

Whilst there are other players who think and act as if they are ‘superstars’ because they are ranked #1 in their country (which has no tennis heritage and/or is a small country) but only ranked in the #200 region in the world!

There’s no job security for tennis coaches. They may have a contract, but when a player wants to end a relationship, it ends. Immediately.

It is also not just the coach but the whole team who are fired, as highlighted this year by Novak Djokovic and Giles Simone.

Some players prefer to have specialist coaches for specific parts of the season, like Stan Wawrinka did this year with Paul Annacone for the grass court season. There has been love and hate relationships like the one in which Tommy Haas fired and hired back David “Red” Aim so many times. There are relationships that don’t last too long and there are relationships that are career long, like Rafa Nadal with Toni Nadal, James Blake with Brian Barker, Gustavo Kuerten with Larri Passos, and Justine Henin with Carlos Rodriguez. There have however been extreme cases of coaches getting fired on the court by the player, during a match or after one match as in the case of Maria Sharapova with Jimmy Connors!
Andre Agassi (who worked with Novak Djokovic at the French Open &Wimbledon and due to work with him next year) made a very interesting point in his foreword for Brad Gilbert’s book “Winning Ugly”, where he said that a good coach is the one who is able to take his player all the way to the level in which he is not needed any more. This is absolutely true!

Whether some players agree or not, the coach’s role on a tennis player’s development is of tremendous importance. A good example of that was Johanna Konta’s improvement under the guidance of Esteban Carril who had helped her climb an extraordinary 137 places in just 18 months (both of whose services she dispensed with at the end of last year). Carril can hardly have been paying for a performance slump, the issue was rumoured to have more to do with his request for a pay rise, although this has never been confirmed.

Konta has now dispensed with the services of Wim Fissette (who has previously worked with three world #1’s in Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka) after less than ten months and with whom she reached a career high of #4 in the world. The ‘official’ line was that the decision was ‘mutual’, yet it is hard to avoid the suspicion that Fissette was taking the blame for three terrible months on the court – in which Konta won just two matches from six tournaments entered.

So, it is back to the coaching selection game, with likely try-outs for interested parties to be staged in the coming months!

Usually it is hard for people who are not really into tennis to notice the coach’s finger on a player’s game, and only specialized media approach this issue, but its existence is a true fact and can’t be denied.
Coaches weren’t always so dependent on the whims of a single player. When Bob Brett, the famed coach of Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker and Marin Cilic, started coaching in 1979, he traveled with three or four players. Brett respects the desires of current players and admires the quality of care a player can receive from an entourage of coaches, trainers and masseuses. Yet he sees benefits in the old method.
“For experience and overall development, it’s much better to have two or three players,” he said. “They feed off each other.” Despite all the burdens of coaching, those who do it are still addicted to the trade.
Tennis is an individual sport, and the uniqueness of coaching is one more ingredient that makes it such a great sport

To know more about the reality and practicalities of life on the professional tennis tour, speak to the Choix Sports Consultants.

Adrian Rattenbury
Sports Consultant & Head of the European Registry of Tennis Professionals

#OneChoiceOneTeam
0330 321 1460
info@onechoix.com
www.onechoix.com

Tennis’s Injury Epidemic; Lessons to learn for Tennis’ elite

 

adrian_rattenbury

With the US Open, the last grand slam of the year days away, a number of players, have withdrawn or retired from warm-up events in Canada and the US in the past few weeks with a number joining the US Open casualty ward, withdrawing from the event before it has even started.

There is another addition to the injury epidemic that has blown up in tennis over the past couple of months, and this time it affects the man of the moment: reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Roger Federer, who has withdrawn from this week’s Cincinnati Masters because of back trouble, which may also throw into doubt his participation at the US Open.

This has sparked the debate once more that players are putting their bodies on the line repeatedly without adequate rest and rehabilitation. The combination of an ever dwindling off season, general overtraining and the increasing exposure to the unforgiving concrete courts, that dominate the circuit in the modern era, are the main causes of players breaking down.

Already during 2017, injuries and illness or other issues have been and/or are already prevalent as can be seen from the following snapshot:

  • Roger Federer (back injury)
  • Andy Murray (hip injury)
  • Novak Djokovic (arm/elbow injury)
  • Stan Wawrinka (knee injury/surgery)
  • Marin Cilic (groin injury)
  • Kei Nishikori (wrist injury)
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (wrist & recovery)
  • Bethanie Mattek-Sands (knee injury)
  • Madison Keys (wrist surgery)
  • Petra Kvitova (hand/arm injury from attack)
  • Carla Suarez Navarro (arm injury)
  • Tommy Robredo (foot surgery)
  • Nick Kyrgios (leg injury)
  • Kevin Anderson (hip injury)
  • Sloane Stephens (foot injury)
  • Sabine Lisicki (shoulder injury)
  • Catherine Bellis (hip injury)
  • John Millman (hip injury)
  • Maria Sharapova (forearm injury)
  • Ana Ivanovic (retired)
  • Serena Williams (pregnant)
  • Victoria Azarenka (personal problems)
  • Sara Errani (ban)

With the US Open about to begin on Monday 28 August, it is almost certain that before the final Grand Slam of the year, there will be numerous players who withdraw or cannot play, whilst when the event starts, due to the sweltering conditions or players already carrying injuries, there will be player retirements and withdrawals through exhaustion or injury.

There was much debate at Wimbledon regarding the high number of match retirements. Novak Djokovic was one of ten players to retire from the Men’s Singles competition, with the tournament experiencing an unusually high attrition rate.

A combination of the pressure to satisfy tournament sponsors, appease TV and Media schedules, win prize money and secure ranking points is compelling players to compete too regularly and in turn they are putting themselves at a far greater risk of injury.

Top 10 players must commit to specific WTA tournaments, exclusive of the Grand Slams and the year-end WTA Championships, which include the four Premier Mandatory tournaments, four of the Premier 5’s and at least two 700-level tournaments. A player has the option of skipping one of the Premier 5s annually, but must enter the one skipped in the next year. It is not hard to grasp what a gruelling schedule that becomes in practice for Tennis’ elite.
In addition, further pressure was added as last year was an Olympic year which had to be fitted into the events schedule. None of this takes account of Davis Cup and Fed Cup which also adds to the scheduling.

The lure of money and keeping sponsors happy puts pressure on the majority of players to play 20 or more tournaments in a calendar year.

The system is set up to make money at tournaments; there is a conflict between players being pushed to make it for themselves and for others and having enough time to rest. It’s an important problem which has not been addressed properly.

The common view of Sports orthopaedic and medical specialists is that the surge in injury-related retirements during play is the result in players entering too many tournaments. The problem is not that they play too much; it’s the way the schedule is set up. Players frequently go through long stints, six weeks or more without a break. Often the tournament play, coupled with the rigors of travel and practicing every day can be too much and most players could benefit from some time off.

The ATP and WTA claim that they have addressed the problem. Both have education programmes emphasising the need for planning a schedule and preparation. The ATP provides full-time trainers for which demand has markedly increased, as do the WTA for the women, though there are many more personal trainers on the men’s tour.

There are the added issues that players hit the ball so hard, the rackets have had such an effect and there is now so much “strength in depth” in both the men’s and women’s games. In addition, matches are tougher on the body and there are few easy ones any more. Players are learning about the balance of preparation, prevention and recovery and rehab. The ATP and WTA would argue that stats don’t show there are more injuries than before; it’s that several high-profile players have had injuries. This catches people’s attention.

The WTA stats over the last five years indicate a doubling of on-site withdrawals. More injuries have been caused by changes in the modern game. There is a need to rationalise the calendar better around the Grand Slams, with constant changes of surface, culture and of time zones influence the body a lot more than is realised.

In addition, players are playing a lot more tennis and it’s a 12 – month sport now. The technology is such that they are more prone to injuries and the majority of injuries seem to be over-use problems.

Similarly, the elite junior players from pre-puberty to late teens seem to pick up the same kind of injuries as the elite groups. There are often changes in the dominant shoulders, with a reduced range of movement. There can be an asymmetry problem and postural changes.
That’s a warning for the professional tours if they allow undue pressure on players to compete. It is a difficult dilemma, but if an authority sets up a new system which penalises a player for not turning up, you have to wonder whether it is better.

The pressure to satisfy tournament sponsors, TV and Media schedules, as well as, to win prize money and ranking points is making players compete too much and run a far greater risk of getting injured. Will the time come when the players start taking the administrators to court?

The ATP/WTA need to take responsibility and put players’ health high on the agenda. Otherwise the situation might give way to litigation, as we have seen in football. It might sound farfetched, but you can imagine it happening!

If you require any legal advice surrounding litigation issues, please do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant
#OneChoiceOneTeam

info@onechoix.com
www.onechoix.com

‘Image is Everything’…………….But HMRC may think otherwise

Andre Agassi was once quoted as saying ‘Image is Everything’; even a brand pioneer such as Agassi could not have predicted the business deals that sports stars have struck over recent years. However, particularly in the UK, it has led to greater scrutinisation by the government and Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

However, despite the concerns of misuse regarding the interpretation and justifiability of image rights, it is perhaps worthwhile considering as a benchmark, some of those who can claim to have valid rights to their image.

In 2015 World Footballer of the Year, Christiano Ronaldo sold all his image rights not related to his club for six years to Singaporean tycoon and Valencia owner Peter Lim, through his Mint Media company in return for a lucrative cash settlement.

The deal widened his image, particularly in Asia where the game’s popularity is growing and thriving. According to Forbes at the time, Ronaldo was (and still is) in the top 10 of sports endorsement earners, pulling in $27m as a result of his image trademark. One of the trademarks Ronaldo has is the CR7 brand, symbolic of his initials and shirt number. This branding is one of his big earners as it appears on a clothing line and is also incorporated into a deal with a line of Nike football boots. Similarly, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are well renowned for their personalised tennis shoes and apparel, comprising characteristically their distinct brand logos and initials/name. It’s this type of branding that sees them get royalties from Nike whilst promoting the brand and their own image.

Another player that succeeded in registering an approved trademark with the Intellectual Property Office was Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale. His infamous ‘Eleven of Hearts’ goal celebration which he now uses as a logo on clothing, footwear, and head gear brings in over a reported £3 million a year from the ‘love heart’ trademark.

The ‘Godfather’ of registering his name as a trademark is David Beckham, who has done so in almost every territory across the globe – Brand Beckham. Perhaps the greatest catalyst for his move from Real Madrid to the LA Galaxy centred around the former club’s policy of dividing their ‘Galacticos’ endorsements relating to image rights 50:50 between the club and the player. Negotiations broke down between Real Madrid and Beckham as he sought to gain complete control of his commercial income. Real Madrid’s fan base at that time was estimated to be in the region of 0.5 Billion worldwide, with Beckham ‘23’ replica shirts the must have item. Beckham instead took his brand to America where his guaranteed salary of $32.5 million over 5 years was eclipsed by the $217.5 million which was amassed through his intellectual property earnings in a total deal reported to be worth $250 million.

However as reported recently in the press, Footballers in the UK earning millions of pounds for ‘image rights’ could be declared offside by the taxman – unless they have official sponsorship deals. Chancellor Philip Hammond has said that HMRC will issue guidelines for sports personalities over controversial image rights payments.

Currently Football Clubs pay players separately for their playing and for the right to use their image in club material. The payments for image rights are taxed at a lower rate. The tax authorities say they are investigating dozens of players over the tax affairs including image rights abuses.

The Treasury last week said the guidelines would set out the law as it stands, citing a 20-year-old case involving Arsenal FC. The case established that players could receive image rights payments but only under very precise circumstances.

It has recently been suggested that HMRC will make the point that only a small number of sports people truly have image rights. That would mean restricting the arrangements to stars with formal third-party advertising deals/contracts.

An existing agreement between HMRC and clubs expires at the end of the season meaning the guidelines need to be in place in time for the summer transfer window.

If you need any advice on registering trademarks or protecting your image rights, please do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

 

#OneChoiceOneTeam

0845-0348984

info@onechoix.com

Game, Set and Batch of Injuries; Lessons to learn for Tennis’ elite

Tennis Coach Adam Lownsbrough

With the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the year days away, a number of players, have all retired from warm-up events in Australia in the past few week with a number joining the Australian Open casualty ward, withdrawing from the event before it has even started.

This has sparked the debate once more that players are putting their bodies on the line repeatedly without adequate rest and rehabilitation. The combination of an ever dwindling off season, general overtraining and the increasing exposure to the unforgiving concrete courts, that dominate the circuit in the modern era, are the main causes of players breaking down.

With only a few weeks into 2017, injuries and illness or other issues are already prevalent as can be seen from the following:

  • Juan Martin Del Potro (wrist & recovery)
  • Madison Keys (wrist surgery)
  • Petra Kvitova (hand/arm injury from attack)
  • Carla Suarez Navarro (arm injury)
  • Ana Ivanovic (retired)
  • Tommy Robredo (foot surgery)
  • Kevin Anderson (hip injury)
  • Sloane Stephens (foot injury)
  • Sabine Lisicki (shoulder injury)
  • Catherine Bellis (hip injury)
  • John Millman (hip injury)
  • Maria Sharapova (ban)

It is almost certain that before the first Grand Slam of the year, there will be numerous players who withdraw or cannot play, whilst when the event starts, due to the sweltering conditions there will be player retirements and withdrawals through exhaustion or injury.

With the Australian Open about to begin on Monday 16th January the majority of players will have allowed themselves three weeks off in December in preparation for the Australian summer. Tennis has no off-season like many other professional sports. So for a lot of the players they will still have been grinding it out in tournaments until the end of November.

Temperatures in Australia often reach 38/40c degrees making it horrible to sit and watch let alone play!

A combination of the pressure to satisfy tournament sponsors, appease TV and Media schedules, win prize money and secure ranking points is compelling players to compete too regularly and in turn they are putting themselves at a far greater risk of injury.

Top 10 players must commit to specific WTA tournaments, exclusive of the Grand Slams and the year-end WTA Championships, which include the four Premier Mandatory tournaments, four of the Premier 5’s and at least two 700-level tournaments. A player has the option of skipping one of the Premier 5s annually, but must enter the one skipped in the next year. It is not hard to grasp what a gruelling schedule that becomes in practice for Tennis’ elite.

In addition, further pressure was added as last year was an Olympic year which had to be fitted into the events schedule. None of this takes account of Davis Cup and Fed Cup which also adds to the scheduling.

The lure of money and keeping sponsors happy puts pressure on the majority of players to play 20 or more tournaments in a calendar year.

The system is set up to make money at tournaments; there is a conflict between players being pushed to make it for themselves and for others and having enough time to rest.  It’s an important problem which has not been addressed properly.

The common view of Sports orthopaedic and medical specialists is that the surge in injury-related retirements during play is the result in players entering too many tournaments. The problem is not that they play too much; it’s the way the schedule is set up. Players frequently go through long stints, six weeks or more without a break. Often the tournament play, coupled with the rigors of travel and practicing every day can be too much and most players could benefit from some time off.

The ATP and WTA claim that they have addressed the problem.  Both have education programmes emphasising the need for planning a schedule and preparation.   The ATP provides full-time trainers for which demand has markedly increased, as do the WTA for the women, though there are many more personal trainers on the men’s tour.

There are the added issues that players hit the ball so hard, the rackets have had such an effect and there is now so much “strength in depth” in both the men’s and women’s games. In addition, matches are tougher on the body and there are few easy ones any more. Players are learning about the balance of preparation, prevention and recovery and rehab. The ATP and WTA would argue that stats don’t show there are more injuries than before; it’s that several high-profile players have had injuries.  This catches people’s attention.

The WTA stats over the last five years indicate a doubling of on-site withdrawals.  More injuries have been caused by changes in the modern game.  There is a need to rationalise the calendar better around the Grand Slams, with constant changes of surface, culture and of time zones influence the body a lot more than is realised.

In addition, players are playing a lot more tennis and it’s a 12 – month sport now.  The technology is such that they are more prone to injuries and the majority of injuries seem to be over-use problems.

Similarly, the elite junior players from pre-puberty to late teens seem to pick up the same kind of injuries as the elite groups.  There are often changes in the dominant shoulders, with a reduced range of movement.  There can be an asymmetry problem and postural changes.  That’s a warning for the professional tours if they allow undue pressure on players to compete.  It is a difficult dilemma, but if an authority sets up a new system which penalises a player for not turning up, you have to wonder whether it is better.

The pressure to satisfy tournament sponsors, TV and Media schedules, as well as, to win prize money and ranking points is making players compete too much and run a far greater risk of getting injured. Will the time come when the players start taking the administrators to court?

The ATP/WTA need to take responsibility and put players’ health high on the agenda.  Otherwise the situation might give way to litigation, as we have seen in football. There could be specialists who would come forward and say “This guy should rest”.  You can speculate how long it will be before a player who feels forced into playing might turn round and sue.  It might sound farfetched, but you can imagine it happening!

If you require any legal advice surrounding litigation issues, please do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

Adam Lownsbrough – Sports Consultant 

Choix

#OneChoiceOneTeam

0845-0348984

info@onechoix.com

The Gift of Presence

Deborah OgdenAs I write, Christmas is still a few weeks away yet already the stores are twinkling with their festive displays and the adverts on the television are attempting to brainwash us, and our children, that we truly cannot live without the latest robotic chimp or Nexo Knights Lego set.

As a nation, we spend a small fortune on the perfect present that will be opened in seconds and often discarded before the festive feeling has faded. Last year an advert from a well-known Swedish furniture store went viral. It featured an experiment where children were asked to write and tell their parents what they really wanted from them for Christmas. The list included ‘spend more time with me’, ‘listen a bit more’ and my personal favourite; ‘tickle me more’. The gift of our attention is one of the most powerful things we can share.

I frequently work with senior Executives who are seeking the holy grail of ‘presence’. We all know someone who seems to ‘own the room’ from the moment they walk in. We recognise those who have that certain ‘it’ quality. Barak Obama has it, Bill Clinton is a master (Hillary is not), Oprah, and our own Queen Elizabeth all exude this quality: presence. Presence allows you to connect and influence: drawing your audience in, earning their trust and compelling them to be a part of whatever you are offering.

Those who do it successfully seem to exude presence as if it were second nature, hence the common misconception that those who have it, are born with it; we even describe people as ‘born leaders’. Yes, some are dealt a better hand from the start, but the great news for the rest of us is that it can be learned.

The secret lies in a wonderful quote from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ How often are we truly present in someone’s company, listening to their every word rather than waiting for our turn to speak in the conversation?

The power of presence is well-documented in politics and a great example goes back to Victorian Britain during a close run general election contest between William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. The week before the election, on separate occasions, both candidates entertained the same woman for dinner. When asked her opinion by the press she responded that on dining with Mr Gladstone she felt she was dining with the cleverest man in Britain. And dining with Mr Disraeli? ‘I felt like I was the cleverest person in Britain.’ Disraeli went on to win the election.

In our busy, busy lives 100 percent attention is a scarce commodity. Think about it today; each time you interact with someone give the gift of your full attention. A colleague at work, your mum, your friend, your child.

We all love presents, but presence is a true gift.

Get to know more how we can help you with personal branding and making a positive impact, or if you are looking for Media, Personal and Corporate Brand expertise, communication skills training and presentation training range.

Deborah Ogden – Brand and Media Consultant

#OneTeamOneChoix

0330 321 1460

info@onechoix.com

www.deborahogden.com

You’re Fired! : The Reality of Player and Coach Pressures on Tour

Tennis Coach Adam LownsbroughAs the Tennis season draws to a close, tennis players on the Tour are not only looking forward to a short but well-earned rest before the preseason preparation for another year long grinding schedule but also who do they want as their coach – ‘The Hiring and Firing’ season.

Already this year coaching changes by players have been numerous, some unexpected or without apparent logic. Some players have reached for the ‘default’ button and resorted to their mother, father or brother or simply engaged a ‘hitter or sparring partner’ to travel with them.

A good example of the player/coach arrangement and potential issues is Caroline Wozniacki who has said she prefers now to be coached by her father. Wozniacki knows it well as she has been coached by Piotr for many years. Since turning pro in 2005, Wozniacki has had ups and downs in her career and has had also hired some notable coaches like Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and David Kotyza. But she’s not managed to work with anyone for a long period of time and has gone back to work with her father, each and every time.

‘I realized that the best combination for me is just having my dad as my coach,’ Wozniacki said. ‘He’s coached me since I was seven years old when I started. There’s no reason for me now to ever have to change again. The only reason I did that was because my dad wanted to stay at home more and kind of relax. But I think we got to a mutual understanding now. I think it’s very hard because I think you spend so much time with a coach, you have to also really have a chemistry. If you spend so many hours every day, if you don’t get along off the court, you’re going to get annoyed on the court. Sometimes it can even be a great coach, but maybe not for you. They fit better to a different playing style. There’s a lot of things that go into it and it’s not easy.’

The ‘musical chairs’ and ‘hiring and firing’ of player/coach associations brings into focus one of the major commitments that affect both the players and coaches on the World Tour.

The relationship between a professional tennis player and his or her coach is definitely a unique one. While in team sports like football, rugby or cricket, the coach is employed by an organization that functions pretty much like a company, tennis coaches are hired directly by the players. This creates a sort of ironic situation, in which the coach, who supposedly is the boss and should have a commanding position, is in fact the employee in the relationship. At the end of the month, he or she picks up the pay from the player, and not from an organization or a company.

A team sports coach can get away with not being liked by every player and the players have to follow the coaches’ directions as they are employed by their organizations. Tennis players, on the other hand, can fire their coaches at any time, if something is not going according to their own expectations. WTA sources have indicated that the ‘average’ life of a player and coach working together on the Tour is three months!

This unique type of player/coach relationship requires a lot of work from both parties. It is almost like a marriage, as they spend a lot of time on the courts together, travel together (moving endlessly from place to place every week), eat together, and in most cases live in close proximity for much of the year. In some cases, particularly in the women’s game, that can include parents! Consequently, as Wozniacki alluded to, stress and pressure is inevitable unless player and coach are aware of that and are willing to make an effort towards preserving the relationship on good terms.

To outsiders, the life of a full-time tennis coach seems glamorous, even glorious. Tennis insiders know the truth: It might well be the worst job in sports.

At the very least, it’s not the high-paying, low-output job it looks like on television. To casual tennis fans, coaches seem to do little more than watch matches from the stands. But away from the spotlight, there’s work to do. A lot of work, much of it menial.

Someone has to book a practice court. Someone has to get rackets restrung. Someone has to push players in the gym and go on the court for as much as five hours a day, often in the sun. Someone has to count calories and plan proper meals. Its 24/7 with match scheduling that can often mean late night finishes and not returning to the hotel until early hours of the morning.

And then there’s the whining, griping, racket-smashing and lamenting of players who fail all on their own, without any teammates to ease the pressure or pain. Coaches bear the brunt of their anger and petulance. They do all this while being away from family and friends for 40 weeks a year, or more, between tournaments and practice. Mats Wilander, who once coached Marat Safin, the volatile Russian and all-time coaching headache, had to be reachable at all times – ‘Hey, get over here, I need rackets, I need this, I need that, I need to hit.’”

Often players will look to blame their coach for their own shortcomings, rather than face up to themselves and ‘look in the mirror’. A case in point where a leading player on the women’s tour blamed her coach for losing a match against a much lower ranked player from being 6/1, 3/1 up in the match!

There’s no job security for tennis coaches. They may have a contract, but when a player wants to end a relationship, it ends. Immediately.

Some players prefer to have specialist coaches for specific parts of the season, like Roger Federer did with Jose Higueras for the 2008’s clay court season. There has been love and hate relationships like the one in which Tommy Haas fired and hired back David “Red” Aim so many times. There are relationships that don’t last too long and there are relationships that are career long, like Rafa Nadal with Toni Nadal, James Blake with Brian Barker, Gustavo Kuerten with Larri Passos, and Justine Henin with Carlos Rodriguez. There have however been extreme cases of coaches getting fired on the court by the player, during a match!

Andre Agassi made a very interesting point in his foreword for Brad Gilbert’s book “Winning Ugly”, where he said that a good coach is the one who is able to take his player all the way to the level in which he is not needed any more. This is absolutely true!

Whether some players agree or not, the coach’s role on a tennis player’s development is of tremendous importance. A good recent example of that is Johanna Konta’s improvement under the guidance of Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia. The 24-year-old has suffered with nerves in the past but has also benefited from the assistance of Juan Coto, a mental coach. Coto, a Spaniard based in London, works with both tennis players and high-flying business people in the City and they have turned her into a better player by making her work out the points with more patience and strategy. The results are self-evident which have seen her break into the game’s top 20.

Usually it is hard for people who are not really into tennis to notice the coach’s finger on a player’s game, and only specialized media approach this issue, but its existence is a true fact and can’t be denied.
Coaches weren’t always so dependent on the whims of a single player. When Bob Brett, the famed coach of Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker and Marin Cilic, started coaching in 1979, he traveled with three or four players. Brett respects the desires of current players and admires the quality of care a player can receive from an entourage of coaches, trainers and masseuses. Yet he sees benefits in the old method.
“For experience and overall development, it’s much better to have two or three players,” he said. “They feed off each other.” Despite all the burdens of coaching, those who do it are still addicted to the trade.

Tennis is an individual sport, and the uniqueness of coaching is one more ingredient that makes it such a great sport.

To know more about the reality and practicalities of life on the professional tennis tour, speak to the Choix Sports Consultants.

Adam Lownsbrough – Sports Consultant 

Choix

#OneChoiceOneTeam

0845-0348984

info@onechoix.com

What can business learn from the Olympics? Part Two …

adrian_rattenbury

To be successful in business – play sport!

In the second part of a two part series, Choix Consultant Adrian Rattenbury looks at key aspects to being a ‘Corporate Athlete’, what Business can learn from sport and to be successful in business – play sport!

Here is a list of skills generally accepted as being important to be successful in business or the work environment.
• Team work
• Leadership
• Strategy
• Tactics
• Communication
• Learning to win
• Learning to lose
• Commitment
• Discipline
• Dedication
• Vision
• Self-Motivation
• Stress Management
• Decision making
• Etc…

Yet how do we learn these skills? quite simple – play sport. Irrespective of the level at which you play, you will learn most of these skills. Most people who do not play sport do not start to learn many of these skills until they start work for the 1st time. How many businesses, office environments and daily work routines require a team effort from the cleaner to the CEO everyone is part of the team. Yet for many people the work place is their first experience of this whereas those people who grow up playing and participating in sport have many years’ experience of these skills before the first day at work.

From a sports point of view, we have many young athletes and many more parents ‘sacrificing’ their education to pursue a life in professional sport either for the fame and glory or the financial gains which can accompany success. But consider this, more than 50% of the players playing on the professional Tennis Tour never win any prize money, none, zilch, de nada! on the other hand to play on the professional tour costs a minimum of £25,000 a year even at the basic level. So yes, you may win $3.5million for winning Wimbledon but there are thousands of people that don’t!

The chances of becoming professional in any sport are slim, yet, anyone who has that dream must try to achieve it, there is no worse question to have to ask yourself “I wonder if”? or “if only”? but this motivation has to be levelled with realism. I made this kind of presentation recently to a large group of parents who were all considering ‘sacrificing ‘their child’s education for their pursuit of their sporting dream (not sure if it was the child’s dream or their parents!) by the end of the discussion the vast majority of parents had realised that they had to be realistic in their dreams and on the other hand look at all the positives which their child is gaining and benefitting from through being involved in sport.

I then repeated the presentation to a number of parents who were pursuing a life of academia, career and business goals for their children (again not really sure whose dreams these were) This presentation addressed the skills needed to have a successful career or business and by the end of this presentation the vast majority of parents were going to look for a sport for their child to participate in. Why? They realised and were shown the skills that a young person can learn through sport which equips them for life, skills that are almost impossible to learn in virtually any other environment.

So what can business learn from sport or what can sport learn from business? There are so many skills we learn through sport that we use in business. Professional sports clubs have highly developed and structure scouting systems trying to find the next ‘talented’ athletes. Business also looks for the gifted and talented. Business is also a major player in sport at all levels through sponsorship but when is the last time a sponsor of a junior team, league or event went to watch the event? When did they go and look for the next leaders, the great communicators, the motivators, the tacticians etc… maybe this is where the next business leader is to be found, the next entrepreneur, the next CEO developing their ‘business’ skills at an early age through sport!

If you need help or advice with your approach to people management, making a positive impact or are interested in being a Corporate Athlete, speak to Adrian Rattenbury or one of the Choix Team.

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant and Head of the European Registry of Tennis Professionals (RPT)

Choix
#OneChoiceOneTeam
0845-0348984
info@onechoix.com
www.onechoix.com

What can business learn from the Olympics?

adrian_rattenbury

Plan for success, work for success, achieve success.

In a two part series, Choix Consultant Adrian Rattenbury looks at what being a ‘Corporate Athlete’ can learn from the Olympics, what Business can learn from the Olympics and to be successful in business – play sport!

The Olympics once again demonstrated the ability of athletes to be able to peak at the right time to achieve the ultimate success – Olympic Gold, yet it is not only those who walked away with gold medals that walk away as being ultimately successful there were many athletes who produced PB’s (personal bests) which confirmed that they too managed to peak their personal performance at the right time.

Is this just luck? Absolutely not! There are many people involved in the development, management and coaching of the athlete, all working together with one goal in mind, performing to their best ability at the right time in the right place. Winning a Gold Medal, a League Championship or a World Cup takes a great deal of planning, management and the total commitment of a team.

So what can business learn from the Olympics. First of all, let’s look back at the history of coaching. Business coaches are the new kids on the block. The idea of a business coach really only came into pay in the early to mid-90’s giving the most experience business coach just over 25 years of experience. The modern Olympics have been in place for almost 110 years and the ancient Olympics many years before that. Most sports coaches have participated in the sport and learned the different techniques, strategies, tactics, mental skills etc. required of an athlete. Most business coaches entered the coaching world as coaches. Sports people generally start learning their skills from the age of around 7 yet most people do not go into business until they are at least 18 giving sports people at least 11 years of experience before the business even starts.

What we also learn from sports science is something which is critical to peak performance. We know it is very difficult to actually be able to peak more than around 6 times per year and to hold that peak for more than 3 weeks at one time. Therefore, we are only at our peak around 18 weeks a year meaning an athlete has to learn to compete most of the year not at their best. More importantly they have to manage this situation so they are at their peak at the right time and the right place – the Olympic final, but in business are you expected to be at your best every minute of every day? Do you expect your staff to be at their best every minute of every day? more than likely, yet we know this is impossible. We expect all athletes to give 100% everyday but we understand and appreciate that the effort will not always lead to the same result. It is quite simply impossible to peak all day every day – yet this is what business expects.

If we can see how an athlete is able to train and perform and achieve the highest level of success can we not input the same ethos into our management and business operations. If you have a team when is the last time you had a squad rotation? when did you ‘rest’ your best players? When did you let the ‘youngsters’ have a go? When did you change your tactics or strategy based on the current performance levels of your staff? maybe never? yet a Premier League team will do this on a regular basis. Why? Because we know it is impossible to be at your best all day every day?
This peaking for performance or periodisation as we call it in sport is what enables an athlete to be able to plan their training, manage their time effectively and efficiently, reduce the risk of burn out, stress, and injury (illness) yet at the same time keep their eye firmly on the task or goal they are working towards and highly motivated to achieve, they understand how to peak at the right time in the right place.

In over 35 years of being involved in professional sport I have been able to manage players and teams to achieve things way beyond their own personal expectations. From junior footballers to full England International, playing tennis in the park to achieving world rankings, from academy teams to first team regulars, not by chance but by planning. I am also the Director and shareholder in 5 companies in different continents and have managed some of these business for almost 30 years which considering only around 1% of businesses word wide last more than 20 years is quite an achievement even if I say so myself. One thing I do know is that I firmly believe that without my knowledge of coaching, and peaking for performance I do not think this would have been possible.
So what can business learn from the Olympics, planning + commitment + belief + 100% effort and application = peak performance = personal best whatever that level maybe it is your best!

If you need help with your approach to people management, making a positive impact or are interested in being a Corporate Athlete, speak to Adrian Rattenbury or one of the Choix Team.

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant and Head of the European Registry of Tennis Professionals (RPT)

Choix
#OneChoiceOneTeam
0845-0348984
info@onechoix.com
www.onechoix.com

Why has the Rio Olympics struck a chord…?

My Choix colleagues would be the first to agree with me that I’m not the sporty type!

Helen StrawIt’s a little known fact that when I was younger I was a gymnast and competed at regional level (and came away with a silver medal – once!) I like swimming and am quite good at it, but I don’t do it regularly. So, why have I got so caught up in the Rio Olympics?

My family and HR are my first loves and I can see so much correlation with the Olympics and both of those.

First of all my family – we have a 6 year old son who plays football, tennis and swims. He also plays a wide variety of sport at school, participates in many sporting extra-curricular activities and has recently run a 5.2k Race for Life. He was mesmerised by the Olympics, our enthusiasm swept him up into a frenzy and he loved watching many different events, he especially loved the diving. He then declared he is going to be an Olympic swimmer – he has a mean back stroke. One of our very good friends completed in the Seoul and Barcelona Paralympics and won various Gold and Silver medals in athletics – our son got to try some of those on over the weekend – cue more ohhing and ahhing and declarations of his Olympic dream.

Secondly – HR, well, how many similarities can we draw between Team GB’s fantastic achievements and how we all go about our daily working lives. We all know that everyone in Team GB will have worked incredibly hard, we probably can’t comprehend how hard, to achieve what they have done. The sacrifices they will have made, the early starts, the relentless training regimes, the right nutrition, not seeing much of their family and friends. That is without question.

How did Team GB do all that and keep going? The desire to achieve the targets they had set themselves? The feeling they knew they would have of a great personal sense of pride and achievement of a job well done? Knowing that they trained and prepared so hard for something that they knew they could achieve if all went well on the day.

Don’t forget the coaching, guidance and mentoring they will have all received. Encouragement goes a long way to helping us achieve our goals. We can also never underestimate how working together with colleagues can sometimes make a project work better.

How many similarities can you see with Team GB’s success and either yourself as an individual or as a Manager of a team or Director of a business? I always say to clients that effective people management isn’t rocket science. Take a leaf out of Team GB’s amazing success story and see what principles you can either apply yourself or within your business.

If you need help with your approach to people management, making a positive impact or are interested in being a Corporate Athlete, speak to one of the Choix Team.

Helen Straw, Director of The Personnel Partnership

#OneTeamOneChoix

T: 0330 321 1460

info@onechoix.com

@OneChoix

www.thepersonnelpartnership.co.uk

@personnel_pship

 

Mobile Phone Fraud – Vulnerability in your Pocket

The mobile phone has now become an integral part of our lives. 

Photo of Sarah BarkerSince the late 1990s mobile phones have become increasingly popular and today, the overwhelming majority of people have a mobile phone. With the introduction of the smartphone – the devices are now even more valuable as they contain such a wealth of personal data. Fraudsters will often target mobile phones as a means of obtaining money, personal information and passcodes.

In the recent Fraud Survey conducted by THIRTEEN, there were many respondents who reported being a victim of mobile phone contract fraud. Most often, the first they knew about it was when paperwork arrived at the house informing them of their new contract. In some cases, the first notification was seeing the deduction on their bank statement. Fortunately, in most cases reported, the victims were able to cancel any fraudulent contract taken out and obtain refunds – BUT, and perhaps more worryingly, they were not able to discover how the fraudsters obtained their details in the first place.

A recent study conducted by an independent UK investigation firm involved contacting the major mobile phone firms and trying to obtain enough details from them in order to ‘port’ the phone number to a different provider. They posed as an account holder in order to expose weaknesses in the system. Most mobile phone providers did not give the necessary security information, but they did override some security steps due to the convincing nature of the caller. Enough information was gleaned in some instances to enable fraud to be carried out.

Contactless payments, which involve using the mobile phone as a means of payment for smaller amounts, were considered very risky by the general public when first introduced – surprisingly however the Fraud Survey did not show this area to be of concern to respondents.

Maintaining strong passwords and keeping a very close eye on any bank accounts linked to mobile phones remain the most important methods of security surrounding mobile phones.

Further information about the Fraud Survey 2016 will be available soon and more details are available on the website www.thirteenresearch.co.uk about other research projects and services.

For more advice on issues surrounding fraud protection and training, contact the #Choix Team.

Sarah Barker

Legal Investigation, Research and Training Consultant

#OneTeamOneChoix

T: 0330 321 1460

info@onechoix.com

www.onechoix.com

www.thirteenresearch.co.uk