Discover The Team Behind A Top 100 Player
Do you want to learn the secret behind the creation of a successful tour player? Well that’s something I always wondered when I was growing up as a child. I used to sit in front of the TV with my grandma to watch players like Henman and Agassi play. They were like 'mythical beings' to me- I wondered why I couldn’t play tennis like they did. Their ‘natural’ talent, their athletic abilities and their calm focussed mentalities baffled me. That is until I began the journey to professional tennis myself.
With this blog, I aim to share my knowledge in the attempt to enlighten you on the unseen support and work that goes into producing the best players in the world. Over the years, on my ongoing journey to the top, I have experienced first-hand a lot of the work that players do behind the scenes. I have taken many of the same steps that current grand slam players have taken. I’ve spent hours and hours practicing each week, travelled extensively to compete on the junior circuit, then made the transition to the ITF Pro Circuit.
Fortunately, on my journey, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some world class training teams and get a glimpse into the lives of some of the greatest players in history. In the following passages, I will share with you my ‘behind the scenes’ knowledge and give you some insight into the teams that help our idols get to such an incredible level.
5 Team Members Behind World Class Players
1. The Coach
Their role is to help guide the player in the right direction by creating clear goals and ensuring there’s a process to achieving them. This process of goal setting starts by evaluating the players game, with the input of the player themselves, and producing goals for how the player wants to improve or build upon their game.
As well as creating a clear structure to improving, the coaches of top players do it in a way that is highly motivating. We will visit the mental side of the game when talking about the role a psychologist plays in the development of a world class player- but it is worth noting that coaches can have huge influence on a player’s mental side too. I believe this is a huge factor in how Becker and Lendl have helped Djokovic and Murray in the last few years. Having these two multiple Grand Slam champions in their corners has given them knowledge and a mental edge into winning at major events. After bringing Lendl into his team, Murray went on to win the 2012 Olympic and Wimbledon titles. Coincidence? I think not!
2. The Fitness Trainer
Their job is to guide their player through a tennis-specific strength and conditioning programme that aims to reduce the likelihood of injury and enhance the player’s athletic performance i.e. components such as speed, power, agility, co-ordination and endurance.
Murray’s fitness trainer, Matt Little recognises the importance of meeting physical goals in order to continue competing at the highest level in tennis. "I know how strong he needs to be. I know how fast he needs to be. I know how fit he needs to be. And once he has those stats, I know it is okay and I can back off him" said Matt about Murray. I’ve had strength and conditioning (S&C) sessions run by both Matt and Steve Kotze (a new addition to the Murray S&C team), when I was working at the National Centre. I recall throwing up numerous times during metabolic sessions on the Wattbike!
3. The Physiotherapist
Their job is to treat any injury or muscle soreness and work in conjunction with the fitness trainer to produce an injury prevention programme. I know first hand that Murray travels everywhere with his physiotherapist in order to keep his body in ideal condition to compete. His physiotherapist, Shane Annun, warms his muscles up at the start of each day through massage and also treats any niggles or soreness he may encounter throughout the long tennis season. Many other players in the top 100 simply utilise the physiotherapists provided at tournaments to take care of their bodies.
4. The Psychologist
"Tennis is 90% mental"! This is what Richard de Souza used to tell me in our psychology sessions. Richard is a ‘mental coach’ who has worked with many people in varying professions, but particularly with elite tennis players. His most notable success was when he took Jonny Marray under his wing and turned him into Wimbledon Doubles Champion. The power of the mind has been proven countless times with all the research and studies conducted over the years.
All you have to do is google “psychology” and you’ll be shown a million search results to prove the complexity and power of the mind. It’s an area that I'm extremely interested in, and it’s an area that has enormous potential for growth and improvement. So why not train your mind, just like you train on court and in the gym? Psychologists are some of the most important, but also unseen members of a world class player’s team.
5. The Nutritionist
What we put into our bodies is what ultimately fuels us to function. We cannot survive without adequate nutrition. However, a sports nutritionist takes that one step further- they ensure that athletes perform and recover optimally by providing them with nutritional education and services.
Glenn Kearney, nutritionist to Murray and the lead nutritionist at the LTA, helps athletes by educating them on meal plans, nutritional timing, supplements and much more. With such extensive physical demands on the body whilst training and competing, he states that “smart nutrition can make you just that few percent better…and that can be the difference between winning and losing at the top level”.
…And finally, who travels?
It is totally dependent on the player! It is an issue of money and preference. In 2011, I practiced with Nadal on five consecutive days during the second week of Wimbledon. The team that travelled to help him included: his coach (Uncle Tony), fitness trainer, physiotherapist and agent. By no means a small entourage! Other grand slam players may prefer, or be limited to travel with only one coach or fitness trainer- since , *finances sometimes limit the way that players organise their tennis*!
I hope you found this post insightful! Thank you ever so much for reading!
Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question in the comments section below- I promise I’ll reply!