I really appreciate all your great responses to discover the Mental Equipment most improved player. It was an impossible decision as there were so many interesting and inspiring stories, so I decided to split the award in half, between a female and a male. Hopefully these stories will inspire you to continue investing in Mental Equipment!
It has also been my hope that this message goes way beyond tennis, and even beyond sport too! As the cover story for the US NEWS & WORLD REPORT describes ("Into the Zone," July 3, 2000), athletes, executives, artists, and many others are realizing the benefits of staying in the zone on a regular basis. So while you are working on your tennis game, you are also lowering your handicap in golf, becoming a more confident musician, and learning to become more convincing in the boardroom and sales calls.
Most Improved Female: Kelsey Ross, Alberta, Canada
Kelsey had been injured for quite some time, and it had affected both her physical and mental condition. All she wanted to do was play tennis, but instead she was dealing with back spasms, leg pain, and "just trying to walk each day without intense pain." After some time off the court due to her injury, she decided that since she couldnt perform physically, she would try to improve mentally. She had a long and frustrating history of not being able to beat one particular girl. This opponent frustrated her constantly, and playing her only led to greater anguish. Kelsey decided that she might gain an advantage by devoting herself to completely learning the material in the Mental Equipment column.
About a month after finally returning to play, she entered a tournament. She won the first round match and then looked at the draw, not believing her eyes! She was scheduled to play that one girl that she could never beat, and the source of years of frustration. It was an outdoor tournament on a cold day, and she lost the first set 6-1 in about 25 minutes. She sat down at the changeover and thought about everything shed read during her true dedication to sport psychology, and felt herself getting fired up. At 5-4 in the second, she had a set point. Rather than choke, she went all out and hit a decisive drop shot for a winner, taking the second set. At 2-2 in the third, there was a rain delay for 30 minutes. After warming-up again, she found herself trailing 3-5, 30-40, match point. Rather than panic, she stayed very positive, hit a backhand winner, and fought out several deuce points. She raised her intensity level slightly with positive self-talk, and began using perfect imagery for several seconds before each serve. She began to find her mark and each serve was sharp, landing exactly where she pictured hitting them: "Ace down the T," "Ace out wide." With her additional smart strategies, she won 7-5 in the third!
After the match she remarked, "I had never beaten her and thought I never could." "Not everything went perfect or I wouldn't have lost the first set 1-6, and been down 3-5 in the third, but it was damn close! Everything I read obviously did me well!" This match was just one example of Kelseys overall improvement in the past few years.
Kelsey was able to raise her game despite physical limitations with a bold new outlook in which she decided to take mental skills much more seriously. This allowed her to remain positive in the tough times, and focus only on performing well rather than worrying about outcome. Kelsey won the game with herself, but realizes that this is just the beginning of an exciting new journey. She has also learned to overcome physical limitations with a renewed dedication to mental training. Perhaps Mental Equipment for Kelsey, and many others, is like a fountain of youth, compensating for the effects of age or physical limitations! For these reasons, Kelsey wins a share of the Mental Equipment Most Improved Award for the first 5 years (1995-2000). Congratulations Kelsey Ross!!
Most Improved Male: Stefan Fasthoff, Germany
Stefan was a decent tennis player in his youth, but never good enough to make a name for himself professionally. He was never among the top 100 juniors in Germany and never made it in the top 100 in men's ranking either. He played club tennis in the 4th division in Germany until he discovered the potential of mental skills. He began following the Mental Equipment column in 1995, at the age of 32, and attributes much of his astounding improvement in the past 5 years to this material.
In 1997 at age 34, Stefan began playing his best tennis ever. He advanced to 2nd division in Germany (which has the strongest tennis leagues in the world with 33 of the top 100 ATP players playing in the first division). Then he started playing veterans tournaments (over 35 years). During the past 2 years, he has played a number of international and national tournaments.
His best results are:
- 3rd place World Championship 1999
- Winner Dutch Open 1999
- Runner Up Belgian Open 1999
- Runner Up German Championships 1999
- Northern German Champion 2000
- 3rd place German Championships 2000 (indoor)
- German Champion in Doubles 1998 and 1999
- Runner Up Dutch Open 1999
- 3rd place European Championships 1999
- Runner Up German Championships 2000 (indoor)
Stefan is currently ranked #5 in the ITF World ranking for men 35! He plays tournaments with players like Anders Jarryd, Jordi Arrese, Jan Gunnarson, Nick Fullwood, Goran Prpic and other former world top players. Stefan states that his technique did not change much over the past 15 years and that his fitness is definitely not better than 10 years ago. He says "the only explanation for my improvement is the improvement of mental skills. Finding the mental toughness and the best tactic while you rally for the big point is the key to success. At least for me it is. I hope my email encourages you to continue with your column for more then another five years and that my example will demonstrate how much mental skills can help to improve ones personal tennis level."
Stefans story is about rags to riches in tennis. He now finds himself ranked number 5 in the rankings due to improved Mental Equipment. He is competing and defeating some of the worlds best players ever, demonstrating that there is always hope with improved smarts! For these reasons, Stefan wins a share of the Mental Equipment Most Improved Award for the first 5 years (1995-2000). Congratulations Stefan Fastoff!!
Tour 2000 Fully Booked
The demand for the Smart Tennis/Sport Psychology Tour 2000 was impressive and the schedule was fully booked in less than several weeks after announcement! Several facilities have been re-scheduled for 2001. I look forward to seeing some of you in Europe this summer. For a complete review of the Tour 2000 please go to http://smarttennis.com/smarttennis_sportpsychology_tour.htm
Never Too Late
Maybe some of you are beginning to play tennis at age 30 or 40. What a great idea. By the time you are 50, maybe youll be competing on an international level too. But, dont forget your Mental Equipment! See you next month