Skill Acquisition vs. Skill Retention

 

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Roger Federer at the Australian Open displaying a high level of skill. (c) Pintrest Michael Dodge

“The right kind of practice is not a matter of hours. Practice should represent the utmost concentration of brain. It is better to play with concentration for two hours than to practice eight without.” ~Leopold Auer

The amount of learning versus the duration of your learning is different depending upon the way that you learn. 

As it relates to imagery and visualization in skill attainment, you can’t argue with that fact that imagery helps athletic performance but specifically, what is the best way to conduct imagery. Using all of your senses to Imagine your performance, rather than just use your eyes to see your performance is more effective. There are two types of imagery: Imagining what the task physically feels like when performing it (kinesthetic imagery) and seeing yourself performing the task (visual imagery).

So imagery (rather than just visualization) is the best method but what specifically do you imagine. See yourself doing the entire performance the way that you intend it to be. Rather than focus on only one skill set, focus on imagining the entire performance. Make sure to add in obstacles and distractions. In preparing for our 2015 Guinness World Record™ on Roger Federer’s birthday, I would tell my brother and anyone who interviewed me about my training that “if Elvis walked into the room I would calmly say to myself …. ‘there’s Elvis…that’s nice…stay focused.” In other words, imagining distractions and how I would handle them was part of my visualization. Another one was, if we were a couple of shots away from winning the 1$ million for charity, ‘that’s nice…keep going…stay focused.’

Noa Kageyama, performance psychologist, Julliard alumnus and faculty member, who teaches how to beat performance anxiety and play music best under pressure, references a March 2015 study from Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

If you do the same skill over and over in a short period of time you will pick it up faster. But, like the expression “easy come, easy go”, this type of learning disappears the quickest. However, if you mentally rehearse multiple segments of your performance, a truer representation of real competition, practice becomes more difficult and takes longer to learn but ultimately will stick with you longer.

Kageyama says “We know from research on physical practice, that there are ways of structuring our practice (like blocked practice) that lead to faster skill acquisition – or a faster rate of improvement during the practice session itself. But at a cost to how much of our improvements we retain from one practice session to the next.

Conversely, there are other ways of practicing (like variable practice, or interleaved practice) that slow down our rate of skill acquisition during practice – but lead to far less forgetting or skill decay from one practice session to the next. And ultimately, more durable learning .”

In training for both of our records, we orchestrated practices much more demanding than the actual records. In our 2008 record, we practiced over a higher net – double the height in fact. That way when the day came to do the actual rally it seemed easier. When fatigue set in our ball height lowered but we still cleared the net. In the 2016 record, we trained without eating or drinking and rallied throughout the middle of the night. We also trained at a higher rate of speed and broke our previous record in practice purposely to gain the confidence of knowing we can do it not just thinking we can.

Remember to make your practice more difficult than reality while also doing the same with your imagery and mental preparation and you will increase the retention of your learning. Knowing why you are practicing a certain way rather than practicing without a purpose is the equivalent to teaching a starving person to fish for a lifetime rather than giving that person a fish for the moment.

Make practices harder, make achievements easier.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:
Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

Skill Acquisition vs. Skill Retention

DEVELOP THE “WILL TO LEARN” NOT THE “WILL TO WIN”

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Blog article by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2X Guinness World Records™ holder

As coaches, athletes, leaders and mentors we have all fallen into the trap of trying to emphasize or develop the “will to win.” It sounds good and seems to make sense. It implies giving your best effort, not giving up and trying to become victorious. If you look more closely at developing the will to win, you are actually focusing on things you can’t control. You aren’t controlling the controllables. Your learning, attitude, preparation and effort level are things you can control.

How well your opponent plays on any given day is something you cannot control. Play to play well rather than play to win is what I’ve been emphasizing with the players and teams that I coach. Even with that you can’t always control how you play. In tennis, some days you don’t hit the ball as well as you’d like to. You can, however, control your level of learning. If you open yourself up to learning by controlling what you can control and not focusing on outcomes, but on the process, you will be a better athlete.

This isn’t easy. In life people judge us, whether we like it or not, on our results or what you have done lately. To increase your chances of having an optimal result or performance you need to shift your mindset to one of learning rather than winning. In tennis, on a big point, against a formidable opponent, do you secretly hope that they double fault or make an error? If you are, then you are focusing on the outcome. Focus on playing the best you play can based on what you are given. Have the ‘bring it on’ attitude. Compete with a sense of ‘here is what I am going to do so try to stop me’.

The football coach Jim Harbaugh said “If you’re an individual who’s looking for more work and less fun, you can be a champion.” I’d rephrase that to say that you look for fun in working hard, learning and improving to be the best you can be.

The Urban dictionary definition of the will to win is “the ability to do whatever is necessary in life to achieve your goals in life, sports, or any endeavor you undertake. The will to win is a phrase held by only those who truly believe in the will to do something that others believe one cannot do.”

Interestingly, according to Rob Polishook, a mental training coach, “in martial arts, they don’t differentiate between matches and practice. It’s all called practice. There is an implicit understanding of the process and matches are an environment where players can continually learn, grow, and improve, rather than serving as ‘“judgment day.’” 

Vince Lombardi touched on this concept when he said “the will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” Most athletes enjoy winning and therefore have some type of will to win. But the will to prepare or the will to learn – now those athletes are much more rare. If you put your urgency into the preparation and let the performance just happen you’ll be on a better road to success.

It’s not how well you compete but how well you prepare. It’s not how often you win but how often you learn, improve and grow.

Be prepared. Enjoy the process. Don’t let the score or outcome cap your learning potential.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

DEVELOP THE “WILL TO LEARN” NOT THE “WILL TO WIN”

Be the Best Version of Yourself

rogercrawford-trophyRoger Crawford carrying the Olympic torch (left courtesy Roger Crawford). The trophy my father gave to my brother & me when trying to set our first Guinness World Record in 2007 flanked by the two books that highlighted our records.

In sports and in life you need to celebrate your small successes. Each improvement, no matter how small, will increase your confidence. Unfortunately in our society we compare ourselves to others in order to judge how we are doing ourselves. It’s easy to do. In school we received grades. Those can easily be compared to other children. In sports there is a winner and a loser. In life there is your neighbor’s house, lawn and car.

If we let it, comparison can consume us. STOP. Adjust your mindset so that you are comparing yourself to yourself. You want to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. Compare yourself to ONLY yourself. Now self-improvement can be like a good stock in the stock market. There are days it can go up, be level and go down but all in all, just like a good stock, it improves over time. Sometimes the changes are subtle but the subtle improvements, especially among athletes, are the most important and challenging ones because they often go unnoticed by you. Turn your set backs into comebacks and be resilient when faced with adversity just like Roger Crawford says in his book How High Can You Bounce? Think of it this way. The US Army’s slogan is “Be the Best You Can Be.” It’s not ‘Be better than everyone else’. Nike’s slogan is “Just Do it” and not ‘Just Win it’.

Comparison to others will just foster jealousy, envy and self-dissatisfaction whereas comparison to ourselves is the best thing you can do to foster introspection, improvement and success. Look at the world’s top athletes or world record holders. If you are already the best at something then comparing yourself to others will only be a path downward. However, creating a mindset whereby practice today has the sole focus of being slightly better, stronger or faster than you were yesterday will lead you on an upward path of becoming a champion.

Sometimes in life you are the silent champion with no one knowing how much you’ve improved so make sure to give yourself a good medal.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

Be the Best Version of Yourself

The Four Types of Strength

 

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Blog article by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2X Guinness World Records™ holder

Mental toughness is often incorrectly used interchangeably with resilience. Psychologists define resilience as a positive adaptive process of coping with adversity and stress, as opposed to a group of personality traits or psychological attributes. In other words, mentally tough describes someone’s personality but resilience is a process to handle situations.

In her second TED talk, Jane McGonigal discusses four types of strength in the form of resilience: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social.

Strength in sports comes in forms that may surprise you. The four types of strength are:1. Physical resilience, 2. Mental resilience, 3. Emotional resilience, and 4. Social resilience.

Physical Resilience is the most obvious and most commonly known form of strength. Being able to resist force. Being malleable to flex with stress and pressure and not too rigid to break under pressure. In tennis many coaches and players tell themselves to “move their feet.” This gets their blood going, getting them breathing more oxygen and ultimately is a physical way to get the mind working. Absorbing someones force rather than crumbling from it.

Mental Resilience is the second type of strength. Just like any muscle, the brain needs to be exercised. Specifically, the will to win is one of the strongest emotions an athlete can have. Will power can grow if you work on it. One way to improve it is setting small goals and achieving them. With each accomplished goal your will to reach the next goal is born from success and confidence.

Thirdly, Emotional Resilience relates to emotional intelligence or control. Fully understanding the beneficial effects of positive emotion and the detrimental effects of negative emotion is important to success in sports. What goes up must come down. If your positive outbursts are too many and over the top then when things don’t go your way you can’t help but to react negatively. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson discovered that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine. In her book Positivity, she explains that one negative emotion can neutralize at least three positive ones. You can even take a Positivity Self Test.  I’ve heard that in tennis, for every negative expression of “NO!” we would require 10 positive outbursts like “C’MON” to return to neutral. Staying away from negative emotions is of critical importance to being strong.

Finally, the 4th Strength is Social Resilience. When you connect with someone in person it boosts your positive energy. Like giving your doubles partner a high five after a great shot. This positive gesture with give you an energy boost. The Bryan Brothers do this well with their signature chest bump after winning a great point or hitting a great shot. Even in individual sports, it takes a team to get the job done. In tennis, there is the player, technique coach, fitness trainer, nutritionist/physio, stats analyst, and mental skills coach to name a few. Working as a team with a team that believes in your vision and abilities is important to your social resilience.

Remember that whether you consider yourself mentally tough or not, you can improve on your 4 types of strength.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.
 

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

The Four Types of Strength

Understanding & Managing Fear

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Photo credit: Listverse Ltd


Blog article
by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2X Guinness World Records™ holder

 
Athletes at all levels need to learn how to understand and deal with fear rather than to try to avoid it. Fear in sports comes from two primary outcomes:
 
Fear of failure.
Fear of success.
 
Studies have shown that human beings strive to avoid pain rather than seek pleasure. In V. Nicol’s book Social Economies of Fear and Desire: Emotional Regulation, Emotion Management, and Embodied Autonomy, “…fear is the painfully felt urge to overcome danger in order to avoid pain, while desire is the pleasurably felt urge to implement security in order to pursue pleasure. Together fear and desire constitute the most basic forms of subjective motivation to act.”
 

Fear is the more powerful form of motivation.

Unless you are fearful of physical harm, fear in sports typically centers around undesirable outcomes. The fear of failure or losing could lead to disappointment by your parents, coaches and friends.  You might not be as popular or authoritative in your sport in the eyes of others. Ultimately champions LOVE to win and HATE to lose but they are not AFRAID of losing. They embrace the opportunity for the chance at winning. They understand the risks. They are able to rationalize the fact that they cannot directly control the outcome so they might as well enjoy the process and see what happens.
 
Failures are the steps to success. The more times you fail the greater your chances of succeeding. I know this seems counterintuitive from a confidence standpoint but it’s true. It took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to refine the lightbulb. He sees each failure as simply a “step” towards the invention. He failed his way forward to success.
 
The fear of winning is a different animal in the same species. Winning could put you in the uncomfortable spotlight. It can put more pressure on you the next time around to succeed. It inflates everyone’s expectations of your performance going forward. You can no longer fly under the radar. Change is not good or bad it is just change. So if you have a fear of failure or a fear of winning, it’s ok as long as you are able to rationalize the fact that you cannot control the outcome, so enjoy the process and deal with the outcome, whether losing or winning, when it comes.
 
Compete like a wolf. Wolves rarely have or show fear. Understand and put fear in its rightful place. You do not need to protect yourself from what others think , what you will feel or what the outcome might be. Focus on controlling the controllables rather than worrying about the outcome and everything else will fall into place.
 
I believe in the motto of Special Olympics which I learned when volunteering at the 1995 Special Olympics World Games at Yale University: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
 
I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.
 

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

Understanding & Managing Fear

I think I can. I know I will. I just did.

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Andy Murray is enjoying the time of his life. Credit: BARCROFT IMAGES.

Blog article by article by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

Self belief is one of the most important things to success in athletics, to building confidence and to achieving your goals. Andy Murray has displayed that admirable quality as he just captured the #1 world ranking in professional tennis for the first time in his career.

I was hitting a wall with a young teenage high school tennis player and needed a breakthrough for him. He had confidence but not in the right way. When he played matches he would be over confident and over hit. He needed to be present with his thoughts and emotions. He needed to find the right balance between confidence and over confidence, between confidence and humbleness.

So I pulled him up to the net to challenge his intellect and created a quote to inspire him. I told him “Your past successes give you the confidence that you can. Your past failures give you the humility that you can’t. But if you BELIEVE you will.”

When setting my first Guinness World Record in 2008, I prewrote a press release as if the story was already been published and the record already been broken. Then I reread it until I believed it. This helped me not only visualize the outcome but also helped me bolster my confidence. I used this press release concept to also inspire others to achieve their goals like making the high school tennis team.

It goes beyond The Little Engine That Could which was the popular illustrated children’s book that was first published in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children the value of working hard and being optimistic. You have to first have your dream be achievable. Then celebrate your small accomplishments so you BELIEVE you will. The WTA Tour tennis player Melanie Oudin believed in herself so much she wore adidas personalized Barricade Shoes at the 2010 U.S. Open with the word “believe” on the out sole. She advanced to the quarterfinals as an unseeded player defeating three seeded players only a few days after I met her.

It becomes more and more tangible with each short term goal that you achieve. Finally, when you accomplish your goal and reach your dream you can be at peace to know that you became the best you could possibly be.

Remember that failure is part of the road map to your goals and goals are the GPS for your dreams.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

Our Inspiration – 2 World Records 2 Minute Video
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

I think I can. I know I will. I just did.

Do “unforced errors” exist?

 

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AP Photo/Michel Euler. Blog article by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

In tennis the post match statistics typically include a line item for unforced errors. A few years ago Roger Federer made an impression on me when listening to his post match interview during the press conference at the 2007 French Open. “They don’t know an unforced error from a croissant,”as he was referring to the statisticians. He has just lost a match to Raphael Nadal. The interviewer asked ‘So do you think your 59 unforced errors contributed to your loss today?’ Federer quickly questioned ’59 unforced errors!?’ You try hitting back his spin and then tell me if they were unforced. (For the record, Federer had 59 “unforced errors” to Nadal’s 27.

It got me thinking and my thoughts were crystallized last week when I spent time in Arizona at Tennis Congress and heard Craig O’Shannessy speak. I questioned the subject more.

Is there a difference between forced errors and unforced errors? Are they all forced errors or are they all just errors?

What I realized is that it’s just a judgment call by the statisticians. Errors in the sport of baseball are handled the same way. Who’s to say a ball hit very wide to Djokovic, Monfils and Kerber is indeed “unforced”? They typically are better on the move barely reaching balls so those misses to others would be winners but to them should be unforced? Those balls they normally make. Likewise who’s to say that a very low volley for John Isner is unforced or not? To a shorter player that’s more likely unforced.

And hitting heavy spin to someone’s body, just because it was reachable doesn’t mean it was make-able?

At the end of the day they are all just errors and in your mind should be classified as such. On the sending end of an error your mindset should be to just get one more shot back in play and anything could happen. Your opponent’s shot tolerance could be 8 and that was the 9th shot or your opponent could be cramping and one more shot back would do the trick.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had an epic boxing match known as “The Thrilla in Manila.” Before the 15th and final round Frazier’s ring threw in the towel. Unbeknown to him, Ali was a wit’s end and may have thrown in the towel himself. There is a debate as to whether or not Ali would have been able to finish the final round. Ali ended up getting up to start the final round but his opponent ended up throwing in the towel!

Sometimes it’s easier to get your opponent to quit than it is to win.

Errors result from dips in mental focus, tenacity, physical endurance, technique, tactics, concentration and the will to win.

On the giver’s end of an error (i.e. you made the error) your mindset should be that all errors are within your control. Question your shot selection, focus, concentration and heart. What do you need to do differently than what you just did? On the reciever’s end of an error (i.e. you were given a gift) your mindset should be that maybe it wasn’t an “easy” shot and maybe your opponent is mentally or physically fatigued or perhaps doesn’t like a soft, high or “easy” shot.

Force your opponent into errors by simply making one more shot because most often that’s all you’ll need.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
Make a Donation

If you are interested in my new book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, please complete the form below.

Do “unforced errors” exist?