Definition of success…

Andy Gerst is seen here training in San Luis Obispo at the Cal Poly courts.

Andy Gerst is seen here training in San Luis Obispo at the Cal Poly courts.

Week of July 5th…

San Luis Obispo, CA

It’s been a great week of training here in SLO this past week. I have been getting in one or two practices a day, with drilling and practice matches, combined with a good lift, quickness and agility training, and conditioning drills. A special thanks to Hugh Bream and Mike Napoli who have taken the time and energy to work with me over these past two weeks, along with the months prior. They are great men and great coaches who pour their heart and soul into tennis and working with others…Thank you!

As I put more time and energy into my training and preparing for my upcoming tournaments, I have to define what success is. What does it mean to have success? Is it winning every tournament I play? I have goals that I want to achieve, for instance winning a Futures tournament in the next year, or ultimately playing in a grand slam, but am I only successful if I achieve these things?

It’s important when you set out to try and achieve something to define what success means to you, because success to one person does not necessarily mean the same thing to the next person. For example, in the recent soccer World Cup, they were interviewing a former German World Cup player and coach, and asked what the expectations were for Germany’s relatively young and inexperienced World Cup squad. The former coach responded by saying that anything less than a semifinal appearance would be viewed as a failure for the German squad. He said that this is the definition for success for Germans in the World Cup every year. In contrast, it was the US World Cup squad’s goal to reach the knockout stages of the tournament, or the round of 16. By simply reaching the round of 16, the US had a successful World Cup. Two different countries, two different definitions of success.

However, success does not always have to deal with outcome goals, or goals concerning winning and losing. In fact, by focusing all your energy on these types of goals, it can end up being destructive for your game. You cannot always have full control over the outcome of a match. We all have played matches where you play seemingly as well as you possibly can, and either due to your opponent playing extremely well too, or maybe some unlucky calls or conditions you still lose the match. Even when you do everything in your power to arrive at the outcome that you desire, it is still possible to come up short. You want to be able to have full control over your success.

Gerst is seen here hitting a backhand volley while training in San Luis Obispo at the Cal Poly courts.

Gerst is seen here hitting a backhand volley while training in San Luis Obispo at the Cal Poly courts.

This is why it is important to let success be based on your performance goals, or goals that you have total control over achieving, regardless of your opponent or practice partner, conditions, or anything else that can externally affect you. For example, our Cal Poly team last year focused on our A.C.E. (attitude, concentration, and effort) every time we went out on the court. These three things are always entirely in your control, and you can make the decision whether or not to allow outside influences to get the way of your attitude, concentration, and effort.

It can be very stressful and destructive when success is defined in terms of your outcome goals. You want to be able to have total control over your success, otherwise when you do everything in your power and the outcome still doesn’t go your way, your confidence and mind struggles to stay sharp and in tact. As I set out playing tournaments in the coming months, it’s important for me not to have my definition of success tied up in whether I win or lose. Instead, success to me is competing my best every match, giving myself the best chance to win by preparing my absolute best, and getting the most out of each new city and each and every day. These are things I have complete control over, and though my outcome goals are what drive me everyday and give me something to work towards, they do not define my idea of success. So when I step out on the court, either in competition or in practice, my focus stays internal on the things that I can control, and not on external distractions like the result, the opponent, the conditions, or anything else that I do not have control over.

I leave San Luis Obispo this Friday morning (July 9) for the Tracy Austin Doubles Tournament in Palos Verdes, CA. Check back for updates from the tournament!

-AG

Chico Futures Qualifying

June 19, 2010

Lost a tough match today in the first round of the qualifying, 4-6 6-4 6-4, to a very familiar foe. We grew up in the same town practicing together weekly, played on rival high school and college teams, and now in my first tournament back I face him again in the first round. It was a tough match all the way through, but I found myself getting a little emotional during the match which got me away from my game plan a bit. I got caught up in our “rivalry” (though it has always been friendly and respectful between the two of us), and when I start making mistakes I let my emotions get the best of me.

It’s easy to get irritated or real disappointed with a match like today, but it is so important while you are on the road to stay positive. The worst thing about a loss is you come away from it with good things to work on, which I definitely did today. Being around the tournament you can tell which guys have taken hard losses and let it get to them, wearing on them until they are zapped of all their positive energy. They look like war-worn veterans who have been in battle after battle, walking around the tournament like wounded soldiers. Their passion and energy for the game is gone, their effort starts to slip, and they go from tournament to tournament because the game has become a drug for them. The game takes over their lives and becomes their existence. That is what it’s like for the struggling, road-weary tennis professional.

So it’s my job to stay positive, fresh, and enthusiastic, in order to make it in this world. You have to challenge yourself to be the best-prepared and most positive person out there in order to give yourself the best chance to succeed. Otherwise, you just sink right into the pack of struggling players who never make it out of the Futures events into the higher-level tournaments. Therefore, tonight as I reflect on the match and in the coming days as I prepare for the next tournaments, that is my challenge; to be optimistic, positive, and remember that it is only a game, a sport that we are all privileged to be able to play day-in day-out. Detach from the results, and treat every match as a learning opportunity. Learn, forget, and move on.

Next up I will try to get into the main draw of the doubles event. The players with ATP points will have priority into the draw, and they only accept 16 teams, so we will see what happens. Depending on how that goes, my next event will be an Open tournament in Roseburg, Oregon which begins on Thursday the 24th. Stay tuned for more updates on the road from Chico!

-Andy

Wildcard Tournament, Day 2

June 18, 2010

Lost my first match today in the semifinals of the wildcard tournament 8-2. Just could never really get it going out there. The 8-game pro set format is tricky because you must start off well; otherwise it is difficult to dig yourself out of a hole, which is exactly what happened today. However, I’m very pleased with my play over the past two days. I couldn’t have wanted much more from my first tournament back in almost a year, and as the great coach Jose Higueras once said, “the worst thing about a loss is that you come away from it learning where you can improve”.

Later this afternoon is the sign up for the qualifying, so all the players are hanging around the club, getting some practice in, and waiting to sign up for the qualifying event. It will be a 64-player draw, played up until the quarterfinals, where the eight quarterfinalists are awarded spots in the main draw. Action will begin tomorrow morning, and in preparation I will be resting today, watching some World Cup (and how about the U.S. making that second half comeback this morning against Slovenia!), and perhaps hitting the jacuzzi this evening so my muscles can relax. I will be doing lots of stretching and hydrating today as well.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed as sometimes it can be a luck of the draw (no pun intended) for guys with no ATP points to get into the qualifying draw. Sign up is this afternoon, and the first round will start tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for more results!

-Andy