Goals and resolutions - be careful, they come with a warning

I often feel bad this time of year, a bit guilty really.

As a coach people expect me to have goal setting high on the agenda. Kinda what we do.

But in all truth, I've never been a great goal setter - not in the traditional S.M.A.R.T way at least. 

It doesn't mean I've lacked ambition, energy or focus.  I think I have, over time and for the most part, seen where I wanted to go, what I've wanted to achieve and how to go about it in a fairly systematic way (this already sounds like a contradiction!).

But with wriggle room.

Maybe a cop-out, I don't know, but mulling this over on this the last day of the year, I stumbled across some thoughts in Derren Brown's book, "Happy" (a great read btw).

So, for what it's worth, here's a few reasons (summarised and expanded) to tread carefully as you set your goals & resolutions for the 2023.

1.  We commonly choose the wrong goal, aiming for some point on the horizon that advances our narrative as we set fit.  Check on your judgement, run your resolutions/goals by someone who'll not just blow smoke up your xxxxx and agree.  To persist with a belief in an end goal, to ignore cries of others who tell you your aspiration is unrealistic, to proudly commit yourself to a maverick scheme against all the odds, could be folly.

2. We invest too much and too specifically.  If we stay true to our plan, we will need to sacrifice other aspects of our life to reach our intended destination.  We forget that nothing happens in life independently of other things.   Understand this opportunity cost before your push on.

3.  The enjoyment of arrival is usually short-lived.  When one arrives at the goal, one is still oneself, with whatever tendencies towards dissatisfaction or restlessness that may bring.  So whether your goal involves some personal milestone, a new car/house/job, whatever, you are still gonna have to deal with...you.

4.  Be prepared to fail....the forces of life (or the universe, or fate) will continue to do their thing.  They operate independently of your wishes with no care how S.M.A.R.T your goal was, how positive you felt about it, or how beautiful your vision board was.

5.  We are told to live our lives by focusing on the future and by believing in ourselves at all costs.  The result, too often, is waste and frustration.  By projecting ourselves always into the hereafter we miss out on the present, on knowing ourselves and the richness of the current moment.

I particularly liked that last sentence.

Might even be able to turn that into a goal....

Wishing you and all yours the very best for 2023 and all that it may hold. 

We don't have to be helpless victims of our own stories in 2023. On or off the court!

Losing is part of the sport.

We all accept that, on some level at least. 

The loss of a point, set, match.

And that in of itself is not so upsetting. Singular events.  Moments in time. It's only a game.

What IS upsetting is the judgements we make about the loss.  The stories we tell ourselves about what this loss means.

How it defines me as a person. How it defines my 'talent', my self-worth.  How it will ruin my ranking, wreck my chances of selection.  Who will it disappoint?  What will the 'others' say?  

More often than not, the loss will only re-enforce the story we've been telling ourselves for ages..

"I can't ever beat him/her"

"I'm no good at this"

"I never make finals"

'It's always me who double faults on big points"

So we enter the cycle, we withdraw effort, we become the victim, the 'hard done by'.  And it plays over again and again.  Until, at the end, we quit.

What's even worse is the fact we can become skilled story tellers before we've lost, before the final point has been played.  Picture the player beginning a (emotional) meltdown with the first set in the bag but losing the second by only the slimmest of margins.  Objective reality is lost, the 'inner game' does not match the outer.

But you know?  We do have permission to change the story.  

We really DO.

We can act differently.  

Even out of character.

We don't have to be helpless victims of our own stories.  On or off the court.

6 keys on 'How to be a tennis parent' from Lynette Federer

Taken and adapted from a facebook post from South African tennis coach Frans Cronje.  Exclusive tips on how to be a tennis parent.

1.  It's important that the child enjoys the game and isn't forced into it

"I believe a child choses tennis because he or she is attracted and fascinated by the sport, and that could be through the parents, friends or family"

2.  Discipline is part of the game

"If a child wants to play tennis, then it means he or she has to go to practice and play matches and to behave properly at practice and during matches.  This is not always easy task as emotions play a big role, influencing behaviour and results.  If your child isn't behaving properly, I would not intervene during practice, but discuss it with the coach (afterwards)..In Roger's case, when his behaviour was poor during a match, I told him he was inviting or asking his opponent to beat him."

3.  Parents should go with the flow and not be too ambitious for their child

"The progress of a child can differ in the same age group - due to size, maturity and other factors - thus some children are inclined to progress faster than others in the beginning of their junior career and will later be surpassed by those who were weaker at an earlier age.  I believe parents should not be too ambitious for their child. Our role as a parent of a junior is to ensure they attend their practice, accompany them to their matches, motivate and comfort the child when necessary and most importantly of all, to ensure that the child enjoys the game, and not to put pressure on the child in any way."

4.  A child can start playing tennis from the age of three or four in playful manner

"Roger started at that age of three because my husband and I spent weekends at the tennis club and he just picked up the racket and loved playing against the wall, at home against the cupboard.  He could play for hours by himself. Later he played with friends on the road with a mini-tennis net and a soft ball"

5.  A parent plays a very important role

"Without the support and guidance of a parent it will be difficult for a junior to succeed.  

6.  These are the worst mistakes you can make as a tennis parent

"To force the child to play and to intervene too much"

Episode 8 of the Curious Cows podcast with Simon Wheatley, Coach Education and Player Development Consultant


I'd be delighted if you are able to spend half an hour or so of your precious time listening to Episode 8 of the Curious Cows podcast with Simon Wheatley, Coach Education and Player Development Consultant.  Simon is the archetypal 'Curious Cow' constantly challenging herd wisdom in all he does.  Here we have a wide ranging discussion on the tennis (and particularly coaching) industry and with so much on the agenda we did it in two parts.

Here is part 1 (you can also find it on your favourite podcast app - google, apple, spotify)

Thank you so much,


What's in our control?

We often talk about 'control the controllables' right?

So what can we control?  Here's 10 for starters:

1.  Stand up straight with your shoulders back (open yourself up to the world)

2.  Keep showing up

3.  Judge less, encourage more

4.  Empty the tank (give 100% of what you've got on the day)

5.  Stick to your principles

6.  Keep listening and learning 

7.  Park the ego 

8.  Smile more

9.  Catch your self-talk (notice the language and change the tone)

10.  Run for every darn ball

Talking less about the winning

I follow 'The Daily Stoic - ancient wisdom for everyday life'.

Very much recommend it.

Lifted directly from yesterday's post:

'It's a strange paradox.  The people who are most successful in life, who accomplish the most, who dominate their professions don't care that much about winning.  Certainly they talk about it less.

How could that be?

It's that they are after something higher than that.  Their goal is to "be best".  Not the best, but best.  They're after mastery - self-mastery.  They're after maximising their potential.

Winning is like being rich.  It's nice, but it's not something in your control, day to day.  What is in your control is showing up, giving maximum effort, following your training, sticking to your principles, pursuing your calling.  It that translates to on the field success, great - in fact it almost always does.  If that translates into career recognition, awesome - and again, it usually does.  But sometimes so does the opposite of those things.

So that's why we, as Stoics, hold ourselves to a higher standard.  We measure ourselves with an internal scorecard.  Trusting in that, we know the rest will take care of itself.'

The difficulty in 'climbing'

Reaching a personal summit involves a climb.  

As does achieving any goal.

A goal wouldn't be a goal if it wasn't a genuine stretch and not just the logical next step.

So you gotta get your thermos, boots, ropes, harness, carabiners and start.

And tip number 1 is....

Stop looking at everyone else....the climb itself is tough enough.

Overcoming fear

One of our biggest fears is that of the 'unknown'.

But weirdly, that's why we compete.  Because we don't know the outcome.  

That's the attraction.

The buzz.

The nerves.

The feeling in the pit of the stomach.

The heavy legs.

The risk of 'loss'.

The fear of losing.

THIS 'fear' we have to embrace.

And how do we do this?

Well looking back to yesterday's post, let's start with 'standing up straight with your shoulders back!'

As Jordan Peterson says,'to stand up straight with your shoulders back is to open yourself up to the world.  You're not in a defensive crouch of a prey animal....but in a 'bring it on manner', not precisely combative, but let's say courageous. And your posture announces that.  It doesn't just announce that to other people, it announces that to yourself, and it can be one of those things that can start a virtuous cycle occurring.'

Just so happens of course that courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it.

The first few lines of 'everyball' read:

'We are committed to fight for everyball, to run down everyball, and to play everyball with courageous purpose.'

May today be filled with courageous purpose for you.

Some thoughts on 'winning'

You play the game to win. 

Yes, that's the objective of most games.

But how we 'play to win' becomes so very important.

So while you play, play in a way so that you get better at playing the game.

You want to push yourself because that's how you get better, so you need 'competition' to push yourself.

You need the risk of loss.

But here's an even better way of thinking about it....you play the game so you don't only get better at the game, but that you get better at the entire set of games (life).

And that's what you do when you are a 'good sport'.

You want to be pushed so that you will make the effort necessary to remove what's useless about yourself and to help foster the growth of what's useful.

And if you do that, then you get the joy of participating in the game towards victory, but the extra joy of building yourself more and more strongly at the same time.

Life is not a game.  It's a series of games, a series of diverse games.


Play nobly.

Pay attention to your team-mates.

Respect your opponent(s)..

Pass the damn puck (ice-hockey) so they get a chance to score.  

Even if you are the best player on the team, help your team-mates develop.

Don't grandstand.

If you have the opportunity to beat your opponent 20 to 1 in goals, maybe after you are up 7-1, back off a bit.

You don't have to humiliate your opponent.

(From Jordan Peterson - Rule number 1 ' Stand up straight with your shoulders back')


Wanting the 'outcome' but not prepared to be part of the 'process'

I think I picked this up from a recent Judy Murray post somewhere on social media.

The idea that we might be wanting the outcome but not being prepared to be part of the process.

I love the idea of being able to play the guitar - an outcome.  

So I tried it.


I was horrible. My sausage fingers got in the way.  It was hard.

So I quit.  I was not prepared to stick at the process.  Even for a second session!  I clearly didn't want it 'that' badly.

So how badly do you want it?

Whatever your 'outcome goal' is?

Are you prepared to hit that basket of serves 3 times a week, off you own back, when the wind is blowing a gale it and it's crappy out?

That extra run, session in the gym, skipping rope, warm-up/cool down with quality? 

Eat well. Rest well?

Are you prepared to sacrifice?

Have you got the P.R.I.D.E?

The Personal





And if you don't know what it takes, that's the job of the coach, the parent, the teacher - to show the way, to articulate the journey, to create the buy-in.

But ultimately, it's water and horses.