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Is Your Young Elite Athlete Working With Wrong Coach?

Posted by: Dr. Granat on October 3, 2007

Several weeks ago, I got a call from a tennis player who is ranked in the
top 150 in the world. This young man has been struggling badly on
the tennis court for almost two years.


He is losing to players he should beat and he is finding it difficult to close out
matches. He and his mother contacted me to see if I could help him to perform
to his fullest potential.

The young athlete is quite upset about his poor showings in tournaments.
His mother is worried and they seem to be at wit’s end as to what they need
to do or change to elevate this young man’s tennis game.

He sounds like he loves the sport, enjoys competing and he appears to
have some of the right physical qualities to do well at this sport. He is six feet
three inches tall, weighs one hundred and eighty five pounds and can serve over
one hundred and thirty miles per hour. He works hard at practicing and at
physical training, but his ranking is slipping and he is now lacking confidence when
he steps on the court to compete. In addition, he is easily frustrated and loses
his focus and concentration once he gets behind in his match.

It appears that this young tennis players needs some work on the mental aspects
of his game. I recommended he listen to my Stay In The Zone program.

However, in talking to serious athletes, I always try to assess the quality
of the relationship between the athlete, the parents, the coach and, in some instances,
the athlete’s agent. I had a suspicion that there was a problem with his coach that
was contributing to his poor performances.

Frequently, when counseling elite young athletes, I discover that the
members of his or her team are in conflict and not on the same page.

In the case of this tennis player, he told me that his coach does not communicate
very well with him. A lack of communication between an athlete and his or her
coach, is a prescription for failure.

Interestingly, when I raised the idea of switching coaches, my patient told
me that he and him mother had been thinking about if for quite some time.

Similarly, several months ago, I counseled a young softball player. I suggested to
him and to his parents that their daughter needed a new coach. I tried
unsuccessfully to improve the coach’s performance with their daughter.

After a while, I suggested a new coach. The parents refused and the coach
became quite angry with me. I finally had to tell the youngster and
their parents that I could not help her any longer and that her career would not
move ahead as long as she worked with her present coach. The parents did not
listen to me and the young softball players failed to get the college
scholarship she was working towards.

I believe she would have achieved this goal had she worked with a coach
with a different mentality and a different orientation.

I am not intending to place the blame for bad sports performances on the coaches.
However, it is essential that the relationship between the athlete and his or her coach be
outstanding. If you are going for the gold, you need a golden relationship with your

All too often, I counsel athletes who are connected to a coach in what amounts to
an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship. And unfortunately, many athletes
and their moms and dads languish in these self-defeating relationships for too long.

Sometimes, they and their parents “get hooked on” and “addicted to” the
wrong coach for the wrong reasons. Consequently, their performance suffers, their
career suffers and their enjoyment of their sport deteriorates.

I frequently encourage athlete to interview new coaches. I remind them no
teacher knows everything and that changing coaches or teaches can be very useful
and valuable at times.

Many years ago, I wrote an article about the value in changing therapists.
Like coaches, we all only have a certain amount of things that we can teach and
help people with. Using a team of advisors and consultants is good advice for top
athletes and for people who want to be top achievers. Top players change coaches
all the time.

Furthermore, flexibility and openness tend to be good mind sets for all people
who are trying to better their performance and better their lives.

Over the years, I have frequently reminded patients of these two thoughts.
1. “You can either bend or break.”
2. “Your mind is like a parachute. It works best when it is open.”

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is the Founder of
He can be reached at 888 580-ZONE. Or at

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