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August 1, 2003
Mental toughness for juniors


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Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION.  Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics.  Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001

Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
Mental toughness for juniors

Welcome to Tom's Online Tennis Lesson, sponsored by TennisWarrior.com, "Where you can learn to think like a pro!" 

I have been asked many times about mental toughness for juniors. Questions like, "do you have any special material for juniors? How old should a child be before you teach them mental toughness?" In this lesson I will answer these questions and give you more insight into basic mental toughness. 

To begin, I have taught mental toughness principles to children ages 7, 12, 16, 24, 40, 55, and older! :) Yes, as you know, some adults are like children. At times, I'm sure I'm no exception! 

Basic mental toughness can be taught to anyone at any age. The foundation for mental toughness is learning to take responsibility for your own mistakes and failures. If I am teaching tennis to a 7-year-old child, I immediately begin orienting the child to mistakes and failures as part of the learning process. I do not make an issue out of failing. In fact, I encourage it! My desire is that the child understands that it's okay to take a swing and miss. Why? Because that's the EXACT mental attitude pros have mastered from years of practice. But, by the time you see them on television they are making a higher percentage of their shots. As a result you are not aware of the years of mental training they endured through their many failures. 


Parents obviously can teach their child at an early age to handle failures and mistakes in any endeavor the child may pursue. Even if it's just learning how to walk! By doing this you are teaching them basic mental toughness. This sets the stage for the child to eventually learn some advanced mental toughness. Advanced skills like learning to cope with the up and down emotional roller coaster inherent in match play. How is a child or adult going to handle these ups and downs in a match when they have not yet learned to handle a simple failure? 

Now, do adults handle failures on the court well? No, not many! They too have to be taught to handle failures and mistakes correctly as part of the process of learning and part of match play. I'm afraid that most people were taught at a young age that failures and mistakes are the bad guys! They have in their psyche that failures are bad, and successes are good. As you develop some mental toughness in all areas of life, you discover that both failures and successes ride together in tandem toward your goals. 

Before I go on, let me clarify something that inevitably pops up. I usually hear something like, "I don't want to accept my mistakes. I don't like mistakes!" Well, neither do I! But, I'm not telling you to LIKE your mistakes, I'm telling you to learn how to DEAL with your mistakes effectively. There is a huge difference. 

When I teach players of any age I begin with the same mental toughness principles tailored to their age and skill level. Learning to handle mistakes can be applied to a beginner as well as a top professional. As a result my books and tapes can be applied to any level of play. The material can even be applied to other sports, or even businesses. I have martial artists, skeet shooters, soccer players, businessmen, sales groups, etc. using my material. I have juniors who take my books to tournaments and read some of the simple information as a reminder between changeovers. This is a great idea for many players. If you have trouble remembering an important principle you may want to write down a few of the principles and review them quickly on changeovers. 

Or use your computer to make a sticker and put it on your racket with a phrase like "the next shot is more important than the last mistake." I made stickers for some of my students who said it saved them many times in a match. Remember- whether you're a junior or an adult, the emotion of the moment can easily make you slip out of the mental toughness zone. A reminder of some sort can help bring your waning mental attitude back.

One last thing. In the beginning of this lesson I gave you an important principle that bears repeating. That principle is:


The priority for everyone, child or adult, beginner, intermediate, advanced or pro, is to train your mental attitude, NOT make a shot. Once you train your mental attitude correctly, making a shot becomes a result. If you think correctly, eventually you will execute correctly! 

Below is a testimonial from a father of two sisters, one 12 and the other 15 years old. Both of them have read my book, listened to my tapes and have taken lessons from me. Juniors CAN understand these principle and apply them. If they can, so can you!

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano



"Hi Tom,

Good News!!! Jorden (age 15) won the Champs Tourney this weekend, and she is now an 18 Super Champ!!!

Tom, because of your books, tapes, and on-court lessons we owe you all of the credit, {well maybe 99.5%, the other .5% goes to me for transporting Jorden to the tourney}. She played unbelievably, but not like the unbelievable where it is a one-time thing, a fluke or in the zone. She played like that every time she stepped on the court. She just had great command of her emotions and game approach, for which we owe you all of the credit. There was never any question about her skills, and I have always felt that over the last year & a half, Jorden skill-wise was better than anyone in her division. But, she would continuously beat herself.

Before you started working with the girls, they were both just overly aggressive, and mentally not there. In Jorden's matches this weekend, she just wanted to make the opponent crack, and not try to hit winners off of every shot. However, when she did receive a short ball, she was aggressive, and she would either use heavy top-spin & get ready for the volley or she would hit a winner.

But, the most important aspect of her game this weekend is that she did not get emotionally down or upset when things were not going right. She applied the "2 mindsets" in your book, "The Truth About Winning!"

Now Tom, here's a real success story... Morgen (age 12)!!! We also had her playing again. We decided to have her get re-qualified for the 18 Super Champs, but mainly for her to get some work in. She also won!!!

It's hard for me to describe how she played, she was simply fabulous. Morgen in the past would get upset, mad, start crying, get unfocused and out of control if things were not going right. Today she was totally under control and emotionally unwavering. She never got unraveled when
things were not going right, or when she felt like the opponent made a bad call. She just went about her business. She took out the 2nd seed in 35 minutes and the 6th seed in 30 minutes.

Again, she played to make them crack, and she did not try to go for those wild baseline winners.

Thanks Tom for the tennis system that you have developed...it works!"

Earnest Shaw, Dallas, Texas

Click here for more information about my books and tapes **************************************************
APPENDUM:  I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email.  Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy.  These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips.  They all fit together into a system.  A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.
Click here for more information about my books and tapes


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