At the second week of major tennis tournaments, there is the interesting dichotomy on the grounds between the great champions of the present and the potential champions of the future. The last contenders for the singles crowns are battling it out in the final rounds of the tournament on the show courts, while on the outer courts, the junior champions are competing for the junior title, while also looking to impress manufacturers, sponsors, coaches, media and fans.
But how hard or hard is it to watch one of these up-and-coming players and properly evaluate whether they will become a top-ranked player.
Rick Macci has been evaluating talent for most of his professional career, most notably working with the likes of future world No. 1 players Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Jennifer Capriati. Macci discusses evaluating talent in a chapter in his book “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available here on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559254/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_0m6Jtb0AS6VHDMF8
Part of the chapter is excerpted exclusively below:
Evaluating talent in my opinion is a real art. Everything in life is in the eye of the beholder, whether it is football, basketball, baseball, tennis, hockey or golf. People see what they want to see. People gain their knowledge whether it be from reading, watching television, their own life experiences and just what they’ve been used to. And that’s kind of their baseline, or their reference point, on how they come up with assertions or assumptions, or how they see things. No one in life has a crystal ball, and obviously if it’s a sport or a field you’ve done for a long time, your ball is going to be a little more crystallized than others.
It’s interesting because I’ve heard many, many people say they have a lot of talent, they’re fast, they’re going to be big, they’re strong, they have great strokes, whatever. People can’t predict stardom or predict how good someone is going to be. There are so many mitigating factors when you’re dealing with children that nobody knows what’s inside someone’s head. There are also too many speed bumps. Life throws you too many curve balls. It’s a dress rehearsal each day. Life — you don’t know what you’re going to get. So to say you can mail it in and say someone’s going to be the next Roger Federer, the next LeBron James or the next Wayne Gretzky, it is almost impossible to do that. But some have an eye, a vision, a feeling, and a gift to see the future.
The main reason why athletes improve is, No. 1 they have to have an enormous burning desire to work hard. If that’s not there, I don’t care how talented you are, some day, somewhere, somebody, it will beat you. If you don’t work hard at anything, nothing’s going to happen. You can acquire that. It doesn’t mean you have to have that at age 8 or 10 or 12. You can acquire that. It’s a long-term process but it still helps to acquire those habits at a young age. If you’re used to things being given to you, or you had the opportunity just because of finances, or someone had the knowledge to help you, that might be why you’re good at a young age. You just had a better opportunity to get better sooner.
I like to tell people it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. It’s a long-term process. Athletes in general, when you’re looking at someone, the first thing you always want to digest is the genetic background, whether it be the mom, the dad, the grandma, the aunt, the uncle. Genetics play a big role in this. It just blows me away that people don’t understand that.
It’s interesting that two of the best women that ever played tennis live in the same household — Venus and Serena Williams. The best doubles team of all time, they’re twins (Bob and Mike Bryan). You see it all the time. A guy played in the NFL, now his son does. A guy played Major League Baseball, now his son does. Same in the NBA. You were great in track and field, and now your daughter is an Olympic swimmer. It’s amazing when you look at world-class athletes, more than likely — and I’m not saying it couldn’t happen — but the genetics play a major league role in your specific athleticism. So that’s the first thing that I look for. Period.
This doesn’t mean that’s a given. You might have gotten a certain kind of genetics that aren’t conducive to your sport. I’ve had people that their mom won the 800 meters and was seven-time world champion and her daughter has those long, slow, gliding muscles, but her ability to get in and out of the corner on the tennis court looked like she had a broken leg. Yet if I wanted her to run from here to California she’d still be running. She seemingly had two hearts, two lungs, and once she got going it was see you later! But she never got that fast twitch. Her brother, who was the No. 1 hockey player drafted in the NHL, got the fast twitch. And he could go from A to B quicker than you can say A to B.
Genetics play a big key in this thing. So in evaluating talent, that’s huge. Just because you can make 20 jump shots in a row at age 12, or you can throw a 90-mile-per-hour fast ball at age 12, or you’re No. 1 in the United States at age 12 in tennis, all it means is one thing: You’re the best in your age group at that time. Or you’re the best in that tournament. That’s all that stuff means. Period.
Now it’s better than not playing at all. It’s a nice start, but you’ve got to look through the evaluation of the result. First, I look at the genetics. How do they move? How do they stop? How do they start? How big are they going to be? Maybe instead of growing up they’re going to grow out. That could be deadly, besides not healthy. You really need to look deeper inside and kind of forecast the future on how the size and the weight is going to affect the movement part of it.
Besides the work ethic, which I said was just gigantic, there’s the attitude. Some people want to continue to grow and learn, some people want to get smarter, some people think they know it all. Believe me, the smartest people keep wanting to get smarter. The best people just want to keep getting better. That’s a mindset, that’s an attitude. You don’t know how that’s going to play out when people get older. The mind always will control the body and choices, and beliefs influence our wiring, good or bad.
We can sit here and say, “I can’t believe this one didn’t make it” or “That first-round draft choice in the NFL, how come that guy made it and this guy didn’t? He was 6-4, he was 240, he could throw it 80 yards, he broke all the records in college but he’s a bust in the NFL.”
Well, let me tell you something. Most sports, as you go from juniors and college to pro, the speed of the game gets faster. Every athlete will tell you that. How that affects your nervous system, and how you make decisions is huge. You’ve got to be able to have a mind that can slow things down, and maybe you can never just do that. That might make you scared, make you afraid, and that could make you then hit the ball late or hold onto the ball too long or affect your balance. Or make you afraid of getting hit. You just don’t know how that’s going to impact you. When you look at evaluating talent you can’t be caught up in the moment. There are all these other factors that go into it that we just don’t know.
You could be the No. 1 junior in the world in your sport, but you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
Look at Michael Jordan. He got cut from his basketball team when he was a sophomore in high school. I’d hate to be that coach. Maybe indirectly he did M.J. a favor and that made him work harder and get rougher and rougher! At the end of the day Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. Period. No one knew what’s inside of him. I’m sure he was pretty quick and could jump and had a decent jump shot, but at 15 years old getting cut from your team — to me that’s huge. It shows us all it is not where you start, it is where you finish. Never ever give up! Never!
To read the rest of this chapter – and the rest of the book – please pick up a copy of “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others,” which is available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?150001094-X99l/7XH5chA2%4063364085-8b8oWs74ZG6qQ The book is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.
The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.
Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”
Said Mo Vaughn, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”
Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”
Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”
Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.