Calling the USTA Mental Skills and Drills Handbook comprehensive is an understatement. Aimed primarily at junior development coaches, it contains over 450 pages which cover topics ranging from mental toughness to giving back to the game, with the emphasis on the practical ways a busy coach can integrate them into daily practice routines.
Edited by Larry Lauer, Daniel Gould, Paul Lubbers and Mark Kovacs, who is currently head of Sports Science at the USTA, the book comes with step-by-step instructions for on-court and off-court drills with the relevant forms available in pdf form on the included CD.
Do you work with a player who gets so nervous that she is unable to perform up to her practice level?
What do you do when a player comes to practice late, is unprepared or fails to work hard in practice?
How do you cope with players who always have an excuse for not playing well?
What's the best way to set goals?
How can you help players relax in pressure-packed matches?
Can the 3R's help with emotional control?
What's the best way to prevent burnout?
How do you change poor body language?
Can you help your players be more independent and accountable?
What's the best way to deal with cheating?
How can you help your player balance tennis with other parts of his life?
Are you able to assist in developing ambassadors for the sport of tennis?
What can you do to foster team chemistry?
These are just a few of the hundreds of mental issues the handbook explores, but the sheer number of suggestions is always balanced by a discussion on the practical way to assess which are appropriate for whom, and how to work them into a daily routine. This is definitely not a theoretical or philosophical book, although it touches on those issues. Overall it is meant to provide real solutions to common problems that young players face as they mature. And there are plenty of great suggestions that would be just as effective for recreational players of any age. The work of sports psychologists such as Yongchul Chung, Kristen Dieffenbach, Russell Medbery and Cristina Rolo, who are the authors of many of the chapters, is not geared as much to the why as it is to the how, making their work accessible to not just coaches, but parents and players too. Most of the suggestions are for the ages 12-18, but there is a section on how to adapt some of the concepts to the under-12 age group.
I hope most of the coaches who visit zootennis.com already have a copy of this handbook, which I was sent for review back in April, but if you don't, you can't hope to find a more comprehensive, practical treatment of the subject. Listed at $49.95, it can be purchased now at Amazon for less than $35.00.
Dave "The Koz" Kozlowski interviewed Kovacs at the Fed Cup tie with Russia back in April and posted this interview on 10sballs.com. Kovacs, who won the NCAA doubles title while playing at Auburn, talks about his junior and college career as well as his position at the USTA.