THE BRAIN OF A CHAMPION

Vic Braden

by Vic Braden
Contributing Tennis Writer

I've been spending a great deal of time these last few years trying to determine:

  • (1) what makes a champion
  • (2) can we predict that one has the potential to be an international champion.

    I have had discussions with neuroscientists, a brain typist, a tennis playing psychiatrist who has conducted more than 28,000 brain scans, famous coaches and pro players. The bottom line is that there has been progress in understanding how a champion's brain works, but we there are still many unanswered questions.

    I have to go back to my years of assisting with the management of pro tours. I'm currently archiving fifty years of film, over thirty years of video and about forty years of audio tapes. I find that today's champions seem to think like the champions from fifty years ago. However, this is not based upon brain scans, but anecdotal records. So, what are these similarities?

    First, the champions have had a goal of becoming a big time winner at a relatively early age. Two (2), there was nothing that seemed to be able to deter them from reaching their goal. Three (3), they were keen analysts when observing strengths and weaknesses in potential opponents. Four (4), they seemed to have the ability to analyze their own game accurately. Five (5) they seemed to be able to analyze quickly when they were getting the right information from coaches. Six (6), when most players were calling it a day on the practice court, future champions were just getting warmed up, Seven (7) , champions talked more about hating to lose than basking in the glory of victories. Eight (8), the top players seemed to have a unique ability to focus on execution in tight situations rather than to worry about the outcome of the point, or match. Nine (9), champions seemed to enjoy the pressure of tie breakers rather than fearing it. Ten (10) champions gave away nothing; they would beat an injured player as fast as they could.

    When Lleyton Hewitt was down match point in the 2004 Pacific Life Open, I asked him if he was afraid. He said, "If he beats me, he's going to have to hit one hell of a shot to win."

    In a video I produced with Pancho Segura and Jack Kramer, Pancho told the story about how Bobby Riggs was injured and Jack Kramer showed no mercy and beat Bobby 6-0,6-1. Kramer said, "Don't show mercy to anyone. Beat every opponent as badly as possible, and if you like them, take them to lunch".

    Vic Braden is a longtime sports science researcher, licensed psychologist and the founder of Vic Braden Sports Instruction and the Vic Braden Tennis College, which are held nationwide at premier resorts. He has produced sixteen instructional videos that incorporate his research and his coaching knowledge.

    Vic has authored six books, contributed to publications such as Sports Illustrated, and continues to author editorials for several publications such as Tennis Week and Tennis Life. In addition, he has appeared on popular television shows including NBC?s Today Show, hosted his own television shows on PBS and ESPN, and provided televised tennis commentary for numerous professional events.

    His lighthearted approach is endearing, and his motto of ?Laugh and Win? has helped shape the resoundingly positive attitudes of decades of students. In his books, videos, Tennis Colleges, and speeches, Vic strives to teach effectively and connect with students on a personal level, aiming to uncover the ?genius to perform? that he believes rests in every individual.

    Working with famous sports researchers for several decades, Vic finds great joy in passing on new and valuable information. He strives to help students maximize their performance and enjoyment of this great sport in the shortest period of time. In our (thoroughly biased) opinion, Vic is ?simply the best!!!?

    Comments? Contact Vic Braden at vicbraden@vicbraden.com.
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