Friday, February 22, 2013

Lessons from Soccer - "Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football" by David Winner

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner, 288 Pages (Woodstock, NY, 2000: Overlook Press)(Available on 

"There is no medal better than being acclaimed for your style."
--Johan Cruyff, Legendary Dutch Superstar

The great Pele famously called the sport of football (what we call soccer), "the beautiful game."

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Netherlands (The Orange) and its trailblazing superstar Johan Cruyff, transformed "the beautiful game" into something quite special - something called "Total Football."

What is it? How did it come about? What lessons might we find in it for the world beyond soccer?

David Winner writes masterfully about these topics in a book regarded as one of the best soccer books ever.

Brilliant Orange
explores not just soccer in Holland, but the culture, mindset and history of the Dutch which produced it.

Holland is a place where the landscape is notoriously flat, practically below sea level and exists only because a boy once plugged a dike with his little finger.

It is said that this has produced a peculiar thinking which assumes that space and time is at a premium, and thus must be maximized.

In "Dutch space", the soccer pitch (or field) is not just a big rectangle. It's a restricted zone which demands innovation, creativity, quick-thinking and "doing-it-all".

Enter Total Football.

Total Football means adventurous attacking; rapid position-switching of players (attacker to defender, back to attacker); and exquisite speed and footwork. And above all it means quick-reaction.

It has also sometimes meant an almost weird pattern of seeming self-destruction - attacking to the point where you left your flank open for potentially devastating counter-attack.

And if The Orange could find a way to defend a play, it also meant quickly turning from defense back to offense again.

The bottom line: every player plays any position and does everything, and always moves forward on the attack.

Total Football lifted the Dutch into the top echelons of the soccer world and landed them into multiple World Cup finals - indeed, it influenced all of football around the world.

For those of us in tennis, what lessons might the related sport of soccer and the Total Football model teach us?

**Like soccer, tennis is ultimately a game of the human feet! In both sports, the relationship of the foot and the ball is the key to court footwork and spacing to the ball. 

**Like soccer, tennis is a game of moving forward and attacking, creating angles and dominating a confined space - the rectangle of the court. 

**Like Total Football, winning tennis is about the "All-Court" game. It means playing well at all positions - baseline, mid-court, and net - and transitioning between them all well. 

**And like Total Football, winning tennis means, when necessary, moving from offense to defense - and then turning defense back quickly into offense.

Soccer's take-away lesson for us in tennis is this: Total Football and "All-Court" Tennis are sports brothers!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Tennis Tip of the Day: The Return of Serve

"The biggest mistake that club players make on their return of serve is that they try to do too much with it. Get the ball back in play!

The return of serve is already a difficult shot. It comes at you at different speeds, different angles, and with different spins than other shots. Don't make things worse by forcing spectacular returns.

One winner can't compete with two or three misses. Your opponent should have to work for their points, not have them handed to them.

So chip it, slice it, punch it. Do whatever you have to do to get the ball in play, and start the point. Your competition will never miss if you don't give them a chance to.

Keep this mind the next time you're staring down the barrel of a serve and you'll be breaking them in no time."

--Keith Fox, USPTA Certified Pro Instructor
Springton Tennis Club, Springton, PA USA
"Pro's Corner", Newsletter Jan.- Feb. 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tennis Quote of the Day: Tennis is About Real Estate

"In tennis, we're in the real estate business. You always want to earn real estate - you don't want to give it away. It's very important . . . that you always have the ability to move in. The best players always control the inside." 

--Coach Yann Auzoux
Fifth Set International, Inc.

*From You Tube Video:  

Learn to Return Like Federer,
Published Jan. 20, 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tennis and Aging

"One of the great benefits of tennis relative to other sports is that you can play it for a lifetime. But playing tennis matches well into your later years comes with . . . loss of function - increasing physical weakness, slowed foot-speed, reduced visual acuity  and a host of other un-pleasantries . . . [But] if you are able to stay rational and practical about your tennis as you age, you can take advantage of its many positives: 

1. You will be emotionally more mature and controlled  . . . and may thus play even better.
2. You will have better perspective and be more able to remain unshaken by . . . momentary adversities . . .
3. You will have better understanding of percentage tennis, strategy, and your own strengths and weaknesses.
4. You will get great exercise . . . 

So enjoy . . .  you are lucky to be there." 

--Allen Fox, Ph.D.
Tennis Psychologist and Author
of "Winning the Mental Match",
from Tennis Magazine, Page 70,

(Jan./Feb. 2013 Issue)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tennis Quote of the Day: Rafael Nadal on the Pleasure of the Effort

"When you are fit, with passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer, and enjoy suffering." 

--Rafael Nadal, after losing the longest-ever Grand Slam final, 2012 Australian Open Final