As he walks into the room, all the ASC Florida student-athletes stare at him. You can feel their admiration towards him and the curiosity about what he is going to explain to them.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in December. On this day every week, Sanchez-Casal players have a group mental session, where they work on their short and long-term training and learning objectives.
Today the dynamics are different since there is a special guest speaker, former #4 ranked ATP player Robin Söderling. The Swede, who won a total of 10 ATP tournaments, may best be remembered as the man who beat Rafa Nadal at the French Open in 2009 and prevented the player from Manacor from winning his fifth straight Coupe des Mousquetaires.
It’s been 18 years since we founded the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, and 4 since we opened our academy in the US. Our mission is very clear: to provide opportunities in both tennis and education. We have helped lots of students to go through college placement process and take advantage of the fantastic education system provided by the USA, which allows players that love a sport to practice it and attend college at the same time. In Spain and the rest of Europe, those possibilities quickly vanish. If you want to succeed in tennis or any other sport, you won’t find any infrastructure or competition.
It’s 7:30pm in Naples, Florida. The sun has set, little bright lights twinkle all around the concert venue. As the first notes of Daniela Denmark play, people stand up from their seats and sway to the rhythm of the song. Just arrived from icy Vancouver, Jonathan Roy and his band are performing and their live sound is spectacular.
The ATP invited Emilio Sánchez Vicario and Sergio Casal to be part of the “Finals Club”, an exclusive club that celebrates the heritage of the ATP World Tour finals, and honors the players who had such an important role in the success of the event. We are proud of our founders!
Michelle Konkoly is all energy and determination. Last summer, the 24-year-old athlete saw her dreams fulfilled when she won 4 medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and broke two Paralympic records in the S9 100m freestyle and the S9 50m freestyle.
Originally from Pennsylvania, at Georgetown Konkoly joined the university’s swimming team. Her life was changed dramatically, however, when in her freshman year she fell five stories out of her dorm window and was seriously injured. She fractured several ribs and a vertebra, damaged her spinal cord, and as a result, was left paralyzed from the waist down.
In the aftermath of the Summer Grand Slams and Olympic Games, today I would l like to offer an analysis of some after event facts. As usual, I will try to focus on the technical, tactical, physical and mental ‘pillars’ of tennis, with a special emphasis in the US Open and the Olympics.
In many of my conversations with players at any level, the mention of “pressure” appears: “I felt under too much pressure”, “The pressure meant I couldn’t move”, “I completely froze under the pressure, I didn’t know what I was doing any more” … These are some of the examples of the effect of pressure, which on top of everything, usually manifests itself at the worst times, when nobody asks for it.
When summer arrives and the school year ends at ESIS – the Emilio Sanchez International School based in Florida – my role as a coach continues. Our student athletes at the Sanchez-Casal Academy, along with other players, can join our Traveling Team, a year round program in which we coach and accompany players to ITF tournaments in the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe.
This past January I prepared a chart for the International Coaches Institute, comparing US and Spanish tennis. Over the last 20 years, Spain has been the world’s leading country in tennis, not just in the number of top players but also prospective players to reach the top.
While I was working on the report I realized that something was changing. I was in San Francisco, sharing my views with a group of coaches, but they were quite skeptical about my explanation. The topic of my speech was the headline of this article.