The Keys to Peak Performance
I was once given the unique opportunity to fly as a guest of the Blue Angels in an F-18 Hornet and the pilot became a very close friend of mine. It has been 14 years since that flight, but former Lt. Scott Beare (Yogi) and I often talk about what it takes to be the best of the best and that means number one!
As we exchange stories it became very clear that there are certain factors that are very much the same between a Blue Angel pilot and a top tennis player. In both positions you must sustain peak performance! It may seem simple, but to achieve it demands constant maintenance. To win again and again requires everyone on the team to not only do their job, but at times makes adjustments and even changes.
Each job has roles and duties that create a team. For the Blue Angels they have the maintenance crew, physical fitness, nutritional guidance, and daily meetings of the pilots and their leaders. For tennis you have the coach, the stringer, the physical director, the parents, and the player. In both jobs it is vital that everyone on the team does their position and responsibilities in order to achieve peak performance.
Like everything in life, when something is gained, something is lost. You must be willing to give up certain things in life in order to rise to the top and excel. It is important to remember that you are a source of peak performance. Replenishing each source is essential. You cannot expect everything to workout perfectly without taking some direction for yourself. The benefits gained from peak performance require:
- Proper rest
- A balanced diet
- A suitable workout that you will need for your activity
- Making adjustments to your technique and lifestyle
- Willingness to analyze yourself and make changes or take new path
A prime example of this is Pete Sampras. Sampras was on the best young fourteen-year-old players in our country. When he was young, he used to have a two-handed backhand. Of course, there was nothing wrong with his technique since he was competing so well. Yet, one day his coach switched him to a one-handed backhand. In order for Sampras to rise to the next level, he had to make some adjustments. In tennis, once you stop learning, you will fall behind. Tennis is such a fast pace evolving game, that there is always a chance of someone surpassing you. To be the best, you must be willing to learn and develop.
When a person falls short of their needs, their performance will decline, get injured, and risk entering into a stage of BURNOUT! Coaches, you should ask yourself and your students the following:
- Does your student operate at peak performance?
- Do you provide recovery time for their top peak performance?
You may be doing everything right, but you also may be over doing them. We are all human and it is important for each player to have that recovery time to sustain peak performance without gambling a BURNOUT!
For a Blue Angel, if peak performance falters during an air show it could result in death. If the same happens to a tennis player they lose a trophy, money, or contracts. QUITE A DIFFERENCE! Normal one-week tournaments are totally different from two-week grand slams. When breakdowns occur during a match players often become irritable and impatient, which often results in a loss of the match. What can be done? This is where the needs of the team step in. The support team must recognize and address the issues, because it is difficult for the player to do so on their own. If a player continues such bad habits, their career in tennis will go downhill. Communication is a key-helping factor! It is a role of the support team to assist the player in strategizing new positive habits that will help them exceed.
A good example of this situation is Andy Murray. As a young player rising to the top, he began to cave under pressure. This resulted in outbursts and breakdowns on the court, which ultimately affected his game. By not addressing his outbursts and bad behavior, it was affecting his peak performance. Over time, with the help of his team, Murray eliminated much of his negative outbursts and maintained his focus which in turn helped him become one of the world’s best players.
My good friend, Yogi the pilot and his fried Mike McMillan, give the following advice from the sixth century B.C, which still holds true today, “Without the source, we cannot reap the rewards.” It is important to follow each step required for peak performance because like a puzzle, without one piece it is not complete.
I have always wanted to be a fighter pilot with lots of action! Not having my wish come true, I am in action twenty-four hours per day with tennis parents who think they are stealth pilots themselves. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. With the right approach, if the keys and steps are properly done, players will achieve peak performance and also sustain it.