In August of 2018 I saw a FB post about Maximus Pisani winning a match during a tournament in Georgia. His score in the first set was 6-0. The second set he won 7-5. In tennis, scores don’t always tell you the whole story, but I had an inkling that there was something special about Max’s mental toughness. Here’s why.
Imagine that you just won the first set at 6-0. What happens in the mind next? A lot! Typically, you would think that the next set is going to be just as easy, especially if you’re a beginner. However, I cannot tell you how many matches I have lost after winning the first set 6-0. It’s embarrassing. You wonder, “How did that happen?” So when I saw Max’s 2nd set score of 7-5, I thought to myself, “Hey, this kid is mentally tough!” This second set score actually indicates that this was a close match despite the first set score. So I imagined that at some point during the second set, Max had 2 thoughts: 1) “I can beat this kid.” and/or 2) “I might lose to this kid.”
Apparently, thought #1 beat out thought #2. And this is what made all the difference. When I asked Max about this match, he said, “I knew I could beat him.” So there you have it. Max’s mind helped him win. In sports though, the opposite is also true. The mind can cause you to lose. So I was impressed and had to reach out to Paul Pisani, Max’s dad.
I suggested that he let me work with Max once a week over FaceTime to discuss the mental aspects of his game as well as the other priorities in his life at age 11. School was a big factor as this was when Max began homeschooling. Paul agreed and he and I continue to discuss Max’s progress often.
My favorite thing about Max, though, is his mindset. At 11 and now 12 years old, he’s been willing to try all the “weird” breathing exercises that I have him do. The latest technique we have been working on is his ability to connect to his heart center at any given moment during stress. I provided Paul and Max with HeartMath®’s Inner Balance™ Trainer device. Using the Inner Balance™ app daily, Max is improving not only his sense of calm and ease, he’s increasing his ability to manage through stressful situations. This benefits him not only on the tennis court, but in life!
While Paul Pisani is Max’s tennis and fitness coach, I have been providing Max with Mindset/Sports Performance coaching over the past year and a half. I have seen this young guy work hard – not only his tennis skills, but also at fitness and academics. He achieves straight A’s while working on his tennis game. We do weekly FaceTime calls that get him focused on his priorities of school, tennis, fitness, family, and friends (not necessarily in that order). I honestly believe that these calls have become an important factor in Max’s continued success in tennis tournaments. He was recently seeded #3 in a Level 6 tournament where he won the back draw after losing in a close match to the #1 seed in the first round. Everything about Max’s game is improving; his serve, his forehand, his backhand, his volleys, his return of serves, etc. It’s all spectacular to watch. His deep knee bend serve is outrageous!
I am very excited to continue working with Max because of his willingness to try the exercises and techniques that I share with him. And of course, his dad loves the effects that these practices have on Max! It’s win/win/win!