Nov 15 2019

Success In Singles! Doubles! How About Triples?

The Svantner Sisters – Nicole, Samantha and Jackie – often are mistaken for each other around Clarkstown South High School in Rockland County. They are triplets, so this is common.

On the tennis court, however, the young ladies are quite distinguishable, and they are helping the Clarkstown South Vikings build a successful program.

Nicole and Samantha are a strong one-two punch, an undefeated tandem in doubles play, achieving a 12-0 record as of this past October. They also have not lost a single set in 20 straight matches dating to last season. The outgoing and boisterous Nicole serves as a vocal presence in practice. Samantha keeps an eye on the smaller details.

Jackie, meanwhile, is a singles player with an 8-3 record as of October. She has enjoyed a number of come-from-behind victories, exhibiting extreme poise during tiebreakers. Jackie found her niche and success on her own.

“I’ve coached twins, I’ve coached brothers and sisters, but it’s the first that I’ve had…triplets,” said Coach Ted Mascola. “They’re also a wonderful family, great kids, they’re great teammates, and they can play tennis.”

The Svantner girls have achieved success despite their late arrival to the sport. They each received lessons at a young age, but all three preferred to concentrate on soccer. Injuries (torn ACL, concussion and other mishaps) convinced each sister to again pick up the racket.

“They played soccer, they ski, they golf, and they came to tennis a little bit late, but they’re athletic,” he said. “All the cross-training they’ve done paid off on a tennis court. … I think soccer helped their footwork. Other sports helped their hand-eye [coordination], and they’ve just worked at it. They also have a lot of intangibles like mental toughness…”

The trio plans to play tennis in college. They have toured SUNY schools and other colleges. Their plan is to attend college as a team.

Jul 17 2017

Attitude Changer: Positive Thinking Raises Her Game

When times get tough, a tennis player has been known to fire a coach. It is rare, though, that a coach fires a player. But, that was the case earlier this year when Simona Halep’s coach stepped away from the Romanian player.

The coach, Australian Darren Cahill, has an outstanding reputation. He coached Andre Agassi. When he agreed to coach Halep, Cahill was not aware of her complex personality.

Halep’s game did not cause any issues. It was her mental attitude. Yes, she is passionate, intense and downright demanding of herself. All of this, however, is a bad mix for tennis.

About 15 months into their partnership, Halep’s pessimism became too much for Cahill. At one competition, she called Cahill to the court for a pep talk, but she spent much of the time belittling herself.

Halep lost. Cahill pulled out, claiming her bad attitude was unacceptable and he needed to take a break from their coaching arrangement. The tough-love strategy changed the dynamic.

Halep realized she needed to reform. She pushed out the negativity and rushed in the positive thoughts. Cahill watched from afar. When, on her own with her new attitude, Halep reached the semifinals in a tournament, she placed a call to Cahill to ask him to return.

Working together again with Cahill, Halep defended her Madrid title and became a finalist in the Italian Open. She claims she now is confident and composed, indicating that her new attitude helps her see the game better. She plays relaxed and with a positive outlook.

Similar to a tennis player, each of us in business must perform, at times, a personal mental evaluation. We must shake off any negative attitude and rework our game plan. Whenever we do this, our foresight becomes a bit clearer, we become more relaxed and we are able to approach each day, each meeting and each roadblock with a positive outlook.

Mar 02 2017

Lessons Learned From Sports

The Olympics in Rio already are a distant memory, occurring more than six months ago. Many fabulous personal stories are connected to these summer games and, yet, the one that caught my attention involved a spectator and not an athlete.

Whether he is watching Olympics competition or cheering on the play of his own children, sports always has moved Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group. During Richard’s formative years, mastering grades in classwork was not a personal strength. But he did excel in sports, including rugby, cricket, and track and field. At the age of 12, a torn cartilage in his right knee resulted in surgery and a long time away from the competition he enjoyed.

When he returned to sports as an adult, Richard found a passion for tennis. He never possessed the talent to compete as a professional, but he has been a pretty good amateur player who enjoys the intensity, artistry, excitement and mental challenge of the game.

Richard often has talked about strategy and how the game of tennis can influence a person. He has said that when a tennis opponent is on the other side of the net, it is you who becomes the most challenging adversary on the court. Only you, according to Richard, can focus to perform at your best. Only you, he has repeated, can place setbacks behind you, and only you possess the ability to have this occur immediately.

In an article written by Richard after the Olympics, he stated that the required discipline and determination to compete as a professional or top amateur athlete is not unlike the ability to compete as an entrepreneur. He stressed that preparation, practice and confidence are the key elements of success in sports and business, and that the opportunity for redemption always is present.

As many of us well know, events often move quickly in the worlds of sports and business. To remain prepared, our personal game plans must ensure that we concentrate fully on each unique moment as it develops. Forget any recent success and quickly move away from any prior mistake. Never dwell on the good or bad of the past, because an opportunity that appears suddenly before you will require your complete attention. Should you fail to remain focused, or if you hesitate just for a moment, a fabulous opportunity may pass in a blink of the eye…and it could be lost forever.

Apr 15 2016

PR Lessons From A Tennis Star

The sports world was shocked and saddened when popular tennis star Maria Sharapova announced that she had been suspended following a positive drug test. The public fallout easily could have vilified her as a drug cheat similar to Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and many other disgraced athletes. However, unlike the others, Maria immediately owned and faced the challenge to her reputation, her tennis career and her public legacy.

No denials came from Maria. She didn’t blame the sport’s federation, or her doctors, or the tests, or her coaches and staff. She handled the news of the failed test with skill and grace.

We all know the story. A drug she had taken for 10 years suddenly was unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration. The tennis governing board placed this drug on the list of banned substances as of January 1. Maria failed to reacquaint herself with the list.

Maria’s response should be viewed as a public relations lesson for other athletes and for any of us who might need to manage an internal or public crises for our business. Rather than deny or stonewall, we should seriously consider the identical pro-active steps taken by Maria–she got out in front of the story, she blamed only herself for the mistake and she openly addressed questions.

Maria’s reputation was bruised but not permanently damaged. The outcome was far less harmful than if she had waited for the news to leak and then responded with a terse statement issued through her representatives.

At her news conference, Maria took full responsibility for the mistake and for her choice of the medications that enter her body. She apologized for disappointing her fans and the sport.

Coming out of this possible career-ending circumstance, Maria’s return to the court remains in jeopardy. She did loose several major sponsorships. But, her personal reputation, based on her immediate action, remained solid. She stated that she felt her decision to speak publically and quickly was the correct response, “because throughout my long career I’ve been honest about many things.”

Maria handled this crises moment perfectly, really as best as it could be handled considering the circumstances. We all need to learn a lesson from Maria—get out in front of any crisis and handle each one with integrity.

-Jim