Play the Score?

In a great new piece on espn.com, Joel Drucker talks about Pancho Segura and his druckerphilosophy of “playing the score.” Should you?

Many coaches say, “play every point the same” and don’t worry about the score. But i agree with the great Segura… how you approach the next point should be influenced by the score (and what your opponent’s mindset might be about that). Take a look at his article for more details on this and Segura’s rise from a poor Ecuadorian child to a world-class tennis pro…

Joel – see you next month at Newk’s!!

2 thoughts on “Play the Score?

  1. I have not (yet) read Joel’s piece about Pancho Segura’s philosophy. But rest assured I will do so. However, in Brad Gilbert’s book, Winning Ugly, he definitely espouses a philosophy of adjusting one’s game depending on various key points in each game, and in each set, that he explains more thoroughly in that book. This is another form of “playing the score.” I think Segura/ Gilbert are on to something. It is hard — darn near impossible — to keep one’s mental state tack sharp throughout every moment of a match. It is easier to pick up one’s concentration and intensity at moments in a match that are, obviously, more important than others. In fact, I think most tennis players probably do this instinctively anyway. So, yes, by all means play the score. I don’t think human beings can naturally do differently anyway.

    Marty – and in an email back to me on this subject, Joel accurately wrote about coaches who espouse the opposite…

    those teachers should be banned from providing instruction to anyone.
    – would a football coach say that to the defense… “just line up the same no matter what the down”
    – or in baseball, tell a pitcher, “pitch the same no matter what the count”

    yet another reason our sport suffers. jd

  2. George, I don’t know for sure what the basis is for the coaches who espouse the “play every point the same” philosophy, but I suspect it is something like this: “I know deep inside that you, my pupil, will never be able to play every point with the same intensity, because that is just not human nature. But the downside to telling you to differentiate points and play some of them differently than others is that (1) you may misinterpret that as an excuse to be lazy at times when you cannot afford to be lazy, and (2) I really don’t think you can be trusted to think for yourself on this so I am just going to tell you to try 120% at all times.” With a beginner or novice player, or a junior, I suppose that “keeping it simple, stupid” with that kind of mantra may serve certain purposes, but it is pretty insulting to any good player or, indeed, anybody with a reasonbly decent head on his or her shoulders to be talked down to like that by a coach. Most importantly, this game is not just about forehands, backhands, volleys, serves and overheads. It is a highly mental game — more so than any non-tennis player would ever realize. Time in a time out I have seen smart, clever players with less skills and less athleticism beat the pants off fast, strong, hard hitters who are one dimensional and do not understand strategy. This is particulary prevalent in doubles. So, how is the one dimensional player ever going to learn how to win if he/she never is given the basis to figure it out for him or herself?? Coaches who fail to recognize that deprive their students of the real pleasure of the game — the satisfaction that comes when you encounter major obstacles but still figure out how to pull off a victory!!

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