Thinking Like a Pro - Love the Climb

October 11, 2022
Coaches Corner

2022-Oliver Jones Headshot-100
By Oliver Jones
He teaches paddle and tennis at The Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova, PA.
Oliver holds a 9.3 PTI and competes nationally on the APTA tournament circuit with partner Jody Sambrick.

In this series Thinking Like a Pro, we are contrasting the mental approach of the professional paddle player to that of the amateur or recreational club player. (If you want to dip your toes into what the pros are doing and make the move from standard to great, these articles can help to get you there.) By highlighting the differences, we will begin to get a clear view of a pro’s thought process. A mindset that allows him to advance his physical and mental limits and edge closer to his full potential.

2022-Oliver J-600

While we will be thinking within a platform tennis context, these concepts emphasize underlying mental models for learning, and thus undoubtedly apply in all areas of life in which we seek true mastery. Each article in the series will examine one specific area; in this second article, we are investigating process orientation and intrinsic motivation.


It is easy to love the prize, the trophy on the mantle, or the club championship title, but the best players understand all results are a product of a process. To achieve peak performance, we must embrace the relentless quest of mastering the small details that are fundamental to how we want to perform on the court.

This is a daily pursuit, and nothing is too small to disregard. It could be working on refining the technique on a forehand, an adjustment to nutrition, or an off-court training exercise. No matter how small it is, it matters. Conquering these battles day in and day out is the underlying win that sets up all other victories. It is these small private victories that lead to the public victories (winning the club championship final, qualifying for Nationals, etc.).

2022-Pro Emma Allen-600

While the mind often has trouble disconnecting the result as its priority, the fastest way to growth (and ultimate success) is to focus on those elements that are required for great success. Focus on the skills, mechanics, and strategies that you have conviction will yield success, and the results will take care of themselves.

According to Abraham Maslow, “High achievers are Intrinsically motivated.” This means that they love doing the activity for the joy of the activity, rather than the result that the activity brings. We can call an activity “autotelic” in this way, meaning it is its own reward.

This is not to say we don't value the extrinsic rewards that come as a consequence of high achievement, but that in order to achieve at the highest level, we must enjoy the act of getting there more than the arrival at the destination.


In fact, it’s in the journey that all the growing happens; where tension is met and conquered. By the time we ultimately arrive at the top of the mountain, the tension is already gone. The joy is in looking back at the journey, the tests we faced, and the battles we conquered to get there.


Once here at the top, we realize there is (and always will be) more mountain left to climb no matter how many peaks we surmount. At the top, temporary elation is quickly replaced with the desire for the next challenge, the next step into tension, the next step on a new journey of self-discovery.

2022-Darren Schwandt and Oliver Jones-600

So, we learn to love the act of climbing itself and take pride and joy in each individual step that takes us higher. In this way, we climb not a physical mountain, but any number of our own figurative mountains to discover how high we can go.

The opportunity available to us is to keep pushing to take those steps, steps which only get more challenging the higher we ascend, and to embrace the climb.

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