Tennis Industry magazine


Your Serve: Mind and Body

To best help your students, you need to understand the mental and physical predisposition of “athletic royalty.”

By Frank Giampaolo

It’s time to get into your player’s world, instead of continually forcing them into yours.

Old-school teaching and coaching requires the student to get into the authority’s training methodology — which disregards the student’s unique brain and body design. This archaic approach produces average athletes at best, and causes gifted athletes to leave the game at worst.

To get into your player’s world, you need to recognize and respect a student’s inborn characteristics, which means understanding their brain and body types.

Personality Types

To understand brain (and personality) types, we can use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which has four categories with their opposing profiles.

Introvert vs. Extrovert: Introverts (I) are more comfortable laying back than retaliating. They need alone time to recharge and prefer to be inside their inner world. Extroverts (E) prefer to initiate action. They gain their energy by bringing people together.

Sensate vs. Intuitive: Sensate (S) individuals prefer to collect data and facts before making decisions. Intuitive (N) persons trust their gut instincts and are better quick decision-makers.

Thinkers vs. Feelers: Thinkers (T) make decisions through objective logic and impersonalize the situation. They enjoy the technical components and choose truthful over tactful. Feelers (F) are in tune to the emotional climate of the event and others’ actions; harmony is paramount.

Judgers vs. Perceivers: Judgers (J) prefer structure and like things orderly; they make lists and prefer to work before play. Perceivers (P) are adaptable and flexible; they enjoy experiencing new ideas and methods, rather than agonizing over details.

To help identify your athlete’s personality profile, first try categorizing yourself. Choose your dominant brain functions and write down your four-letter acronym. (While each of us exhibits multiple sides to our personality, we each have a genetically dominant trait.) For example, if you believe you’re an extrovert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver, then you are an ENFP.

Now, sit with your young athlete to brain type him or her. (Be aware that young people sometimes misdiagnose their own personality profile as they may choose characteristics they believe to be more popular.)

Motor Skills

The other part of this puzzle is how body types affect motor skills and athletic potential. The two opposing body types are called “fine-motor-skilled dominant” and “gross-motor-skilled dominant.” We all have a genetic predisposition to one or the other.

Fine-motor-skilled athletes excel from the muscles found from the elbows through the hands and fingers. A common compliment is that the athlete “has good hands.” Gross-motor-skilled athletes prefer the use of the larger muscle groups in the torso, legs and feet, and are known for superior core balance and body coordination.

Raising athletic royalty requires matching your young athlete’s preferred brain type and body type design with the right sport, style of play and/or position. Here’s one example, using two students of mine. Evan and Jarred are 14-year-old twins. They take the same number of private lessons and clinics but their training regimen is polar opposite. Evan is ENFP and fine-motor-skill dominant; Jarred is ISTJ and gross-motor-skill dominant.

Evan, being an extrovert, prefers to make things happen on the court. He often charges the net and ends the point with his volleys (good hands). Jarred is more comfortable assessing and then retaliating — the classic counterpuncher. Being gross-motor-skilled dominant helps Jarred uncoil the larger muscle groups of the kinetic chain — enhancing his textbook groundstrokes.

Teaching each student within their genetic guideline will maximize their potential at the quickest rate. Knowing your student’s genetic makeup and natural strengths and weaknesses helps to avoid the needless frustrations in their development and will better prepare you to assist and encourage them.

Frank Giampaolo is a 30-year sports education veteran, author, speaker and instructional writer for national and international publications. He is the author of “Championship Tennis” (Human Kinetics Publishing), “The Tennis Parent’s Bible” and “The Mental Emotional Workbook Series.” His book “Raising Athletic Royalty” is set to be released in January 2015. Visit



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