Johan Kriek on the concept of bring “process driven” vs “result driven”

“Ok, here is the piece I promised on the terms I used in another post…”process driven” vs “result driven”. This is a philosophy similar to the tortoise and the hare story…

I was in SA [South Africa] playing most of the top junior tournaments back in the early 70’s while being in a boarding school at a very prestigious high school in Pretoria. I left in my final year before graduating to go live in Austria with my coach Ian Cunningham who had emigrated to Austria two years prior to my arrival. I completely disappeared from SA and International tennis. I heard rumors that I had quit tennis, was burnt out and was going to farm with my dad….blahblahbah, etc. etc. The real truth was that (at the time unbeknownst to others) I was in the “process driven mode” of my tennis development. I did not compete in the Orange bowl, junior Wimbledon, US Open juniors or any major junior event from age 17 to 19. I honed my sliding skills and all that was necessary to become a more sound ball striker on red clay and became a great competitor because if clay and took the train to Switzerland, Vienna, Germany and England to play in smaller “open” events. I cannot tell you how many Swiss Army knives I collected in those two years…. In 1978 I together with my coach decided it was time to go to America and play for two months in Florida and tackle the then WATCH circuit. The first two weeks I did not even qualify! I finally qualified in Bonita Springs, then won Hialeah ($1500!!!!) and decided to continue playing another circuit for 5 weeks in North and South Carolina. I came in second in points and my ATP ranking was dropping very quickly into the low 200’s after being ranked like 689 or so arriving in the US. I then qualified in North Conway and in Stowe Vermont before heading off to the US Open qualies, won 4 rounds, and went all the way to the quarters beating Brian Teacher, Yannick Noah in 5 sets only to get spanked by Vitas Gerulaitis in the quarters. I have ARRIVED! Suddenly agents are talking and my life changed almost overnite….
Herein lies the truth. If I had chased points before I had really worked on my basics, my confidence, my everything, I don’t think i would have made it! The system for juniors in many parts of the world is FLAWED and that is why so many top juniors don’t seem to make it in the pros. They just lose heart! They were so “result driven” to be “seen” for sponsors, mom and dad, peers, etc etc. That is IMHO a very narrow and shortsighted approach. People fly around the US and South-America to the weakest ITF events just to get points and kids with way more talent, maybe less money to travel end up with worse rankings and the whole system becomes skewed. I don’t pretend to have the answers to all the ills in the USTA Player Development sector, but this problem is NOT unique to the US either! Talk to any pros that “know” their countries like England, Australia, SouthAfrica…..they all suffer from the same political bs and the kids suffer because of it! The enormous monies plowed into “finding the next great one” very very rarely does!!! Most are from the strangest places! Look at Serbia, Sweden, Spain, Argentina and so may others. For parents to drive all over to have an under ten ranking and burn their kids out LONG before the real test has to take place around 14-16 needs to have their heads examined. Work on technique, point construction, tactics. I see “mental midgets” all over the pace! They all can strike the ball, bang bang from the ack but a very small percentage of them are taught how to think, how to behave, how to be humble, how to play fair! It is all about winning, winning, winning aka ” result driven”. And you wonder why the US have so few top prospects and have spent so much money…
I was ranked 689 when i arrived in the US in 1978. In less than two years (never a wildcard) I was top ten in the world. So what i didn’t have a junior top ranking. I quietly for nearly three years worked on my “total game” and believed that that was what was going to work best for me, and it did. The cream will rise to the top eventually….”

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Meet the Author

Johan Kriek has won two Australian Opens, was a semi-finalist at the US Open, reached the semi-finals at the French Open and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. He has won 14 professional singles and 8 doubles titles, reaching an all-time high ranking of Number 7 in the world. Kriek’s most memorable wins include victories over Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

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