Mental coach Juan Coto (Mental Training Inc.)*** reveals secrets behind Johanna Konta’s success – “You need to really believe”
The mind coach behind Johanna Konta’s rise to stardom has revealed the secrets that turned her mentally tough.
Konta faced Kerber in the Australian Open on Thursday in a grand slam semi final!
The Sydney-born 24-year-old is a surprising semi-finalist in this Australian Open 2016.
Starting last year 146th in the world, Konta is now set to climb into the top 40 having beaten seven top-20 opponents, starting with a straight-sets win against Makarova at Eastbourne last summer.
Central to her transformation has been a new-found resilience, cultivated by her mental coach Juan Coto (Mental Training Inc.) who began working with Konta in October 2014.
“I try to help high achievers like Johanna, who work in very demanding environments, to perform well and enjoy their profession,” Coto said.
“The aim is to perform at your best when it matters the most.”
Coto was recommended to Konta by her Spanish coach Esteban Carril, who grew up with Coto in Gijon, a town in northern Spain, and played tennis with him to a national level as a youngster.
“There was no resistance from Johanna when we started, there was an understanding that it is important,” Coto said.
“Tennis players know the importance of the mental side of the game. When you ask a tennis player what the importance is of the mental side they say 70 per cent or higher.
“A lot of people though, they don’t have the practice where they can affect that 70 per cent. A lot of the time that is left up to chance.
“Esteban and I believe if it is 70 per cent important to your game, you better put in the number of hours and training a week to respect that 70 per cent.”
Coto does not travel with Konta to tournaments but is in regular contact either by phone or email.
When at home, she routinely commits around two hours a week to him in personal sessions as they prepare for pressure and rehearse how to handle it.
“The first thing I work on is to understand what are the thoughts that come?” Coto said.
“You try to find a number of beliefs – I need to win, I don’t want to make mistakes, what happens if I lose? – and you replace those with more positive thoughts.
“On court, you have a number of tools you can use to relax. Breathing exercises. Visualisation. You visualise a positive outcome, not winning a match, but a small step like a corner where you want to serve.
“And trigger words you can say in your head, words that keep you thinking positively – ‘keep fighting’, ‘you can do it’, ‘that point doesn’t matter’.
“The philosophy is to focus only on things you can control. Not winning or losing or your ranking but your effort, your attitude. You release the pressure of what you can’t control.
“It’s easier said than done. There is a lot riding on it. You need to really believe.”
Coto has watched every minute of Konta’s opening three matches on television and afterwards discusses the details of her performance with her coaches.
He insists improvements have arrived from the dedication of the whole team and, like Konta, dismisses the theory something just ‘clicked’.
“There is not one thing, it is a process. But for Johanna having stability in her team has been very important,” Coto said.
“She has also grown in confidence as a human being and a tennis player. The stability of her environment, her coach, the people around her, the consistency and routines has been very important.
“Johanna is a very confident individual but when you start getting very good results you develop that more and more.”
“I am very satisfied with how she is doing and the most satisfaction is I notice she is happy. When Jo is happy she performs well. That is the key thing and the key feeling I have.”
*** To know more about mental training – or to work with a Certified Mental Trainer from the MTI team here in Australia, contact Dr Damien Lafont / Vida Mind at [email protected]