Biography

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Biography

Introduction

First of all, I want to thank you for visiting the www.SUPERFITTENNIS.com site.  Now, I would like to give you a little bit of information about my background and interest in fitness training for tennis.

Who the heck is Jeff Drock, what does he do with tennis players, and why should I listen to that guy?

My job is to first and foremost prevent tennis players from becoming injured. Although prevention of injuries can never be guaranteed, by focusing on specific muscle prehabilitation (injury prevention) routines I have found that athletes have a much less frequent occurrence of injury.  Along with incorporating ( ) prehabilitation routines into every tennis conditioning program, I focus on implementing strengthening routines for players so they can be functionally strong for tennis. When training individuals, I can focus on the specific needs of a player. Some common needs of tennis players are physical strength, agility, and endurance. The programs I implement are dependent on a players biological age, needs, playing style, and fitness level. I will also intrgrate mental strengthening drills into programs when it is deemed necessary to do so and the player wants to improve their mental toughness for tennis. 

Note: I do not care how much weight a player lifts or how impressive their chest and arms look. I am not training players to win bench press competitions or look good for the beach. Working out incorrectly can actually slow players down and make them weaker! My goal is to help players reach their tennis goals. Therefore, we focus on the muscles and movements necessary to win tennis matches.  Players train with me because they want to increase their rankings, be more competitive in their league, make their high school team, achieve a college scholarship, prepare for a fast serve competition, get ready for ITF, ATP, and WTA tournaments or reach any other tennis oriented goal.  

I possess a graduate degree, several nationally and internationally accredited strength and conditioning certifications, was a college and junior tennis player and coach, and I have over 10 years of experience with enhancing the mental and physical strength of elite junior tennis players. I would now like to share my personal story about the interesting path I took to become a highly acclaimed performance enhancement specialist for tennis players. I also want to provide you with some insight into my performance enhancement for tennis training philosophy.

Moving to Florida
While growing up in New Jersey, baseball was the only sport I knew. My father was a minor league player and ever since I could walk he wanted me to be a great baseball player. While in Jersey, my father and I would play catch almost every day. During my elementary school years the kids in my neighborhood would play baseball every day.  It was completely normal for us to play from school day’s end until sundown. At the time, I was not happy about my mother forcing me to do homework and read before I could go out and play in those awesome pick-up games. In retrospect, it seems as though my mother did the right thing by forcing me to study and build a base for my eventual college and graduate school studies. From my early elementary school years up until the 7th grade, I was in all honors classes and my grades and test scores were outstanding.

During the middle of the 7th grade, my family moved to Florida. When I arrived in Florida my father immediately enrolled me in a baseball league. As soon as baseball season ended, summer began. I clearly recall sitting in the house and being bored out of my mind during the first few weeks of my first summer in Florida.  Unfortunately, in those days the video games were not at all like they are today and one could only play the Atari 2600 for about 10 minutes without becoming bored out of their mind (the graphics and performance was awful). In those days, kids absolutely had to go outside and play sports or board games. Luckily for me, during baseball season my mother had spoken with and got the telephone numbers of a few of my baseball teammates’ parents. She called a few of the parents and found out that several of those baseball friends of mine were scheduled to attend a tennis camp. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to quite skeptically give tennis camp a try. During that past baseball season, I was crowned as the batting champion of the Jensen Beach, Florida Bronco league because I had obtained the highest batting average in the league. Needless to say, I started playing tennis with a “greater than thou” attitude. At that time, I had quite a ridiculous preconceived notion about tennis. I thought that hitting a bouncing ball with the big string area of a racket would be quite an unchallenging cakewalk for me compared to the “real skill” of hitting a baseball. (how laughable that seems now!!!)

My Rude Tennis Awakening
Almost immediately, I could consistently lob slowly hit balls fed to me back over the net.  Because of my athletic background and decent hand eye coordination, I performed fairly  well against players who had started playing tennis at approximately the same time I did.

Just three months after having ever hit my first tennis ball, I overheard a parent talking about how she was going to take her son to watch an upcoming state sanctioned junior tournament that was scheduled at the club we practiced at. I decided that I wanted to attend the tournament too, but I was surely not just going to be a spectator. I would compete! Although the head pro at the club, Brian Harper, did his absolute best to prevent me from competing, I stubbornly refused to heed his expert advice and entered anyway.

After only (3) months of playing, I went out and won the whole tournament. (So……Joking!!!!)  During that first tournament, I walked onto the court quite confident in my ability to at least give any of my opponents a fairly competitive match. During warm-ups I noticed that I was able to capably hit the balls back to my opponent and I was feeling quite confident about the upcoming match prognosis. Heck, I saw that my opponent was six feet tall, but he was no baseball league batting champion like me! (Ha..I actually thought that???) At that time, I had no idea that six foot tall Sam Ridlon was one of the top tennis players in Florida and he was about to stomp on me like a bug. He smashed his own serves past me and smashed my lobby serves past me. Most of the time I could not even touch the ball with my racket.  All I could say was: “nice shot.”   At approximately 4-0 in the second set I became completely mortified when Sam’s father (who is truly a super nice guy) could no longer bear to watch this disgusting slaughter of a match. At that point, I heard Sam’s father say the following words to his son: “Sam take it easy on him.” (he did not at all mean that in a bad way) Sam decided to listen to his father took it easy on me. Yes, he lobbed one or two balls back to me and allowed me to hit them back over the net prior to crushing any one he felt like past me!”  

Tennis After Playing Sam

I was perhaps the happiest person to ever lose a tennis match 6-0, 6-0. Really! That match gave me a completely newfound respect, perspective, and understanding of tennis. I learned that even for me (a former league batting champion), this game was going to be quite challenging.

Tennis Magazine/Sports Psychology
Approximately two months after my first tournament experience I began regularly playing local tournaments and would sometimes even win a match. I loved the challenge of tennis and was becoming quite thirsty to find new ways to better my performance. I also loved the fact that I did not have 8 other guys on a team (baseball) to rely on.  It was entirely up to one person (me) to find a way to either win or lose.  I began reading Tennis Magazine every month and found myself completely intrigued by the articles written by Sports Psychologist Dr. James E. Loehr. I quickly became a believer in mental toughness training for tennis and began implementing several match and pre-match rituals into my own game. I also continually strived to get myself into the oftentimes elusive “zone of peak performance” that Dr. Loehr oftentimes spoke of.

High School and College

Unfortunately, when I moved to Florida and throughout high school I had little to no interest in academics and only did the bare minimum to stay eligible for tennis. My grades and SAT scores were quite poor and if it were not for playing tennis, I probably would not even have stayed in high school. I probably would have just been some drunken drug addict truant hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks.  Fortunately, tennis kept me away from life’s worst vices.    

During my high school tennis years, I befriended several players on the tennis team and although my tennis accomplishments were not even close to those of the junior players that I have trained, I did fairly well for someone who took very few lessons and started when they were just a few months shy of 13 years old.  I was a 2x district finalist at Martin County High School in Stuart, Florida (1985/1988).

During my senior year of high school, I chose to visit the University of North Florida (NAIA-school) and I instantly liked the campus, the coach, and several players on the tennis team. Even with my atrocious study habits, I was able to somehow reach the state university system of Florida minimum requirements. (I am not at all bragging here. My grades were horrible!)

I clearly recall standing in line at the college admissions office with the University of North Florida (UNF) men’s tennis coach Leo Vorwerk and my mother. While we stood in the line, I became absolutely mortified when I overheard two admissions people turning down a 3.8 GPA and 1100+ SAT score applicant because that applicant had not participated in enough extracurricular activities. Therefore, they were not well rounded enough to be admitted into UNF.  All I could think was the following thought…….”Incredible, I should run out of the line!”  To say that I was embarrassed when Leo handed my disgustingly low GPA with an equally repulsive three digit SAT score to the admissions people, would be quite the understatement. The admissions officers took the paperwork and then did a double take. Perhaps they thought that this was some kind of a practical joke?  These people looked at coach Leo and I, shook their heads, and stated the following: “This here is not……..” Just then, Leo cut them off and proudly exclaimed, “I want this kid on my team and I will personally make sure that he is held accountable for his academic studies!” The admissions people paused for a second, exhaled, and then told Leo that the only way they could possibly push things through was if they placed me in a probationary summer session class and also enrolled me in a study skills class. Leo quickly told admissions to go ahead and place me in the summer session with probationary status. Leo then thanked them and told my mother and I that he would make sure that I took my academics at the University of North Florida seriously. Coach Leo was an awesome coach and mentor. He made certain that his players took part in mandatory study sessions several times each week. He certainly wanted his players to stay eligible and perhaps even become successful in life. Many thanks Leo!!!

Although North Florida was a small school, the tennis team was consistently ranked within the top (5) in the NAIA. As an incoming Freshman I won (3) very tough three set matches just to make the main traveling squad (top 8)! My strokes were far from amazing and most of the time I would just somehow run down balls, hack, and throw up topspin lobs. Fortunately, the one thing that I did have going for me was my strong mental toughness. I could concentrate well during every point of a match. I had learned and practiced the skill of both being focused and staying calm but intense throughout entire matches.  If I could somehow keep a match close, there was a pretty good chance that I would pull it out.  As an incoming freshman, I did declare Psychology as my major, my minor was Behavioral Medicine, and my special interest was Sports Psychology. Whenever I had an opportunity to do so, I would place my focus on projects pertaining to Sports Psychology. My interest and love of sports psychology never waned!

Knee Surgery
During my Junior year at UNF, my knee began hurting me and I even limped while playing and running. Although I just wanted to focus on playing tennis and forget about my knee pain, coach Leo forced me to see an orthopedic surgeon. I clearly recall the surgeon telling me that he had absolutely no idea how I was walking around and he was completely shocked that I was somehow even attempting to play tennis. Then he told me that I must have a high threshold of pain, but that was not a good thing. He explained to me about doing even further damage to my knee by playing with the injury. The surgeon, Dr. Shirley, then told me that if I wanted to even walk later on in life, I would need to immediately have arthroscopic knee surgery. The surgeon did show me pictures of my torn meniscus, a huge blister, and some other structural damage within my knee.

After the surgery I went to rehab. I know this is going to sound really weird, but I actually liked the rehab process. The process of making my atrophied left leg muscle bigger and stronger was something that I found to be pretty awesome. In the past, I had done some physical training such as interval training, agility work, and the lifting of weights with the tennis team.  Although, I knew that doing those things were meant to make me stronger and faster, I did not understand why doing a specific exercise or focusing on specific muscle groups made me stronger or faster until I began asking questions to the physical therapy specialists who were rehabilitating my knee. Rehab made me realize that there was a how and why of training. During my rehab sessions, I asked many “how and why” questions and I was quite fortunate that my enthusiastic physical therapists were always glad to answer my questions.  

Successful Rehab
I was motivated and went through an extremely successful rehabilitation process and I even got to the point where I was running faster and playing tennis better than I ever had in my entire life. I was all set to play a very successful tennis season and was winning matches against highly ranked NAIA players prior to the seasons start. Unfortunately, I caught the Epstein Barr virus and that made me feel tired all of the time. I could not play tennis for several months. When I finally felt better, I decided that I did not want to work my way back into playing competitive college tennis anymore. I was mentally drained and did not have the desire needed to get back into tennis playing condition at that time. (burn out!)

Better Academics/Beginning Trainer
While on the tennis team, I was forced to study and my academic dedication far surpassed that of my high school years. Still, I was not even close to being the most studious individual on campus. Although my mediocre grades never jeopardized my tennis playing eligibility, they were definitely not noteworthy. I chose to utilize my time away from playing tennis to study more and pursue other areas of interest. Ever since finishing rehab, working out with weights interested me and I had a strong desire to learn more about fitness. There was a Gold’s Gym close to the campus which had a level 1 training and testing program for aspiring fitness trainers who wanted to become personal trainers. I studied for and passed that basic fitness test and began working at Gold’s Gym as a part time staff member. As a newbie trainer I cleaned the machines more than I trained, but everyone has to start somewhere!  I began learning from the more experienced trainers and soon thereafter began studying for a nationally accredited fitness certification. Once I did became certified by that nationally recognized association, I was allowed to do much more training than machine cleaning.

Getting into Graduate School?
Not to brag, but those extra hours I spent studying during my Junior and Senior years translated into my obtainment of some pretty decent grades. During my freshman and sophomore year, a usual report card for me had been a bunch of B’s, a couple of C’s, and if I was lucky an A once in a while. Much to my own and of course my mother’s surprise (ok shock from her), I began getting mostly A’s and maybe a B once in a while. The C’s disappeared like magic! Can you say honor roll???

Was it even possible that a kid who completely disliked middle school and  high school academics and rarely studied during those years (ok never) could now be thinking about attending grad school?  What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I did still have a strong desire to become the #1 Sports Psychology expert for tennis players just as Dr. James Loehr had done several years earlier. I craved learning more and more about sports psychology and mental strength training skills.

After researching graduate schools that offered programs in Sports Psychology, I narrowed things down to three schools of interest. I chose one school that I could almost certainly get into, one school that I might have a chance to get into, and one school that was a “pie in the sky” dream school. I figured that I had a chance that was somewhere between slim and none of getting into that “pie in the sky” school. Although I had pulled my grades up considerably during my Junior and Senior years, I figured that there were certainly going to be students applying to my just a dream school (Miami University) who would have a much better total grade point average.  Just for kicks, I decided to apply to Miami “Pie in the Sky” University. That school , was and with good reason still is considered to be the number one terminal masters Sports Psychology program in North America. The major sports psychology professors teaching at the Miami University Sport Behavior and Performance Master’s degree program were Dr. Robert S. Weinberg, Dr. Robin Vealey, and Dr. Thelma Horn. Each one of those aforementioned Miami University professors had been president of a major sports psychology association, had been a sports psychology journal editor, had been a sports psychology textbook writer and editor. All of those professors had also authored several sports psychology books as well as journal articles. Besides those aforementioned credentials, those professors had a great deal of experience working with both Olympic and professional level athletes. Yes, all of the accredited sports psychology graduate school programs in the United States and Canada used text books written and edited by those professors!  

I figured that I had nothing to lose by placing the application to Miami University in the mail and the worst thing that could happen is they would have a good laugh and then throw my application and entrance essay into the trash can. I was trying very hard to put the thought and possibility of working with these famous sports psychology gurus and attending Miami University out of my mind. If only……….????????

Believe it or not, somehow I received an acceptance letter from Miami University. I did check the letter twice to make sure that they did not make the mistake of sending someone else’s acceptance letter to my address. It really was my name on the acceptance letter! I showed my parents the letter and they just about passed out. Needless to say, I was ecstatic about my opportunity!  One of the university professors told me that upon reading my entrance exam, my enthusiasm and passion came through and that is what led to my acceptance in the program. While at Miami University, I thrived and continually did my best to learn all that I could from those guru professors

While in graduate school
While at Miami university, I decided to accept the position of assistant tennis coach for the men’s team. Shortly after becoming the assistant coach, the head coach found out that I had experience as a fitness trainer. He nominated me to be responsible for the team’s physical conditioning. Because training athletes is completely different than training the average Joes that I was used to training and I did not want to let the head coach down, I had to force myself to study anything and everything possible about physical training for athletes and more specifically tennis players. I also added several exercise science courses to my curriculum and obtained another very high quality fitness certification. That fitness certification was for those interested in working with athletes as a sports specific fitness trainer. My studying, knowledge of the physical needs of tennis players, and a bit of trial and error  helped me learn the art of strength and conditioning for tennis players. I also got a great deal of awesome knowledge and assistance from Dan Dalrymple who was the Head Strength and Conditioning coach at Miami University. Big Dan moved on to work for the New Orleans Saints and became the 2009 NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach of the year. To say that he knew his stuff would be an extreme understatement. The men’s tennis team did significantly improve their fitness level and claimed  the title of (MAC) Mid Atlantic Conference champion.

After Graduate School/ Hanging My Shingle
Although the curriculum was difficult, during graduate school I enjoyed spending several hours a day reading and studying about Sports Psychology and Exercise Science in graduate school and I completed my graduate school studies with a slew of knowledge and an excellent GPA.  After graduation I knew exactly where I wanted my career path to head.  I immediately moved back to South Florida, so I could pursue a career as a mental strength trainer for elite junior players and aspiring professionals. It would be fair to say that South Florida is a major training ground for many elite tennis players.

I began my job pursuit by mailing my resume to and then calling every tennis academy in South Florida. (approximately a dozen or more academies) Because of my tennis and sports psychology training, I was quite confident that several of these academies would be interested in my services if they did not already have a mental strength training coach on staff. Every single academy told me that they did not use the services of a sports psychology consultant and their academy was not interested in any sports psychology services.

I was beginning to feel that my degree in sports psychology was about as useful as one in underwater basket-weaving would be. What was going on here? I knew that I could help players improve their mental toughness for tennis and Florida was the place to be in order to obtain tennis players as clients.  No one seemed to be interested in my services. 

Sidenote: During that time Vince Spadea jr. was in the middle of breaking the all-time ATP single-season loss record, which he eventually did. I met his father, Vince Spadea Sr., at the Citrix tournament in Delray Beach, Florida. Vince Sr. was a really nice guy. Then, I mentioned that my graduate studies were in the area of Sports Psychology and. before I could ask Vince Sr. if he would introduce me to Vince jr., he barked the following: “Vince does not need a sports psychologist!” I walked away like a puppy dog that had just been scolded. Fortunately for Vince Junior, he did end up working with a terrific Sports Psychology for tennis guru named Dr. John Murray. I am not sure how they met and began working together, but I do know that Dr. Murray helped Vince to regain his confidence and start winning again.

How could I break into the tennis world?

At that time I felt that I absolutely had to get my name out there in the tennis world. “I am a qualified tennis specific mental strength coach and I am available,” is what I wanted to let the tennis world know.  I soon found out that most coaches and parents viewed sports psychologists in the same way as they would view a tennis specific voodoo witch doctor!  Of course these coaches were continually telling their players that they needed to be mentally tougher on the court.  No one seemed to understand and I was not quite able to get across the fact that in order to improve a player’s mental strength, the player had to practice specific mental strength training skills just as they would for physical strength training.  It would be silly for Coaches to expect their players to all of a sudden serve harder because they told their players to serve harder. Players do not get faster and hit the ball harder without doing physical training and players do not get mentally tougher without doing mental strength training!   

 Who the heck moved my cheese?
Yes, in the mid to late 90’s my mind was set on being a sports psychology guru, but people were not ready for that. In retrospect, that was a blessing in disguise. I decided to place all of my focus on how to best physically train tennis players. My physical training for tennis business exploded once I met the parent of a physically struggling but formerly highly ranked national level tennis player. This particular player was training at the USTA high performance training center in Key Biscayne, but was continually pulling muscles during matches, significantly lacking in strength, and getting extremely tired during matches. I devised a physical training for tennis program that was specific to this players physical needs and style of play (run around every backhand possible and play long points from the baseline). Although I wanted to only focus on his physical conditioning, the father of this player was aware of my mental strength training background and he got me to spend at least ½ hour each week working on his son’s mental toughness. After 6 weeks of training, a huge difference in his physicality was quite evident and within 12 weeks, he was crushing players that were formerly crushing him and his tournament results were nothing short of amazing.  His level of conditioning and mental toughness changed dramatically and even I was a bit shocked by his unbelievable level of improvement. This player won a supernational tournament 18’s, was a finalist at the easter bowl, was a finalist at the Eddie Herr 18’s, and obtained a top 5 national, top 40 international ranking, and a top 700 ATP ranking.   Several coaches, parents, and other nationally and world ranked tennis players took notice of the tremendous improvements of this particular player. They wanted to know what this players secret was. Shortly thereafter, I was training and improving several highly ranked players. I can say with assurance that every single player I have decided to take on as a client has improved tremendously

What has made me such a successful trainer?

I have quite a comprehensive and tennis specific testing protocol that I do with each player. I also make sure to watch them actually play tennis against players who are at an equal or slightly better level than they are. Upon analyzing their test results and their match play, I get a pretty darn good idea of what their weaknesses, style of play, and needs are.  Prior to training a player, I do make certain that their desire to train and their reasons for training with me are strong.  I definitely do not want to train players who are not going to place extreme effort in their training. I put extreme effort in preparing their training and I truly want them to improve. Therefore, players must give true effort to our training. When I do private training, players do not just do tennis specific training. It is much more specific than that. Every player gets trained according to their own individualized needs and I make absolutely 100% certain to create programs based on that. I come to every single session prepared with the days training schedule and write down everything during the session. Prior to each workout, I know the exact order and number of exercises, reps, and sets that should be completed.

I have devised many tennis specific drills and use many training tools/devices. That allows me to focus on each player’s specific needs without ever having to repeat the same exact workout. This variety keeps the muscles fresh and the mind challenged. That variety of training helps to produce great results every time. I write every result of every session on the player’s daily workout schedule. Each completed workout is kept in the player’s file. Therefore, I can analyze and easily see what is working and what is not. Then I can change things up quickly and easily if it is necessary to do so. It also helps to have concrete evidence of their great improvements just in case there is any question, concern, or doubts about that. 

I always make certain that a player is continually improving and is both physically and mentally prepared to perform well on the tennis court. There are so many awesome psychological benefits for a player who is physically prepared to do battle on the tennis court. Although I do not push mental training skills on any of my clients, once people know my background in sports psychology they almost always ask me to incorporate at least a bit of mental strength training into their overall performance enhancement program.  

Every time a player that I train steps onto the court, they are a walking billboard for my training business and I am quite aware of that. I am paid to improve them, not just to be their trainer or friend. Therefore, my business depends on each and every player’s awesome physical improvements and changes in overall tennis playing capability.
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The little secret
Yes, I consider myself to be a highly competent trainer. I find out a player’s weaknesses and bring them up and train them based on their needs and style of play. After just one or two physical training sessions with a player, I know exactly what they are capable of doing and exactly what they need to do in order to accomplish their particular goals

Again, I never ever push mental toughness training down anyone’s throat, but if asked to do so I will get involved with the mental skills training of a player. That seems to have enhanced my value as a sport science practitioner.  I can confidently say that when one combines mental and physical fitness into their tennis program they tend to SUPERFITTENNIS players! Keep up with this blog and you will find out even more about physical and mental training for tennis. There are many aspects of mental toughness training and sports psychology for performance enhancement.

It is important to note that there are two sides of sports psychology. The side of sports psychology that I deal with is the performance enhancement side. I do not deal with and am not trained to deal with nor am I interested in the clinical psychology side of things. If anyone has clinical issues and they want to deal with a clinical sports psychologist in South Florida, I would immediately pass them along to a friend of mine such as Dr. Robert Heller. Dr. Heller is an excellent clinical and performance enhancement sports psychologist. He also understands the specific needs of tennis players and is a very strong player himself. www.robertheller.net The clinical sports psychologist would deal with any outside problems that may be effecting performance. (ie. Family issues that are impeding one’s performance such as a family member being ill, has passed away, or problems with current or former spouse issues???)  *anything clinical……

Yes, someone initially “moved my cheese” but now that I consider myself quite fortunate that I have oftentimes been able to successfully combine physical conditioning and mental strength training.

Sport Science for Tennis Important?

In my mind, the most important person for a tennis player’s development is their coach(s). The coach must teach their player technique, tactics, strategy, and much more.   Although sports science practitioners come second fiddle to the main coach, they are an essential part of every players developmental process if players want to reach even close to their true potential.  

Isn’t is obvious that when two players at an equal tennis level  play against each other, the mentally tougher, physically stronger, and better fueled (nutrition) player will win? It is this sport science that can change a match from 5-7 for them to 7-5 for you. Isn’t winning a few more points during a match worth it?  

High level coaches must know their own strengths and weaknesses. It is expected for all coaches to have some knowledge of the sports sciences, but they absolutely should not and can not be expected to be a player’s nutritionist, mental strength trainer, or physical conditioning coach unless they actually have the correct background and experience to do so.  Several coaches who train high level players coordinate well with those who are tennis specific sports science experts. The coach and sports science practitioner must collaborate with each other since their interest is one of improving their player as safely and effectively as possible.