Susan Nardi

Susan is a tennis professional certified with both the USPTA and PTR specializing in creating and expanding many innovative development programs for juniors 10 and under as well as developing high performance players. She creates development programs that ignite children’s passion for the sport and giving them a solid foundation in playing the game.

Her company, Mommy, Daddy and Me Tennis, has produced dynamic videos and delivers staff training to help clubs in training their staff to deliver this successful curriculum.

Susan played college tennis at Elon College (NC) and Radford University (VA). She was an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, Cal Tech, and at the Irvine Valley Community College.

She coached at the Van der Meer World Training Center on Hilton Head Island, SC, and work with high-performance players. Coach Nardi was the Head Coach at Capistrano Valley High school where numerous players went on to play college tennis on scholarships. She is the only female to be the Head Coach of the All-Army Tennis Team.

In addition, she was the first Tennis Director and Head Coach of Achievable Dream in Newport News, VA. She also was the Junior Tennis Director at the Griffin Club LA where she was responsible for implementing the only Evolution Kids Tennis Program in the western United States.

 

Currently, Susan is the Director of Tennis at First Break Academy: a for impact organization in the underserved community of Carson, CA.

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Bringing Magic to Your Players, Staff, and Program Culture

By Susan Nardi

Can you make create magic?  I’m not asking if you can do card tricks or find money behind someone’s ears. The kind of magic I’m alluding to is when you create that extraordinary experience that generates excitement and incentivizes everyone bring their best and thrive!

That was my quest, my ambition during my lockdown:  What programs are doing well and, more specifically, what are they doing that is different…what made them ‘magical’. During the Covid lockdown, I discovered what the big secret was in taking a Positive Coaching Alliance course: It’s called the “Magic Ratio”.

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The concept of the Magic Ratio was developed by Noble Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman. In a nutshell, he discovered that people create memorable moments in one of two ways: Those either involved positive or negative responses or impressions they received. How we remember these moments greatly effect how we view an experience, our relationships, our overall day… etc.  Studies by Kahneman revealed that a ratio of five positive comments to one negative or corrective action was ideal in creating lasting and thriving marital relationships, productive students in school, and in creating successful businesses. He found that anything less than that ratio increased the chances greatly of divorce, students with lower academic performance and teams and players who performed below their potential or ability. The big ah ha moment was when filmed footage of UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden’s team practices were analyzed for this positive-to-negative ratio. Yes, he always hit that 5:1 Magic Ratio. His ten NCAA Championships is powerful evidence that shows it likely was a big part of his winning formula.

How would applying this concept work with kids on a tennis court or in a tennis program? Whether I am in a private or group lesson I am always in that mindset of that 5:1 Magic ratio when I give feedback that has a corrective action in it. Here is an example of comments I made to an eight-year-old girl named Sydney.

  1. Great effort in that rally getting to every ball. Positive

  2. Your contact point on all your strokes were spot on. Positive

  3. Your follow through on your strokes were always in your backpack. Positive

  4. Keep on working on recovering back to home will make it easier to get to the next ball. (I am pointing to where that is.) Corrective Action

  5. Love that you are moving your opponent around the court finding the open space to put the ball. Great stuff! Positive

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Sydney smiles and said, “ok, I can do that.” Her positive energy and confidence is written all over her face. She literally is beaming.  From my feedback, she knows that she is doing most everything right; she just needs to work on one detail. Within that block of the lesson plan, she is about 70% efficient at the skill. Sydney’s Mom, Nicole, reports that she practices at home on her own, working on rallying and recovering, moving back to the center.

“Sydney absolutely loves coming to tennis because it’s so positive and up-lifting. She is always wanting to play and even is super positive playing with me which is something I know Sydney has learned here,” say her Mom. 

The effect that the Magic Ratio has had on my staff and within our team-building efforts, has been incredible. I introduced this concept at a Summer Staff training session. I told them the results of the psychological studies and how I wanted this to be our gold standard of how to communicate with the kids in the program. Before we broke into small teams to role-play this out, I gave them an example of it and pointed to one of the coaches. This is what I said to Coach Taylor:

  1. Thanks for getting here today on time. Positive

  2. Great job getting out the equipment so the team can set it up. Positive

  3. Appreciate that you asked great questions on where the red ball nets are going to be on the court. Positive

  4. If you could make sure you have your shoes tied, so you are 100% ready for the kids coming on the court. Corrective Action

  5. Love that you are smiling and ready to give them your best so they give their best effort. Positive

 

“Wow! Can you Coach me?” is the comment I received back from Coach Taylor. The energy after the exercise was so high as well as the bond that was created by it. All Summer during the stress of working throughout COVID restrictions, my team had retained that energy. The coaching staff did an excellent job keeping to the Magic Ratio. The kids all knew who ever they had on the court as their coach was going to be a positive experience. Kids and parents would tell me on a daily basis how positive it was. I would constantly be told that, “My children love to come here. I have never seen them so happy to be outside. They are always saying it’s so positive.”

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The great thing was, rarely were any of the kids just on the court with me; it’s my team of coaches. We all were doing it, and it showed.

In addition, we started to get our players to do something different when they finished their match or a drill. We encouraged them to find a couple of positive things to say to their opponent after their match or at the end of practice. Our staff noticed how much more engaging and interacting our kids were with each other. Body language revealed more confidence as well as increasing their ability to speak up and let their voice be heard. Parents also were commenting on how this change in our program was having a positive impact on their children.

Like any change in how a staff or how players function, it does take some time to practice this habit of Magic Ratio. If you have not done it yet I encourage everyone whether you are a coach, director, parents, or player to take a Positive Coaching Alliance course to get more acquainted with the Magic Ratio and other concepts that you can add to your program to bring out the best in everyone. The link to those courses is:  https://positivecoach.org/online-courses/ . The information in these on-line courses when applied are game changers. Let’s all strive to share this magic with everyone so more people can enjoy our sport to the fullest.

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