Friday, 9 December 2011

Andre Agassi

I've been reading the tennis legend's autobiography this week. It's a fascinating read and I recommend it to anyone, whether they are into tennis or not. In fact, even if you don't like sports at all, it's an entertaining read, especially with the revelation that Agassi actually hates tennis. From a trader's perspective, you could even learn a little about what goes on inside a player's mind when they take to the court. It's something I think about all the time when I trade but often I'll read comments from people who are betting on a match that show clearly that they don't understand the mentality of a player at any given time. I see many traders who expect players to be robots who should always perform 100% to their best ability, regardless of time away from the game, mental pressures, motivation, the stage of the match and outside influences. Read 'Open' and it should help dispel that myth!

But the key thing I wanted to write about today was a section from the book taken from the lips of Brad Gilbert. You might know him as an ex-player, ex-coach of Agassi, Roddick and Andy Murray but he is probably best known as author of 'Winning Ugly', which has been heralded for many years as probably the best sports psychology book around. When Gilbert met Agassi to chat about becoming his new coach in 1994 (when Gilbert was strangely enough, still playing on the tour) he said the following to Agassi:

'You always try to be perfect.........and you always fall short and it fucks with your head.......You try to hit a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes, would be enough to win ninety percent of the time'

'It's all about odds and percentages..............Right now, by trying for a perfect shot with every ball, you're stacking the odds against yourself. You're assuming too much risk.........Fuck that. Just keep the ball moving. Back and forth. Nice and easy. Solid.'

'When you chase perfection, you know what you are doing? You're chasing something that doesn't exist. ............There's about 5 times a year you wake up perfect, when you can't lose to anybody, but it's not those 5 times a year that make you a tennis player. Or a human being for that matter. It's the other times. It's all about your head, man'

All this applies to trading too. I'm certainly guilty of being a perfectionist and it has cost me dearly as a trader, not being able to accept losses. Also not being able to accept that I will make mistakes, read games incorrectly or lose focus every now and then. Obviously, trading is all about odds and percentages too. And of course, there is the message about being consistent, not risking too much and patiently building from scratch, rather than throwing your eggs in one basket to quickly make big sums. Finally, it ends with what I've been saying for ages now - it's all in your head. As long time readers will know, my head has been messed up for a long time! I truly believe that will change in 2012. In fact, it's already begun to change over the past couple of months.

Here's world number 55, America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands:


  1. Hi

    Really enjoy the blog - found it when you did the interview with Cassini (Green All Over) have been hooked since.
    Although I dont trade tennis there has been a lot I have taken away from your articles about sports trading in general.
    Had to comment on this blog as a friend recommended the book to me a few months ago - just as a general good read - not to do with trading. When I read I remember thinking the same thing. You really hit the spot with the above comments. For me at the moment it is all about bank preservation and refining (improving)my edge - i have struggled over the last year with having lots of little wins followed by a huge (in comparison) loss. Just need to build up confidence and dont get too upset with the little losses.
    Keep up the good work - really gets me thinking!!

  2. Cheers Keith, your comments are much appreciated, particularly as some tosser actually came on here to criticize me recently (about the background of all things!).

    I think the little wins / big loss ratio is something nearly all traders go through. You just have to persevere and you will get through it if you work at it enough.

    I actually very rarely post specifically about tennis trading. I like to think my blog resonates with people who trade any sport - I'm just a guy struggling to try and make this pay and what I've been through will be same no matter what sport you trade.

    Stick at it and good luck!



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