Winning Ugly | Brad Gilbert | Talks at Google

Talks at Google
19 May 201567:56
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TLDRIn an informal discussion with Steve Jamison, former tennis pro and renowned coach Brad Gilbert shares insights on his journey in tennis, the evolution of the game, and the mental aspects of winning. He reflects on his own playing career, coaching successes with Andre Agassi, and the importance of adaptability and mental toughness in sports. Gilbert also discusses the current state of tennis, the dominance of players like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, and the challenges faced by young athletes in the United States. The conversation offers a glimpse into the strategies, mindset, and philosophies that have made him a respected figure in the world of tennis.

  • ๐ŸŽพ Brad Gilbert learned to adapt his coaching style to the individual player, emphasizing the importance of personalization in coaching.
  • ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ Gilbert highlights the significant change in athletic training since his time as a player, noting the current focus on year-round training and specialized diets for young athletes.
  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ He discusses the importance of maximizing an athlete's potential by focusing on their strengths and improving their weaknesses, rather than striving for unattainable perfection.
  • ๐Ÿ”„ Gilbert mentions the shift in tennis strategy over time, from serving and volleying to the modern game's emphasis on athleticism and all-court play.
  • ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Brad emphasizes the importance of balance in a young athlete's life, advocating for enjoyment and education alongside athletic pursuits.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ He shares anecdotes about Andre Agassi's early career, including his unique approach to playing on grass courts and the psychological barriers he had to overcome.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฅ Gilbert speaks about the value of understanding an opponent's game, using the warm-up period to scout and strategize for the match ahead.
  • ๐Ÿ’ญ He touches on the mental aspect of sports, explaining how athletes like Serena Williams have evolved their mental game over time to maintain their competitive edge.
  • ๐ŸŒŸ Brad discusses the concept of 'winning ugly,' suggesting that success often comes from finding ways to win that may not be conventional or aesthetically pleasing.
  • ๐Ÿ“š Gilbert shares insights from his book 'Winning Ugly,' which focuses on mental skills and strategies for success in tennis and life, not just physical prowess.
  • ๐Ÿค” He reflects on his own tennis career, the challenges he faced, and the lessons he learned about resilience, adaptability, and the importance of mindset.
Q & A
  • What does Brad Gilbert find appealing about the Google workplace environment?

    -Brad Gilbert finds the informal and relaxed atmosphere at Google appealing. He appreciates that bright people work there without the need for formal attire like suits and ties.

  • How does Brad Gilbert view his own tennis career in retrospect?

    -Brad Gilbert humorously reflects that as he gets older, he thinks he used to be better than he was. He acknowledges the changes in his appearance and style over the years.

  • What significant change in tennis does Brad Gilbert highlight when comparing the 1980s to the present?

    -Brad Gilbert highlights the significant increase in the speed and athleticism of the game. He compares it to the evolution of technology, like moving from dial-up internet to modern high-speed connections.

  • How did Brad Gilbert's outlook on his tennis career change in January 1980?

    -Brad Gilbert's outlook changed when he attended Foothill Junior College and met Coach Tom Chivington, who made the game more fun and approachable. This period also coincided with a growth spurt for Gilbert.

  • What does Coach Chivingtonโ€™s scouting report reveal about Brad Gilbertโ€™s early tennis skills?

    -Coach Chivington's scouting report indicated that Gilbert lacked traditional strengths like a strong forehand, backhand, or serve but emphasized that Gilbert had the mental toughness and skill to win matches.

  • What is the main lesson Brad Gilbert emphasizes in 'Winning Ugly'?

    -The main lesson in 'Winning Ugly' is the importance of mental toughness and strategic thinking in tennis. Gilbert stresses that understanding and exploiting opponents' weaknesses is crucial.

  • How did Andre Agassiโ€™s mindset change under Brad Gilbertโ€™s coaching?

    -Under Gilbert's coaching, Agassi learned to focus on being good enough rather than perfect. This mindset shift helped Agassi manage expectations and reduce the pressure he placed on himself.

  • What is Brad Gilbertโ€™s view on the evolution of tennis coaching and player development?

    -Gilbert believes that modern coaching and player development have advanced significantly. He emphasizes the importance of adapting coaching methods to individual players and leveraging technology and data analysis.

  • What advice does Brad Gilbert give to parents and young athletes regarding sports and education balance?

    -Gilbert advises parents to make sports fun and not stress about perfection. He emphasizes the importance of balancing sports with education and ensuring that the childโ€™s passion for the sport comes from within.

  • What attributes does Brad Gilbert believe are essential for greatness in sports?

    -Gilbert believes that greatness in sports comes from a combination of athletic prowess and the ability to perform under pressure. He emphasizes that great athletes can slow down the game in their minds and make clear, strategic decisions.

๐ŸŽพ Informal Culture and Tennis Evolution

Steve Jamison and Brad Gilbert discuss the informal atmosphere at Google compared to the professional tennis world. Brad reminisces about his tennis career, highlighting how the game has become faster and more athletic over time. He also shares personal anecdotes, such as his rise to number four in the world rankings despite not being expected to excel, and the influence of his coach, Tom Chivington, who helped him see tennis in a simpler, more enjoyable light. Brad emphasizes the importance of mental skills and self-evaluation in tennis, which he believes were his strongest assets.

๐Ÿ† The Art of Winning Ugly and Coaching Insights

Brad Gilbert and Steve Jamison continue their conversation, focusing on Brad's philosophy of 'winning ugly' and his experiences as a coach. Brad explains that winning ugly is about competing in one's own way and not being constrained by traditional methods. He shares how his coaching approach differs from his own playing style, using Andre Agassi as an example of a player who sought to exploit opponents' strengths. Brad also discusses the importance of journey and process in coaching, rather than fixating on rankings or outcomes.

๐Ÿ‘• Changes in Athleticism and Longevity in Tennis

The discussion shifts to the topic of athleticism and longevity in tennis, with Brad Gilbert expressing his admiration for modern players like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. He comments on Serena's adaptability and use of technology in her game, despite her belief that she was more athletic a decade ago. Brad also reflects on his own potential in today's tennis landscape, acknowledging the improvements in training, diet, and year-round athlete preparation.

๐ŸฅŠ Mayweather's Defensive Genius and Boxing Strategy

Brad Gilbert likens his concept of 'winning ugly' to Floyd Mayweather's boxing strategy, describing him as a defensive genius who wins by outpointing opponents rather than knockouts. He admires Mayweather's ability to avoid getting hit and to bore opponents into submission, which he sees as a sign of genius. Brad predicts an easy, unanimous decision for Mayweather in an upcoming fight, without a knockout.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Coaching Youth and Balancing Sports with Education

An audience member asks Brad for advice on coaching his son, who struggles to transfer his sports resilience to academics. Brad emphasizes the importance of education and finding a balance between sports and schoolwork. He suggests making learning fun through games and not stressing children about achieving perfection. Brad also discusses his own experiences and the importance of life skills that sports can teach.

๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™‚๏ธ The Role of Meditation and Mindfulness in Sports

The conversation turns to meditation and mindfulness, with an audience member asking Brad about his practices and if he incorporated them into his coaching. Brad admits he didn't meditate but was his own 'sports shrink,' focusing on game plans and strategies. He shares an anecdote about trying a salt tank meditation with fellow tennis player Brian Teacher, which did not suit him. He also discusses his coaching style, which involves positivity and finding something to improve upon after each match.

๐Ÿ€ Sports Specialization and the Importance of Clay Courts

Brad Gilbert discusses the changes in sports training since his childhood, noting the trend towards specializing in one sport at a young age. He contrasts this with his own experience of playing multiple sports. Brad argues for the benefits of playing on clay courts, which teach discipline and how to build points. He believes that embracing clay courts could help improve American tennis players.

๐ŸŒฑ The Potential of Young American Tennis Players

The discussion focuses on the future of American tennis, with Brad expressing hope for a new generation of players. He mentions young talents like Francis Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka, who he believes have the potential to break through in the coming years. Brad also shares his thoughts on the importance of adapting coaching styles to the individual player.

๐Ÿค” The Impact of Coaching on Andre Agassi's Career

An audience member reads a quote from Andre Agassi's biography, highlighting Brad's influence on Andre's mindset and approach to challenges. Brad reflects on his coaching philosophy, emphasizing the importance of short-term memory loss and focusing on the future. He shares insights into Andre's exceptional memory and intelligence, and how he helped Andre focus on being 'good enough' to win.

๐ŸŽ“ Adapting Coaching Styles to Players' Needs

The conversation explores Brad's coaching approach, particularly his adaptability to different players. He discusses the importance of not having a one-size-fits-all coaching philosophy and the need to understand each player's unique abilities and mindset. Brad also shares his experiences working with the media and his thoughts on the future of tennis.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ The Role of Genetics and Luck in Athletic Performance

The discussion turns to the role of genetics and luck in athletic performance, with Brad sharing his observations on how players like Roger Federer maintain their health and performance. He notes that there is no foolproof way to prevent injuries, and that a combination of factors, including genetics, training, and luck, contribute to a player's longevity and success in sports.

๐Ÿ”ฎ The Future of Tennis and the Next Generation of Stars

The conversation concludes with Brad's thoughts on the future of tennis and the potential for new dominant players. He highlights the talent of young players like Borna Coric and Nick Kyrgios but cautions against placing too much pressure on them. Brad emphasizes the importance of handling expectations and the unique qualities that define greatness in sports.

๐Ÿ’กWinning Ugly
A concept and book by Brad Gilbert, focusing on the mental and strategic aspects of tennis rather than technical skills. It emphasizes maximizing what you do well and exploiting your opponent's weaknesses. The script repeatedly highlights how Brad used this approach in his own career and in coaching Andre Agassi.
๐Ÿ’กMental Skill
Refers to the psychological strategies used to improve performance. Brad Gilbert's success is attributed to his strong mental game, where he focuses on outthinking opponents and maintaining a positive mindset. This is evident in his approach to coaching and playing, where he often discusses the importance of mental toughness.
A person who trains and mentors athletes. Brad Gilbert transitioned from being a player to a coach, helping Andre Agassi and others achieve significant success. His coaching philosophy centers on enhancing players' strengths and addressing their weaknesses, as seen in his work with Agassi, Roddick, and others.
The ability to adjust strategies based on the situation or opponent. Brad Gilbert stresses the importance of being adaptable, both in playing and coaching. He mentions how he had to adapt his coaching style for different players like Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.
Refers to the process of continuous improvement and learning in sports and life. Brad Gilbert emphasizes the journey over the destination, focusing on constant growth and betterment. This is a recurring theme in the discussion about his career and his approach to coaching.
Beliefs about what will happen in the future. Brad Gilbert talks about managing expectations, whether itโ€™s his own or his players'. He advises against setting unrealistic expectations, as they can lead to unnecessary pressure and stress, especially for young athletes.
Conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, and excellence. Gilbert discusses the importance of professionalism in tennis, from maintaining a good diet to consistent training and preparation. He contrasts this with his earlier, more relaxed approach to training.
Physical strength, agility, and fitness. The script highlights the evolution of tennis players' athleticism over the years, with Brad Gilbert noting how the game has become faster and more demanding physically. This is evident in his admiration for modern players like Djokovic.
A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim. Brad Gilbert's emphasis on strategy over sheer power or skill is a core element of his 'Winning Ugly' philosophy. He often speaks about the importance of playing smart and making the opponent play to their weaknesses.
Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Gilbert's career, both as a player and coach, is marked by perseverance. He discusses the importance of not being satisfied with the status quo and continually striving to improve.
Difficulties or misfortune. Throughout the script, Gilbert discusses overcoming adversity, whether it's through injuries, losses, or career setbacks. His ability to turn challenges into learning experiences is a key aspect of his philosophy.
Something handed down by a predecessor. Gilbert's legacy in tennis is multifaceted, encompassing his achievements as a player, his impact as a coach, and his insights as an analyst. His approach to the game continues to influence players and coaches alike.
The gradual development of something. Gilbert speaks about the evolution of tennis, from the style of play to the athleticism of players. This concept is used to contrast different eras and highlight the continuous improvement in the sport.
An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end. Gilbert often mentions tactics in the context of tennis matches, focusing on how to outsmart opponents. This includes shot selection, positioning, and psychological ploys.

Brad Gilbert emphasizes the importance of adapting to different playing styles and the evolution of tennis from the '80s to now.

Gilbert shares his personal journey from being an underdog to ranking number four in the world, defying expectations.

The significance of mental skills in tennis is discussed, highlighting Gilbert's unique approach to winning without relying on traditional stroke techniques.

Coaching insights are shared, including how Gilbert helped Andre Agassi to change his mindset and achieve seven Grand Slam victories.

Gilbert discusses the differences between coaching and playing, and how he adapted his strategies to suit the strengths of the players he coached.

The importance of continuous improvement and the pursuit of being 'good enough' rather than perfect is underlined by Gilbert's coaching philosophy.

Gilbert provides analysis on modern tennis players, including Novak Djokovic's exceptional athleticism and movement on the court.

Serena Williams' dominance and longevity in tennis are praised, with Gilbert discussing her adaptability and mental strength.

Gilbert shares his thoughts on the future of American tennis, emphasizing the need for more players to learn on clay courts to build discipline.

The impact of specializing in one sport at a young age is discussed, with Gilbert noting the change from multi-sport play to year-round single sport training.

Gilbert talks about his coaching approach with younger players, focusing on building their skills and mindset for long-term growth.

The concept of 'winning ugly' is explored, with Gilbert explaining how it applies to competing effectively, regardless of the situation.

Gilbert shares anecdotes from his coaching experiences, including dinners with Andre Agassi that contributed to strategic planning.

The importance of diet and training regimens in modern sports is highlighted, with Gilbert discussing the changes he made to his own lifestyle.

Gilbert provides advice for young athletes on balancing schoolwork and sports, emphasizing the importance of education and life skills.

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