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I do not intend to fall into the oft-repeated "any time past was better", nor idealize the youth of previous years, and yet I observe some changes in behavior in the current generations that cause me some uneasiness. These changes are, in my opinion, a slight step backwards in terms of acquiring a better ability to face life.

Today we live in a world that is technological and redeemed, to a great extent, by the power of images in which the three most seductive premises for today's society are combined: ease, immediacy and fun. And all this is inexorably linked to effective personal development.

Since the dawn of civilisation, human beings have used technology to seek progress and, in fact, this has been one of the causes of their effective advancement.

The Industrial Revolution that began in the second half of the 18th century in the United Kingdom is the most recent example. Its enormous technological contributions, and the social and economic changes that resulted from it, gave rise to today's model of society. The world that emerged from this turning point has not stopped moving forward, except for a few moments of stagnation or even regression, such as the two World Wars.

This great transformation was based on mechanisation, that is, on the substitution of man's strength for the work of machines, with the consequent reduction of effort and time. My fear is that in the current revolution, the digital one, this time we will replace, not the strength of our arms, but what differentiates us from the rest of the animals: our brains. In theory, human beings are less subject to the tyranny of their own instincts and have the capacity to imagine, improve and learn.

It is true that the new technological paradigm is inevitable and that it affects all of us in society as a whole, for better or for worse. But as I have said many times in the area of the tennis academy where I work, which is good for a professional tennis player is not necessarily good for one who is in training. The young generations, those who do not see what our boring life was like before the existence of the internet, video games, smartphones and the possibility of accessing any content for the price of a click, are showing effects that clearly harm their good learning. And, as I said, I see it every day in my work as a coach.

Children are demanding fun and varied training. Repetitive exercises are considered archaic, expensive and not very effective. I observe how the boys are victims of a gradual deterioration in their ability to concentrate and show a clear disdain for everything that is difficult. They are immediately frustrated that something is not coming out of their mouths and are surprised when a training session, let alone a game, turns out to be worse than they expected. Obviously, those of us who dedicate ourselves to training activities are faced with a not inconsiderable challenge. And, surely, we have the responsibility or obligation to convince young people that everything that facilitates, weakens. And that an excess of technology in our lives makes personal development difficult.

In the world of tennis, we have within our reach an enormous amount of data that supposedly should have a positive effect on the achievement of the goals proposed by the future figures on the circuit. And yet, it is very easy to see that the entry of players into the professional world has been considerably delayed. When Rafael arrived, the average was around 20 or 21 years old. Now it is around 25 or 26.

This is a clear indicator that to reach professional maturity, today we need five years more than before to enjoy the dazzling technological advances.

Logic leads me to understand that what happens in the sphere I know can be transferred to any other sphere of society, and my concern leads me to ask whether we should not promote a certain change of trend in any training sector, including that which takes place within each family.

Some time ago I heard a lecture by the world-renowned psychologist and researcher, Daniel Goleman, in which he said that a child's ability to concentrate is much more decisive for learning than his IQ. I kept the phrase and have repeated it wearily to the children I work with as well as to my own children. Without concentration or attention, it is a mere product of chance to do things right and almost impossible to advance or learn.

I believe that we should reflect and ask in our respective lives if we are really helping young people to face an increasingly globally competitive future.

The rush of today's society is probably against us, but we still have the two most powerful tools at our disposal: reflection and optimism.

The rest is just a matter of work.


Toni Nadal
Tennis coach


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