The Signature Game (Synopsis)

Read the full book introduction HERE

This is a work in progress, a book I’m doing with my good friend Dick Herbst, a brilliant, unorthodox coach of tennis (and other sports) in Bradenton, Florida. Dick developed the idea of Signature play over his long and successful career coaching tennis with players ranging from child beginners to former world #28 Patrick McEnroe—and including his co-author, yours truly!

You see an unsettling Cubist painting and instantly know, “that’s a Picasso.” A haunting trumpet solo hangs in the air, advertising its source: Miles Davis. Yes, that’s Brazilian soccer legend Pelé aloft, firing his “bicycle kick” backwards over his head and into the goal. Unique styles sign these works as definitely as autographs.

THE SIGNATURE GAME describes the “final common pathway” to excellence in sports.  With a wealth of real-world examples, it demonstrates how great innovators invariably take personal ownership of their games and brand them in a way that expresses their individual “voices.” This means shattering templates, molds, and conventions from the past and blazing a fresh, individual route to high performance.

Far from being merely a grace note or a stylistic frill, a signature style, developed only through an unending process of self-definition, is the emblem of distinction. Coaches and teachers cannot instill it, nor can imitation produce it. Hallmarks of virtuosity, these signatures can revolutionize fields of endeavor. They are the fountainhead of novelty.

THE SIGNATURE GAME will walk us along the winding, exhilarating path to a signature style. This journey avoids red herrings like the conventional advice to “imitate winners” and copy “best practices,” which forestall growth. Signature performers bypass perfectionism and include error—thereby releasing energies from the stifling search for flawlessness. Furthermore, outstanding performers let strategies shape their techniques, reversing the bromide of “technique first.”

Finding one’s own style involves a grassroots, bottom-up creative endeavor, diametrically opposed to the top-down, hierarchical, authority-driven form of coaching that prevails today, with a relentless push from the commercially motivated “sports-industrial complex.” Our new, revolutionary paradigm puts the athlete radically in charge of his or her development, and redesigns the role of a coach, who will come to foster individuality in players, rather than teaching everyone standard, cookie-cutter methods.

THE SIGNATURE GAME describes forms of experimentation that let athletes discover and define their signature styles. In this new landscape of learning, coaches and teachers become liberators who release students’ energies, instead of feared authority figures who box them into cages handed down from the past.