Do you want to be a National Champion?

We are replaying a few of our most popular episodes and this was one of them!

Imagine setting impossible goals and constantly reaching them! That’s precisely what our guest, Kenny, has done. Kenny was the 4.0 18-plus singles National Champion! He is a former Division 1 football player, a former top ten track cyclist in Thailand, and won the UK cheese rolling competition.

If you would like to watch Kenny winning the cheese rolling competition please click below:

Kenny winning the Cheese Rolling Competition
Sports Illustrated Article about Kenny

Here’s a transcript of our discussion:

Carolyn : 0:02
Hi, this is Carolyn, and I’m here with Erin, and we are thrilled to have Kenny here with us. Kenny is the 4.0 18 plus singles national champion. He’s also a former division one football player and former top 10 track cyclists in Thailand and, most importantly, he’s the winner of the UK cheese rolling competition, which has been featured on ESPN’s top 10 plays on good morning america, Yahoo homepage, sports Illustrated and over 100 media outlets. So we have a lot of questions for you. Erin, can you start us off with the first one?

Erin: 0:38
So my first question is not about tennis. We need to hear about the cheese rolling championship that you won.

Kenny: 0:46
Yeah, so it’s. I first found out about it doing a project in college about obscure sports, and it was one of the most obscure sports going around and it’s if you’ve never seen videos. A lot of people have heard it, but if you’ve never seen videos you definitely got to check it out, because it’s literally running down like a ski slope where they roll this giant block of cheese. The cheese can go 70, 80 miles down the hill. No one can beat it. But basically you’re racing it and to see the first one down the hill is crown champion and it’s a tradition that’s been going on since the Roman times for like 500 years and it’s only been canceled like two times or three times in the last 500 years, and one was like World War II, two was like COVID and then one year they just had tons of injuries. So like even to watch it is kind of crazy, because you see people, you know major broken arms and legs.

Erin: 1:34
Oh, my gosh.

Kenny: 1:35
Yeah, it was pretty spectacular and crazy, but when did you do that? Yeah. So I was filming like a documentary project called One in Million, about inspiring a million people to check off their bucket list, pursue their dreams, and it was a goal that I had that I always kind of push back when I was working and like, okay. So I refocused and I was like, okay, I’m finally going to check this one off and go do it. So I wanted to do really big things that year with that project and just in life. So I set the goal for basically impossible goals. One was to be the first American to win the cheese race. Two was two. They actually do an uphill race too. It’s not quite as popular, it’s not as dangerous, but it’s still an uphill race, so that you run up the hill and it’s a separate race and they have women’s and men’s divisions and things like that and kids divisions. And then three was to make ESPN Sports Center top 10 plays, which was a goal that I had in football that I never accomplished. And the four was to inspire and reach a million people with my story and I can proudly say that, with winning the cheese race, winning the uphill, and then the story went worldwide. So I accomplished all those goals.

Erin: 2:52
Wow, you are such an inspiration because Carolyn and I set goals all the time and we talk about them. We always say we put it out to the world, right? We write them on our Google Doc and Carolyn’s was to play Ash Barty. She put that out like one of the first episodes. Ash has since retired, but we’re going to keep putting it out to the world because now we feel like she has more time to play tennis with Carolyn.

Kenny: 3:15
Absolutely. I remember that, listen to that episode and I yeah, I I don’t know her personally, but I know she has more time now since she’s retired. So you know, I really hope she can get that done and I’m a big believer. If you know, you write it down, you talk about it, you keep saying it that it’s going to happen eventually.

Carolyn : 3:33
Yeah, I put it out to the universe. So now I’m just waiting for the universe to respond. So we’ll see. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Kenny: 3:40
And I’m a big believer of that year, like that, six degrees of separation, right, and this tennis community is not that big. So absolutely I think, like you just need one person that knows one person and you’re there.

Carolyn : 3:50
Yeah, we’re one degree from Roger Federer, because we just interviewed someone from tennis warehouse, michelle, who interviewed Roger Federer. So no, we’re two.

Kenny: 3:59
There you go, I guess yeah, probably two. We’re two degrees, we’re close, we’re getting there.

Erin: 4:03
We’re getting there. Yeah, that’s right, we’re getting there.

Carolyn : 4:07
Well, kenny actually won the national championship in singles 18 plus. It’s amazing. And he came up with the title, which is seven tips to win more matches from a national champion. So I’ll start off with the first one, which is setting expectations, goals and plan of action. What did you mean?

Kenny: 4:27
For me, it’s important to set those, define those, write them down, review them. So your goal might not be natural champion right away or might not even be to win a tough match, but for me you might be working on something. You might just be playing your best tennis, have opportunities to win, because I certainly play matches against tough opponents where I’m literally just trying to hold my serve every time I’m winning to try to win three, four game. So for me, once I qualified nationals, the goal was to win and I did lay out a three month plan of playing matches, tournaments, gym workouts and mental and physical training, and then, important, with goal settings, understanding and developing. You know growth mindset. You know you can always improve, you can always get better. You know our, our talents and our skills are not fixed. And then ultimately, specializing my training and I laid a roadmap out for success. And you know, while trusting the entire process.

Erin: 5:22
That’s great. So the second one that you talked about was be familiar and comfortable with scoring format, facility and schedule. Tell us about that one.

Kenny: 5:32
Yeah, so you know, with this format it was the fast for format, so it’s definitely something that’s not common. You know it’s it’s short games, there’s no ad, scoring the way leds, play the way tie breaks, it’s just not something you’re used to. If you’re playing regular, you know adult tennis typically. So my tip here is really just you know, make sure that you really understand especially if it’s a new format how the tie breaks work, how the points work, how the switches and just get as comfortable if you can. And I’m big about practicing tie breaks for pressure to simulate pressure. And for this particular case, I played and practiced matches A lot of those matches with friends in that fast for format, just so I could get familiar with it. Have you guys ever played any like weird formats or fast for any other, like pro sets or anything like that?

Erin: 6:23
Just yeah, just at states.

Carolyn : 6:24
Yeah, or even world team. I think this is such a good point because it does make a difference. And what we don’t do, aaron, like we’ll tie 6-6 with our friends and we won’t even play the tie break because we’re like, oh, let’s just stop. We’re both winners, but maybe we should be.

Erin: 6:40
Yeah, I was like then nobody loses If you, if you don’t play a tie breaker, then you both walk away winners.

Kenny: 6:45
Yeah but maybe we do need to practice it, because I’ve been losing a lot of my time lately, so my format, especially in a new facility, is I like to get there at least one hour early before a match. I like to find the check-in table for a tournament, find the trainer station, find the bathroom, the warm up areas, the food station, the tennis shop, and then I really like to, you know, lay out my bag and really and I’m just trying to get the most comfortable and really kind of create in many ways a home court advantage for myself. And there’s an interesting study about this that they actually studied English football league, which is soccer over as we know it, and they analyzed like 10,000 matches actually, and they found that the home team won 64% of their matches and even with the absence of fans, like obviously okay, that’s the fan support, that’s the fan sharing all that. But even they went back and analyzed this with the absence of fans during COVID and the number stayed the same. The research asked like, well, how are these numbers staying the same when fans weren’t there? And they showed that playing in one’s home stadium, sleeping in your own bed, the added pressure of expectations of we should win because we’re playing at home, certainly were key factors. And so really the takeaway from this is try to create yourself a home court advantage wherever you play.

Erin: 8:06
That’s really smart. Yeah, just being comfortable in your environment, that’s great.

Carolyn : 8:10
And number three, we’ve got getting prepared for match day routines. Warm up, focus mindset.

Kenny: 8:17
Yeah, so I’m big about you know all these things and routines is about getting familiar and I think they help you focus. So, like it kind of starts with match day and it’s like so my, my go to meal is like strawberry oatmeal with banana and coconut water and like every time I eat that I just like I start to feel ready, because I really don’t eat that, honestly, when I’m not playing tennis. So that’s like my go to meal and then like my go to snacks, like crackers with cheese, rice Krispies I actually heard that from other tennis players they use that also and then I always have, you know, like extra flutes, fruit snacks or glucose gummies, and I always make sure, especially when it’s hot, to carry a couple cold sport drinks and cold water for every match. What do you guys use for your? Do you have like your go to meal, your go to snacks?

Carolyn : 9:01
I don’t, but I need to. And when you said rice Krispies, is that rice Krispies with milk, like rice Krispies, cereal?

Kenny: 9:07
No, like rice Krispies treats. Yeah, something just sugary, eat Like yeah.

Erin: 9:11
So I’ll answer that question, because we have Carol and I have an episode coming up about superstitions. So my meals and sometimes my preparation I feel like I actually am going to change my mindset after this conversation because that’s actually. You’re calling it preparation and I a lot of times thought of it as superstition. So I would listen to the same music on the way to matches. I would do what you did eat the same thing.

Carolyn : 9:39
What were you eating? Erin.

Erin: 9:41
Well, I stopped doing that because I thought it was kind of taking over and I was feeling a little bit crazy that it was more of a superstition rather than a prep. But I eat bananas. I do take stuff to matches.

Kenny: 9:51
I actually take those applesauce squeezers because that’s something you can just get quick sugar.

Erin: 9:56
Yeah, but I really only typically drink water. And Carol, you do have a routine. You’re just not saying it but she always has like Gatorades or some sort of hydration drink and Coke which actually I think and water and soda, yeah, coca-cola.

Carolyn : 10:12
I think there’s a lot I can improve on. There’s some things I can improve on. I can feel it.

Kenny: 10:17
I think we all have these rituals and these superstitions, whatever you want to call them. It’s just like if you think about them and review them and learn how to like get them, help you to focus, I think that’s a great thing. So, like with mindset for me, like when the match is about to start, you know you got to focus on that match because, especially when you’re playing tournaments, it’s easily get focused on your last match or the next match and you’re kind of like, really you have to play in that mindset of this match is the most important match of my life, right, you want to focus in the now. So, before a match, to help me focus, especially in singles, even in doubles, I don’t like to socialize much. I like to put my phone on, do not disturb and just really think about my keys to winning, even in doubles, like I’m normally off, kind of getting myself ready and mentally prepared. So then, along those same lines is like a ritual. When I get to there, I like to do like a 20 minute dynamic warm up and a lot of times I like to do that indoors, away from people and, like you know, with headphones in listening to music and then, if I have time to get on the court before. I like to do court visual visualization where I take my racket out there but no ball and I like I swing my shots and I line up and I practice my overhead and my serves and backhand and forehand just to, like you know, feel that moment. My match ritual is, you know, when I’m playing a tournament, you know, I get the court assignment from the check-in table. I walk over with my wife, I give her a kiss and I get ready. I always wear a headband pretty much all the time. So I put my headband on and I kind of turn that, you know, turn that switch on, like it’s time to go. So just in the last couple of years, I think I’ve always been doing these kind of things, but just in the last couple of years I’ve really started to think about it and kind of make sure that I’m doing my rituals and plan it out, just to kind of check it off and move through that process. Because before I thought that these rituals honestly were kind of weird, all these quirky things, because, like you know, you watch pro tennis and there’s these people that you know, I’m sure you guys know, but like Nadal, I love to watch Nadal and he’s super OCD about his bottles and like stepping on lines and all these things. And then you talk about, like Jokovic, like he can bounce the ball like 20 times sometimes. But I realized that like, having rituals kind of like this really helped me calm down and focus and it really served better and play better in those biggest pressure points. So my personal ritual is like, especially when I serve, I like to wipe my forehead, like just to touch myself, get focused, like okay, tap my head. It’s like like that, I do three or four bounces and I serve. And then when I return a serve, I like to self talk. So if someone was standing right next to me, they’re like why is this guy talking to himself? Like I, you know, return a serve. I, you know. I tell myself like okay, get ready. I say it out loud like get ready. And then like, especially in a tough point, I have this three keywords, like I say fight, grind, win, and that really just like whenever I say that, you know, like if you ever feel those moments where, like the back of the hair is on your neck, stand up, like you get that adrenaline rush even by me just saying that right now I can feel like the adrenaline pumping a little bit.

Erin: 13:26
I love that. Yeah, he’s map talking himself.

Kenny: 13:29
Yeah, you can call that meditation in some ways, like there’s a lot of different terms you can use, but just, you know, if you can figure out how to you know, use that, then it’s definitely definitely will help. And then the last part of that was the focus focus on what you control. What you can can control is your preparation, your effort, your mindset, your reactions and your adjustments to play, and then don’t focus on what you can’t control. Right, you can’t control your opponent, you can’t control weather and court conditions, you can’t really control bad calls or really on court distractions. So, if you want to learn more about this, I’m big into these studies and I read a lot. So, like you want to learn more about flow theory or getting in the zone, and there’s a really cool study even about tennis, about quiet eye study, and I’ve, you know, my sports background has enabled me to work with sports psychologist in multiple sports, so I totally, you know, grab this stuff and I really do think it’s powerful stuff that everyone should incorporate.

Carolyn : 14:26
I agree. Thanks very much to Kenny for being on the podcast. We have one more episode with Kenny where he gives us more tips. Also, if you would like to see him winning the cheese rolling competition, we have a link to it in our show notes. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the courts soon.

Tennis Warehouse’s Tip of the Week

We hope you’ve heard some of our Tennis Warehouse’s Tip of the Week segments with Michelle. Use discount code SECONDSERVE in your Tennis Warehouse cart and get $20 off clearance apparel orders over $100. Clearance apparel can be found here!

For more in-depth discussions about gear, check out Michelle’s Talk Tennis podcast.

We hosted Michelle for several great podcast episodes too. You can find them here:

Ep. 118: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse’s Playtester, Michelle (Ep. 1)
Ep. 119: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse (Ep. 2)
Ep. 120: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse (Ep. 3)