Almost 200 days a year away from home, sometimes three tournaments in different parts of the world one after the other. Every day (except Sundays) training and of course school. This is the life of a 16-year-old tennis player who spends more time with his coach than with his parents. When asked what his goal in sports is, Bruno Kokot – surprised how such a question can even be asked – replies without thinking: „To be the best”. This year, in the U16 age category, he won more Polish championship titles, won several major tournaments in singles and doubles, played in the Junior European Individual Championships, and was also one of the first Polish scholarship holders of the prestigious „Young Talents Team” program of the BNP Paribas banking group. But it’s still the beginning of his way to the top.
He came to his first training at the age of five thanks to his older sister Klaudia, who was then learning to play on the courts of the Baltic Sea in Koszalin. This is how Paweł Wykrzykowski, the first coach of both recollects this moment: – Bruno was an exceptional boy. As a young child, he was able to concentrate on training for an hour. Children at this age distract after a few minutes, because they can see their friends, something is going on in the neighboring court, a bird will fly by … He was mentally older than his peers at once. Currently, physicality does not help him, he is lower than many players in the age group under 18, in which he is currently competing, but that does not cancel him out. Someone physically weaker on the court has to make up for it with more attention, working with the net or even better movement on the court. An important moment in every player’s career is the transition from the junior stage to adult tennis. I am convinced that he will handle it perfectly, because his strength is his „head”.
At the Baltic courts, Bruno also worked with Grzegorz Sułek, who says: – He definitely has got a big talent,he has got a true gift. It was visible from the very beginning. Certain technical elements, which for other children took a few training sessions, he „caught” in half an hour. He is a tidy boy. Most importantly, he has a set of features that determine success in tennis, i.e. bravery, the ability to concentrate attention, versatility of physical preparation and, above all, faith in himself and in success. We will probably hear the latter from every young athlete, but it is usually only a declaration and not a deep inner conviction. Bruno is mentally strong, he works on the mental as well as on the physical. For him, the declaration „I want to be the best” means that he really believes in it. Tennis is a difficult and demanding sport. Without inner strength and self-confidence, nothing will be achieved in him.
Bruno worked with Paweł Wykrzykowski and Grzegorz Sułek until he was ten. His next coaches were Adam Mlazga and Dawid Kujawa from Kołobrzeg. For three years he also trained regularly at the Global Tennis Team academy in Majorca under the supervision of her head coach – Jofra Porta, former coach Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moyá. Currently, we can talk about a coaching team, because next to Damian Bartosiak, a tennis coach, who moved for Bruno three years ago from Zabrze and lived in Koszalin, an equally important role is played by Rafał Kobusiński as a motor preparation trainer, mental trainer and physiotherapist of a young player. Bruno is also provided with invaluable help by the osteopath Paweł Dżugan and the dietitian Tomasz Piekarski.
Tournaments and rankings
Thanks to the successes of Iga Świątek and other Polish tennis players, even people who are not interested in tennis on a daily basis begin to understand the importance of rankings. Players collect points for them by participating in subsequent tournaments, and the tournaments have a different rank and therefore they earn a different number of points.
In the case of tennis youth, the rankings are based on age groups. Bruno is now moving from U16 to U18. In the under-16 category, it is in the top three in the country and is 17th in Europe. In the world ranking of the ITF (International Tennis Federation) in the age category up to 18 years, he is already in the fourth hundred players.
Earning points requires participation in tournaments, and that in turn means living on the go. When we talked to coach Damian Bartosiak at the beginning of September, we heard from him: – In the last 80 days, we spent 65 days traveling and only 15 at home. This is what it looks like in the starting period. We will spend the six-week preparatory period for the next season in Koszalin, and then travel will start again.
Court and school
Training is a hard work every day. During the preparatory period, there is one tennis training and one motor training each day (except Sunday). A total of 3-4 hours of effort. Of course, there are also school duties.
Bruno is studying at an internet school. Marcin Kokot, the tennis player’s dad, says: – We use the British school, King’s InterHigh, which has a reputation as a leader when it comes to English-language online schools. We chose it because it works differently than most e-learning schools, where students receive materials, learn on their own and after some time they have to pass a test. We wanted Bruno to be in touch with teachers, to have regular lessons, and to be able to improve his knowledge of English and Spanish. King’s InterHigh has “live” teacher-assisted lessons, and that is a great value.
Bruno comments: „ Lessons are scattered throughout the day, so sometimes I am not able to attend them on a regular basis because they interfere with other activities. However, it is possible to recreate the lessons after some time and it works perfectly well. I quickly got used to the fact that I learn only in English.
Marcin Kokot adds: – Bruno joined the tenth grade. Grades 10 and 11 are the two grades for writing the IGCSE exam. Then there is grade 12 and 13, followed by the English baccalaureate. Passing the matura exam in English allows tennis players to study in the USA, where universities are happy to invite players from Europe, but on the condition that they have the British Matura exam and an appropriate position in the UTR (Universal Tennis Ranking). Thanks to this, education and playing can be continued.
Bruno Kokot, after winning (in June this year, during the National Youth Olympics) the title of the Polish champion in the singles game and the bronze medal in the doubles game in the under 16 category, found himself in the Polish representation of two people at the Individual European Championship. He has been in the A national team for years.
The European Junior Championships 2022 were, as always, a great tennis event – 440 best juniors from 44 countries took part in them. They were played for the first time in 1976. They are the most prestigious event in the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, with ranking points available for the U14 and U16 categories. Older players (U18) receive ITF World Tennis Tour Junior ranking points.
As many as 12 world „ones” – including Novak Djokovic, Stefan Edberg, Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf – triumphed in singles in previous editions of IME tournaments. The Swede Mats Wilander, on the other hand, is so far the only player to ever win singles titles in all three age categories. The last Polish players to win the European Junior Championships are Iga Świątek (U14, 2015) and Maja Chwalińska (U16, 2017).
BNP Paribas scholarship
The talent of the citizen of Koszalin was appreciated by the organizers of the „Young Talents of BNP Paribas” program – Bruno Kokot was among the top four of his Polish pupils, next to Jakub Jędrzejczak, Hanna Koprowska and Amelia Paszun.
The scholarship program of the BNP Paribas Group covers 150 young players from France, Italy, the United States, and from this year also from Poland and Belgium. For six months, the BNP Paribas Bank provides its charges not only with monthly financial scholarships supporting the development of a professional career, but also various trainings (e.g. in public speaking, career planning, running social media, cooperation with sponsors). Young tennis players also gain the opportunity to participate in BNP Paribas tournaments, including on the basis of a wild card, as sparring partners or participants in group training. The Polish ambassador of the program is the excellent tennis player Mariusz Fyrstenberg, a specialist in doubles, a five-time participant in the Masters doubles tournament for the eight best doubles in the world, a representative and captain of the Polish national team in the Davis Cup, an Olympian.
This year’s opening of the scholarship program in Paris during the French Open played at Roland Garros courts turned out to be a great experience not only for the players, but also for the parents. Marcin Kokot recalls: – The ambassadors of the „Young Talents Team” of BNP Paribas are such great tennis players as John McEnroe, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Justine Henin. The inauguration took place at the central court. At that time, Iga Świątek was warming up next to her game in the fourth round. Then we had the opportunity to watch her match and the match of Hubert Hurkacz. I wish we had to go back the next day because Bruno had another ITF tournament in Gdańsk.
All the coaches who we talked to about Bruno emphasize two things with one accord: his extraordinary mental strength and enormous competitive potential.
Damian Bartosiak, who Bruno is working now a lot , says: – Compared to his age -mates from Southern Europe, Bruno is developing a bit slower. At this stage, the taller player with longer arms serves with greater force, so he has a natural advantage in some sense. This means Bruno has to score deeper than the court with more effort. It has to be strategically altering the rotation of the ball and diverting the service more than force.
When Bruno gains a few more centimeters in height, there will be additional arguments on the court. Practice shows that people who develop harmoniously like him, with time cope better and better. There is definitely still a huge potential in it, which will only be revealed.
Certainly Bruno’s strength is his „head”, or mental strength. He is aware of this, but he also knows that it is easy to distract during the game: – Stress can cause you to stop playing what was assumed and to react impulsively. I fight it all the time. Composure, cold-bloodedness, consistency are of great importance.
Marcin Kokot emphasizes: – The help of Mr. Rafał Kobusiński, who is a coach, physiotherapist and mental trainer, is invaluable. He works with players of various disciplines, including footballers and chess players. He was heavily involved in Bruno’s development from the very beginning. We have contact with him almost every day, just like with coach Damian. We have managed to create a strong team that works in harmony. The coaches meet, arrange different things. Bruno also reads books on sports psychology. The advantage of working with coach Rafał is that they constantly talk to each other, whether during mental work sessions or during physiotherapy treatments. In essence, the mental training goes on all the time. These are not „lessons” on the principle of „sit down Bruno, now I’ll tell you what to think” but a natural never ending process.
The essence of mental training is for the player to develop the ability to constantly maintain concentration at the same level. That he learns to concentrate on the particular ball he is playing at the moment, and not to think about what will happen or what has already happened, i.e. a failed exchange of balls from a moment ago. She is already over; what’s happening at this moment is important. In its pure form „here and now”. This is very difficult. Training this skill takes a lot of time and energy. It does not only apply to the moments when a player loses, but to the same extent to the opposite situation, when the lead in the match seems to herald the final success. Then too early triumphalism and distraction may appear. In tennis – unlike, for example, in football – it is impossible to „show the result” until the end of the game. You have to be able to play the same way from the first to the last service. This is, of course, an ideal, few achieve it, but mental work is the pursuit of that ideal state.
– For novice players, it’s about learning to literally control your emotions and to behave properly on the court. Later, as in the case of Bruno today, mental work teaches the player to control the way of thinking. It will sound banal, but a tennis player fights two fights at the same time: with the opponent and with his thoughts – said Marcin Kokot.
When we talk to Bruno about mental work, the phrase „play with a loose hand” is used several times. We asked Rafał Kobusiński to explain it: – Stress causes tension in all muscles – both needed and unnecessary. „Loose-hand” means that you play with only the ones you need. It means that the player has relaxed mentally and started to play with a „loose hand”, ie optimally, as in sparring or training. Most Polish athletes are programmed for the result. What will the media say? How will I feel when I lose? Such thinking involuntarily triggers the stress hormone. Each field of sport is based on the use of different muscle groups. Training improves their work. We are working to ensure that muscle tension does not translate into a half-meter out. Playing with a „loose hand” means a mental state that allows you not to look at the result but the way you play. Paradoxically, such a phenomenon is often observed in players who think that they have already lost a match. It is 0: 4, the player enters the „loose-hand” state and comes to 4: 4. Then he stiffens up again, he starts to stress because he is programmed for the result, for the service, for the forehand. The key to success is consistent action and focus on one play – explains Rafał Kobusiński.
Bruno’s sporting progress is very important in his family life. Each of Bruno’s family memeber contributes to its success. Sister, because everything started from her example, and now constant psychological support for her brother flows from her. A dad who has been spending his weekends on trips to children’s tournaments. And finally, mother, who watches over the proper diet of a young athlete.
Bruno comments: – Mr. Tomasz Piekarski, a dietitian from Słupsk, is setting my diet. I am allergic to many fruits, so they are eliminated from the menu. However, the diet includes dishes that I like very much, because, as Mr. Piekarski says, diet is not a punishment. I can even drink Coke after the game. But only then – the tennis player laughs.
And dad adds: – We eat at home like Bruno. It’s my wife’s merit. She cooks every day, in accordance with the prescribed diet, with supplementation and weighing of meals. Thanks to the Polish Tennis Association, Bruno also participates in anti-doping training. The team doctor makes the players aware of this, because you can inadvertently get into trouble, for example, taking a painkiller, which is available in every store and at every gas station.
It is difficult subject. Paweł Wykrzykowski ,the coach, says about money in tennis in this way : – People heard that Iga Świątek earned somewhere a million, and somewhere two million, and they think that all tennis players can earn such the same amount of money .But the truth is different : educate a player who makes money from tennis is harder than winning the top prize in the lottery. Tennis is a family sacrifice that lasts for years without any guarantee of return. It is a difficult individual sport where just only few players can achieve material success.
Until recently, in Bruno’s case, his parents financed everything at the expense of various sacrifices. And these are enormous expenses: coaches' salaries, tennis court rentals, equipment, travel and hotel costs …
The players of the national team are also helped by the Polish Tennis Association.A lot of has changed for the better since Mr. Mirosław Skrzypczyński became the president of the PZT. He caused the creation of a tennis league in Poland, attracted sponsors, and focuses on training young people. However, the main people who bankroll the children’s training are still their parents and without the help of sponsors the way to the top is practically impossible.
Bruno Kokot is at an important moment in his career (although tennis experts say that every moment is equally important). He has just moved on to the U18 category, which is the final stage before going pro. At tournaments, he will have to face players from all over the world who are up to two years older and build his position in the ranking. Will He manage? His former and present coaches, as well as his closest ones, have no doubt that he will manage.
Bruno’s current results can be followed on his social profiles: FB: /brunokokotPL IG: /brunokokot_