# 6. MENTAL TOUGHNESS BASICS: How to Win Every Tennis Match

This short message is very much related to the previous post which discussed OUTCOME VS PERFORMANCE GOALS.

Boris Becker once said that winning was secondary to what he was trying to accomplish on the tennis court.  What he really wanted was to get better each time he played.  Michael Jordan, the basketball player, would stay after a game was over and everyone else went home and practice his free throws, jump shots, layups, etc.  It didn’t matter if he was the best player on the court because he wasn’t competing against other players; it didn’t even matter if the Bulls won or lost; his goal was to be a better player the next time he played.  He was focusing on performance goals – not outcome goals.

So the next time you are getting ready for a match and you are feeling anxious and questioning whether you will succeed, take a moment to refocus.  Stop thinking about things you can’t control (outcome goals) and start thinking about things you can control (performance goals).  Take a couple of deep breaths and then picture yourself performing the perfect serve, the perfect approach shot, the perfect lob, etc.  Then review your goals for the match.  Attainable performance goals!  Try some relaxation techniques and then go out there and have fun.  And remember, if you achieve your performance goals, then you have won.

And if you do this every time you play you will win every tennis match you ever play.

If you want to develop stronger mental skills to help you focus on your performance then contact us for more information.






#5. MENTAL TOUGHNESS BASICS: Outcome Goals vs. Performance Goals

Examples of outcome goals: Win Conference, win Sectional, win State, go undefeated, and win all three-set matches. These goals you do not have complete control over.


Examples of performance goals: Get in top physical condition, play smart, strategic tennis; great teamwork in doubles, help every player on team become a better player, get 80% of my first serves in, no double faults in a match, give 100% effort and attitude in every practiced and match. These goals you have control over.


Define your success in terms of your performances and successes rather than by comparing your performances to others.


You have more control over Performance goals than Outcome goals.


Set SMART goals:


o Specific (avoid “do your best” goals)


o Measurable (able to track behavioral progress)


o Achievable (challenging but realistic)


o Relevant (important to the athlete or team)


o Time-limited (set deadlines for achievement)


For more help on developing real objective goals for your development and/of  your mental toughness contact us!!!







# 4. MENTAL TOUGHNESS BASICS: 5 Simple Techniques To Improve Your Mental Toughness.

Here are five simple techniques you can try right away:

1. The best all-around mental repair tool is the simple phrase, “only the ball.” It cures, at least temporarily, most of the big pitfalls. Whether you’re upset, angry, nervous, or just distracted, repeat this phrase to block out negative thoughts and return your focus to where it belongs, the ball.

2. Probably the hardest time to concentrate is when you’re getting ready to return serve. Your opponent has the ball, so your mind seems to sense that this is an opportunity for a little time off. The next thing you know, you’re mind is wondering off  as you are rudely interrupted by a green, rubber ball coming in at 90 m.p.h. A combination of three devices can help keep your mind on the job:

  • While your opponent is preparing, try to focus on something undistracting, like your strings. (Strings get readjusted a lot more than needed because of this little trick.)
  • As she tosses the ball, try to watch it come out of her hand and say to yourself a long, drawn-out, “baaalll.”
  • As she hits the serve, say “hit,” followed by “bounce,” then on your return swing, “hit.”

The “baaalll” device seems to work well for most players without much of a downside. The “hit, bounce, hit” phrase is also popular, but for some players it distracts more than it helps.

3. It’s possible to become too analytical in the middle of a match, which will keep you from letting your strokes take their natural flow, but you don’t want to shut down your analytical abilities, either. If you miss a shot you shouldn’t have, you’ll dwell on it less if you take a moment to figure out what you did wrong, then say to yourself, “Okay, I won’t do that again.” It’s usually a good idea to repeat the stroke right away with the correct motion. You might very well make the same error the next time the stroke comes up, but just go ahead and apply the same process. Eventually you will get it right, and in the meantime, a little extra optimism won’t hurt.

4. Learn versatility. If you have only one playing style, and it’s not working, your lack of strategic options also creates a shortage of mental safety valves. A key factor in psychological health in general is feeling empowered to choose different courses of action. If you have a Plan B, C, and D on the tennis court, the failure of Plan A is unlikely to cause despair. Tennis players often lose because at least a part of them secretly gives up. You won’t give up while you have something else to try. Learn to play every part of the court and hit every kind of shot with every kind of spin. You’ll likely uncover a weakness in a seemingly invicible opponent. Variety makes the game more creative and interesting, too.

5. Look alert, energetic, confident, and happy. Looking so will actually help you be so to a significant extent, and it will keep you from giving encouragement to your opponent. If your opponent is at all prone to choking, your look of ready confidence on the verge of seeming defeat might keep just enough doubt in her mind to make her cave under the pressure of closing out the match.

These will be a great start for any of you…. So try them…


For more great ideas and strategies to help you perform at your best all the time contact us directly here!!!








#3. MENTAL TOUGHNESS BASICS: Why Do I Always Play Better In Practice?

I had this question put to me recently by one of you young warriors!!!


Why do I play much better when practicing than when I play matches???


The reasons fall into 3 categories:

1. Self confidence (lack of!!)

2. What you say to yourself (i.e. what’s inside your head)

3. Dealing with anxiety or arousal


All of the above three will affect tennis performance. All these challenges are magnified in your case because:

1. You’re young & adolescent 

2. Tennis is an individual sport (except doubles)


Self confidence obviously fluctuates a lot during adolescence anyhow but if you believe that your opponent has a higher rating than you etc then self confidence diminishes and anxiety increases. Also if you attach too much importance to competitions (“everything depends on this match” “Butch will give me a rollocking if I lose” “It’s the end of the world if I lose” “I’m nobody if I lose to this schmuk!” etc etc) then this further increases anxiety and performance diminishes. (see my previous e-mail) Notice how well you play when the pressure is off-e.g. in practice matches or when you’re about to lose the match anyhow and you suddenly play amazing!!!


The GREAT news is that as you play more competitions and become more experienced your anxiety levels will diminish!!


However here are some tips in the meantime which I will work with Butch on and run some mini seminars in the next few months:


It’s based on the mnemonic PRESSURE:

  • Prepare You must psychologically prepare for what you will face during competition and Butch & I will devise some imagery exercises with you
  • Relax various relaxation techniques may be necessary prior to competition in order to prevent over arousal. I will work with you on this
  • Externalise-not all problems are within yourself-it may simply be the case that your opponent is a better player than you or that clay is your weakest surface
  • Stay Positive- Have confidence in your own abilities. Positive self talk!!Banish NATS- negative automatic thoughts
  • Single Minded-Stay focussed on the job in hand. Use this BOTH in training and competition (observe how the professionals train!!)
  • Unite-Work together as a team with your parents, coach, exercise physiologist, nutritionist, psychologist etc
  • Re-evaluate- How important is winning or losing a tennis competition in the real world?? Keep perspective. Develop a mature attitude
  • Extend Yourself- Give your best performance every time no matter how important, or unimportant, the competition is

Hope this helps and if you are interested I’ll work with you on devising some tailor made exercises to help your mental strength during matches.






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