Some players tend to sink rather than sail in pressure-filled situations. Facing the number one seed in Round 1 is tough. Whether in the first game of the match with the stress of keeping your serve, or the critical set point, or even the defending/playing the final match point to stay in or win, the mental pressure can be at a level that make the less experienced player overplay their game. Let’s look at how to combat this mental situation through the mastery approach.
Prime Time Is All The Time
The mental and physical skills needed, however, remain the same at whatever stage of play you are in. Think regardless of a situation’s perceived magnitude and treat practice as the championship final and the actual match as the practice. Nothing extra is needed in a big-game scenario. Stick to your regular pre-game routine as much as possible and get settled in right away and keep it happening as you always do.
Prove to yourself in training and practice that you are a worthy champion so that in the competition it is better as you can fully express your skills and enjoy yourself rather than feel there is a need to prove yourself. You’ll be fine if you go out and play like yourself by being who you are, doing what you do best and playing as you play! Remind yourself,
This is who I am and what I do every day to be a champion.
Know Why You Play
Far too many players put far too much on the results and too little on enjoying the moment. The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours. If you are playing tennis solely to please your parents or someone else, get out of it as you will never enjoy it. Update your life goals and go find more enjoyment or personal meaning doing something else.
Fun is the primary reason to play sports. Ask yourself, “Am I having fun when I train and compete?” If you are not having fun, what are you thinking, feeling and doing that interferes with thoroughly enjoying your experience? The objective is to have fun in your sport while finding out how great you can play the game. Keep the pleasure and passion in the pursuit.
Accept Yourself Unconditionally
Sadly, many players allow their play to define their worth as a person. This misperception that your value as a person can be measured by how well you play in a particular game underlies many performance and personal problems. Fortunately your worth is never on the line. You are more than the sum of your performance outcomes, so do not feel bad or guilty if you do your best.
Tell yourself that whatever the outcome of a competition, you will always appreciate yourself and feel good about making your best effort. Having unconditional self-acceptance will move you closer to your goals because you will be in the ideal state of mind to succeed.
Bottom line: Rate your performance, do not judge yourself.
Never Stop Training, Never Stop Learning
Enjoy the fruits of your labour, but keep working hard on your game. Always seek to improve, even when you are at your best at what you do. Be a lifelong learner, make continuous improvement and never ending development of your gold standard. A willingness to learn and evolve is invaluable when it comes to attaining personal excellence and achieving peak performance.
“Always a student” is an attitude synonymous with having the growth mind-set that world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck defines in her book Mindset: The Psychology of Success. Specifically, a growth mind-set is one in which you can recognise that you have talents that can be enhanced through dedication. A fixed mind-set, on the other hand, is one in which you see your talents as traits that cannot be developed. Achieve more success and happiness in your tennis by understanding that you can progress in every area of your performance.
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Excerpts taken from “The Champion’s Mind – How Great Athletes Think Train and Thrive” by Jim Afremow PhD. ISBN 978-1-62336-562-2 – An excellent read from a leading sports psychology consultant and licensed counsellor.