Intimidation is a huge mental game obstacle for tennis juniors. It starts when you compare yourself to your opponent before a match. Many tennis players worry about the skills or ranking of their opponent, which causes them to feel inferior or lose confidence in ability to win.
What do you think about when you are intimidated? Do you feel intimidated by an tennis opponent or do you see yourself as being the intimidator? I hope that the later.
Realize that most intimidation in tennis does not start with your opponent – it comes from your own thought process. I call this “self-intimidation.” Yes, some tennis players try to intimidate others on purpose. They think it gives them a mental edge in tennis. However, most intimidation starts when you psych yourself out of the match – without the help of an opponent.
You might get psyched out because of negative thoughts, doubts about your tennis skills or fears you have, which then turn into mental gremlins. Self-intimidation comes from making comparisons and worry too much about your competition on the other side of the net.
For example, one student I coach gets intimidated by the ranking of his opponent. When he has to play someone with a higher ranking, be begins to doubt his ability to win the match. Playing not to lose causes you to play tight and scared to lose the match.
Self-intimidation is the most common type of intimidation in tennis or any sport and the toughest type to overcome. Why? You can easily ignore what competitors might say to you to jolt you off your game, but it’s very hard to ignore your own doubts or feelings of inferiority!
Self-intimidation can come in many forms such as…
- Feeling pressure to perform your best or win.
- Worry about performing against other players who are just as skilled.
- Comparing yourself to other tennis players who you think are better.
- Worry about competing against a *ranked* or well-known player.
- Getting caught up in the hoopla or importance of a big match.
Confident and composed tennis players do not intimidate themselves. Confident players are in control of their emotions and love the opportunity of testing their skills against others athletes. The bigger and better the challenge, the more they enjoy the competition. Are you this type of player?
Many tennis players are not even aware that they intimidate themselves because doubt can be very subtle such as, “Can I beat this athlete who has beat me two out of three times before?”
To overcome self-intimidation, you first must be very honest with yourself and recognize those times when you are psyching yourself out of the competition before you even start the match!
I want you to look for mental game signs of intimidation such as…
- You give too much energy to your competition during warm up or before the match.
- You doubt you can play well against a certain competitor.
- You are in awe of the situation you are in.
- You feel inferior and make comparisons to other players.
Now that you are aware of psyching out yourself with self-intimidation, you can begin to change your thinking and boost self-composure and poise.
In my mental training program, “The Composed Athlete: A 14-Day Plan for Maximum Composure,” I share all my secrets on how to become a crunch-time tennis player and how to avoid self-intimidation.