How to Avoid Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Do you become frustrated when you lose the first few matches of the season?
Do early season losses feel like a sign that you will have a bad season?
No tennis player wants to start off the season on a bad note, but the first few matches of the season are not an indication of how your season will unfold.
The first few matches of the season provide valuable feedback about the aspects of your game that need improvement so you can play at your peak at some point during the season.
In our Mental Game of Tennis survey, a tennis player recently commented on her problem area regarding under performing in the beginning of the season:
“I always seem to get off to a slow start when my tennis season begins. I get so angry and frustrated because I feel I’m always a step behind my teammates and I never catch up.”
Let’s examine the issue of starting out slow in the beginning of the season in further detail.
The first problem is that you are comparing yourself to your teammates, “I feel I’m always a step behind my teammates.” Comparison to other players crushes your confidence. Your comparison to your teammates is the root cause of your anger and frustration.
Next, your thought process is grounded in absolutes, “I always seem to get off to a slow start.” You are expecting to start off slow every season. That expectation results in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“ANOTHER SLOW START to the season.”
Lastly, you conclude that a slow start to the season will result in a bad end to your season, “I never catch up.” You theorize that you will continue your level of play throughout the season.
This misconception impedes your ability to improve. If you believe you won’t improve, you will not give 100% effort and focus throughout the season. When you believe that a slow start to the season will doom you to a bad season, you will prove yourself right… 100% of the time.
Improving your game does not happen overnight. Peak play is a process of: play… evaluate… adjust… improve.
For example, former world No. 1 Andy Murray is patiently working on returning to play after a long layoff due to hip surgery.
Murray, for the 2020 Australian Open preparation, uses the matches leading up to the Open as a tune-up to gauge and sharpen his level of play.
MURRAY: “The way to get that back is by playing matches. You can hit as many speed targets as you like, but once you get out on the court, It’s very different. Every time I’ve practiced singles so far, it’s all just been practice sets because I was trying to get back on the match court. But once you actually get out there and start playing you realize, ‘wow, my return needs to get better, I need to improve my serve’. I need to get myself on the practice court and work on those things specifically.”
The early part of the season is to gauge your level of play and what needs to improve. The only way to achieve your peak is to play matches, learn from your mistakes, work in practice to improve weak aspects of your game, then repeat.
A Strong Start to Tennis Season
Create a two-month plan. Set goals that are based on improving your game instead of just results.
Instead of stating that you want to win your first two matches, set a goal of improving your first serve percentage or getting to more wide balls.
After each practice and early season match, evaluate, learn, and adjust your practice plan as necessary.
Always keep in mind that you don’t want to carry generalizations into the start of the season and talk yourself into a slow start. New season–new player!
Related Tennis Psychology Articles:
- Nadal on the Importance of Positive Body Language
- How to Overcome Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Tennis
- Confidence Helps Novak Djokovic Win US Open
- Download our a FREE Tennis Psychology Report
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