Living Up To High Expectations For Talented Tennis Players
Living up to the expectations of others has never helped a tennis player rise to the top.
When coaches and parents tell you that you are “naturally-gifted” and can be the next Nadal, Serena or Federer, it can cause you to feel a tremendous amount of pressure.
While these outside influences are attempting to compliment you, the pressure of those expectations will most likely produce negative results.
This weight of expectations can wear down the most talented tennis players leaving those players feeling mentally drained.
Under these mental conditions of high expectations and overwhelming pressure, a barrier forms between you and optimal play.
Lucas Pouille, who turned pro in 2013 at 19 years of age, is now understanding the importance of managing expectations.
Pouille has been compared to current ATP stars such as Roger Federer despite having a 1-8 Grand Slam tournament record.
Early in his career, Pouille found it difficult to live up to the hype and his performance suffered.
POUILLE: “[The pressure] used to play on my mind, especially a year and a half ago when everyone was saying ‘You’re the next French player’. It was tough for me to deal with it.”
When you try to live up to the hype and what others expect of you, it switches your focus from playing the game to worrying about the results–and what others think about your results.
For that reason, Pouille has dedicated a lot of time working on his mental game in 2016 and a big part of that mental work is managing expectations.
POUILLE: “We’ve been working on my mental strength. Sometimes I’m not able to play well because I put too much pressure on myself. I’m trying to be more relaxed and trying to focus on my game and trying to improve every day. Every time I’m on the court, I just think about my tennis and about improving. I think that’s made the difference between this year and last year.”
Former tennis great Yannick Noah is working with Pouille and teaching him to stop thinking about mistakes and the outcomes of matches, and just focus his full attention on the current point he is playing.
POUILLE: “When I want to talk to Yannick, he says, ‘You’re always going to miss a lot of shots, but carry yourself and every time try to improve on every shot and just think about what you’re doing at the moment and not what the consequences are going to be.’”
Pouille’s improved mental game and focus has helped him jump up almost 40 places from No. 91… That is the power of a proper focus.
Try this tip to managing high expectations:
You need to understand the relationship between expectations and confidence. Not reaching high expectations can lead to anger, frustration and lower confidence.
Instead of judging your performance every shot or point–and if it meets your standards–you want to only focus on the next shot or point.
Walk on to the court and commit to not judging how you are playing.
Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
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