Tournament Self-Confidence in Tennis
What does it truly mean to believe in yourself?
When you believe in yourself, you have full confidence in your physical skills and ability to execute shots in tennis. My definition of self-confidence for tennis is how strongly you believe in your ability to execute a successful shot or win a match.
Don’t confuse believe in yourself (self-confidence) with self-esteem. Self-esteem is all about how you view yourself and how you appraise your self-concept (how you see yourself), also called self-worth.
Self-confidence comes from a baseline of past success in matches, practice, preparation, and a strong mental game of tennis. For example, a beginning tennis player has little or no confidence in his ability to execute a service in tennis. But with practice, he becomes competent in the skill of serving.
With competency or skill mastery confidence improves. You can also get confidence from the belief that you are physically talented, which mirrors the definition of confidence.
When working with my personal coaching students, I discuss two different types or levels of confidence.
The first is a general or broad belief in your ability as a tennis player – the feeling that you can win or perform well.
The second type of confidence is the specific belief in your ability to nail a successful overhead or hit a winning serve. Both broad and specific confidence are equally important and they influence each other.
Over my 20 plus years as a mental game coach, I’ve come to learn that many athletes have “practice self-confidence,” which comes from working hard in practice to develop your skills.
However, these same athletes don’t always transfer that confidence from practice to playing matches. They lack what I call “tournament self-confidence,” for many reasons. Match or tournament self-confidence is critical to your success in matches.
It seems irrational that you can gain a high level of self-confidence in your practice, but can’t transfer that confidence to tournaments. Most of the time, this problem is due to the mental game getting in the way and how you practice, which I’ll discuss in another article.
One of my readers recently asked this tennis psychology question:
“What is the checklist for gaining confidence before a tough match?”
I have no simple answer to this question because every player reacts differently to a tough match.
However, I’ll give you the top four strategies that every player should apply:
- Check your expectations in the parking lot. I believe that expectations (demands you place on your game) are harmful to high confidence. You want to believe in your skills and your practice, but without demanding how the match should go.
- Review the reasons why you deserve to play well before each match. You might default to your practice, your experience, or your superior talent.
- Prepare five positive self-talk statements you can use between points when you need a lift of confidence. These statements can be as simple as “I deserve to play well today.”
- Cut off any last minute doubts. Doubt is the opposite of confidence. When you engage in doubt and allow it to feaster in your mind, you confidence suffers. Acknowledge any pre-match doubts you have and practice rebutting your own doubt.
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Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
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Successful tennis players have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in tournaments.
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“On behalf of all of our coaches who attended the 2004 ITA Coaches Convention, I would like to thank you for serving as a featured clinician. I know that the coaches felt it was both enjoyable and informative. We greatly appreciate your taking the time to prepare and present such an outstanding clinic for the benefit of our coaches.”
~Nancy Breo, ITA Convention
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“Dr. Cohn, one of my goals is to become a world-class-coach, There are a few coaches from the US who inspired me the most-John Wooden, Son Shula, and Pat Riley. After working with you, I now also list your name among the most influential coaches in my field!”
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What are our mental coaching students saying?
“Maggie had such a great weekend. As always, after she works with you she just seems more grounded and focused. She’s less likely to look around and get distracted during her match. She’s more focused on one point at a time. Also, as a parent, I’ve learned to encourage her process goals and not outcomes. Consequently, she played well and won her first doubles match, upsetting a seeded team in a really really close match!”
~Katherine Johnson Cannata, Maggie’s mother