Taking Practice Confidence to Matches
Do you play tennis with a ton of confidence in practice, but have trouble taking your practice game to matches? If so, you are not alone.
Many of my players are more comfortable in their practice routines than in matches. They lose trust in their strokes that worked well in practice. I recently received the following mental game of tennis question:
“How can you develop trust that the training you have been doing will pay off in matches… and develop trust that you can hit that ‘forehand’ or ‘backhand’?”
Let’s start by answering a basic question:
What does it mean to play with trust?
When you play with trust, you allow yourself to play freely – you have faith in your practice. You don’t grind on your technique or over coach yourself in matches because you are confident that you can rely on your practice. You just react to the ball, knowing your training will carry you.
Through practice and repetition – a lot of it – your body learns how to hit shots effortlessly, instinctively. Meaning with enough repetition and practice, you can hit shots without thinking about how to hit shots.
You should think of competition as a “closed book test” to use a schoolwork analogy. You’ve studied (practiced) for the test. In competition, it’s time to trust what you studied.
How does your trust break down all of a sudden when you play in a match?
Many mental game or tennis issues can affect your level of trust in matches. A lack of confidence and cause your trust to not show up. Indecision is another barrier to trust. Fear of failure can kill the soundest strokes. Perfectionism can cause you to focus too much on perfect strokes and not enough on strategy and playing smart shots.
What can players do to improve their trust in matches?
Tennis psychology and trust starts with having a balance in your practice routines. Practicing the right way will help you improve your trust in matches.
The key is to practice like you compete.
You’ll want to replicate tournament situations. You might play more practice matches or tiebreakers. Any drill to help you react in practice will help you in matches. Use drills that force you to work on your footwork or mix up shots. You should practice varying the direction, speed and placement of your shots.
Here’s another mental game of tennis tip:
Don’t analyze your mistakes during a match – save it for after the match. When you analyze your mistakes, you begin to over coach yourself. You won’t fix what’s broken during the match. Fixing only leads to over analysis or defensive play.
Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
Successful tennis players have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in tournaments.
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“Since you last worked with AJ in early September, his National ranking has improved from 349 to 148. His tournament record at one point, since talking with you was 17-4, with 3 of the 4 being in third sets or tiebreakers and 2 of those matches being the same player, whom he has since beaten (you may recall he was on an 0-9 losing streak when we contacted you). His tie-breaker record is at least 90% through last weekend when he won the 18s District tournament with a semi and final match tiebreak win. Your help has definitely improved AJ’s results and his on-court demeanor has substantially improved.”
~Dawn Woodman, A.J.’s Mother
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~Nancy Breo, ITA Convention
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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