One of the hallmarks of a strong mental game of tennis is your ability to stay composed when you are down in a match or making unforced errors. You cannot be a consistent performer unless you slay the raging monster within – or control your emotions during matches.
I am sure at one time (or two) your mind game let you down because you became upset, frustrated, or angry with yourself or an opponent. I probably bet it cost you a couple games or even a set.
At the younger levels of junior tennis – 10 and under – I have witnessed cheating by young players, which can lead to frustration for the opponent.
Recently, my daughter was victim to her opponent who was cheating with the score in a Florida State Designated tournament. Unfortunately, this was her first State event.
It’s a shame that my daughter’s opponent felt like she had to manipulate the score in her favor, but I know cheating happens often in junior tennis at this age. As a tennis parent and mental game coach, it’s hard to see this happen, so I did some research after the match…
I looked at the USTA web site to see what they had to say about how to handle junior players that cheat. What struck me was one comment from a coach. He said losing a few points because of bad line calls by an opponent or poor score you can overcome in a match.
However, he stated that the worst part happens when a tennis player’s mental game unravels because of frustration due to an opponent cheating. This is exactly what happened to my daughter during her match. She gave in to her opponent who insisted on only calling the score when ahead in a game (on serve and return of serve) and never calling out the score when she was behind in the score (as if she forgot the score all of a sudden).
My daughter started to go for big winners out of frustration. She was letting her frustration dictate how she played. As a mental game coach to juniors and professional athletes, I realize that it’s very hard to teach 10 year old junior tennis players about playing one point at a time, letting go of the last point, and staying composed. They have a hard understanding these concepts.
Even the top players in the world get upset, but they are able to gain control quickly and get back to business. Recovering quickly from mistakes or an unfair opponent is what separates champions from athletes who allow their mind game to get the best of them for the rest of the match.
To get control of the raging monster within, you must do two tasks – have an accepting mindset before the match (be more tolerant) and arm yourself with mental strategies to cope adversity, cheating, or getting behind in a match you think you should win.
If you want to learn how to stay composed and shake frustration, I suggest you grab a copy of my program, “The Composed Athlete.”
I share all my composure-boosting secrets in my new workbook program, The Composed Athlete: A 14 Day Plan for Maximum Composure. A composed state of mind leads champions to the winner’s circle.