Practicing Great - But Not Winning In Tournaments?
It is a common scenario that some players practice brilliantly yet seem to never show the same form on the court in tournaments. Often strokes which were incredibly smooth and powerful in practice, become much weaker and lacking in rhythm out there in a tournament match.
It's important to know first of all that this common problem has absolutely nothing to do with the 'physical or technique' side of tennis. It's purely the mind's reaction to the pressure of the match or tournament (or both), and it comes out in the strokes.
So by simply making some mental changes, your results can change too - but of course, it does take some discipline to make these mental changes.
The answer to stopping this situation occuring (or getting out of this situation if you are already in it) lies in your attitude and mental approach - and so here is your 5-Part Action Plan.
Firstly, look at tournaments and matches in their 'true' perspective from now on. For instance, how many millions of people will know about the results of this match? (Often) none! Will the results be broadcast all over the country or around the world? No. Is this match life or death? No. Will you continue to live after this tournament is over? Yes.
OK, so we've just discovered that this match is not as important as we first thought!
In fact, compared to many other things going on in the world right now, it could pretty safely be considered UN-important! So really there's no need to stress out about it at all. There'll be plenty more matches after this one, so you might as well just relax, enjoy yourself and go for it. The more fun you have, the better you'll perform, anyway.
Secondly, look at the match from your competitor's viewpoint - look what THEY have to deal with - YOU!
You certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes, would you?! They might even be the favorite to win, which means ALL the pressure is on them and not you. Even worse, they see this great player down the other end (you), trying to de-rail their dreams! So always remember, THEY may be scared of YOU!
Next, it's very important to build yourself up mentally. Reinforce the positives about yourself - going over all of your own positive attributes. Literally ask yourself "what's great about me?" and begin to think of (and write down) all the things you've done in the past which made you feel great about yourself. (If you cannot think of anything, it simply means you are not thinking hard enough - because EVERYONE has positive attributes. And so the answer "nothing" is not only banned from this list, but worthy of a firm kick in the butt!).
List down anything that makes you feel good about your game - your great service action, your whippy topsin forehand, your consistency, your mental strength, your fitness, your coach, the win you had over so-and-so, the tournament you won last year, what someone told you about how good your game was, etc etc. Go over this list at least once before each and every match, and let each point sink in a little before you move on to the next.
Last of all, two more important things. It's important to regularly visualize yourself winning the matches and playing great shots, imagining a great tournament where you show them all who's the best!
Absolutely essential is to make your tennis mind just as strong as your groundstrokes, which can only be done the same way - through regular daily practice of your mental training, even just for a few minutes each day.
A powerful way to do this is to mentally visualize your game going absolutely perfectly in your mind for around 10 minutes each day, with every single major shot included in the mental scenario, playing points in your mind and seeing yourself coming out on top every time.
This can be done to upbeat motivational music, or if you are serious about it, you might want to check out my Mind Training for Tennis download, which guides you through the entire visualization process.
The other thing is to talk positively to yourself, using positive affirmations and upbeat thoughts (no, not aloud - in your mind!) - become your own inner 'cheer squad' who constantly tells yourself how great you are. This can transform your results more than you could ever possibly imagine.
So to overcome the 'great practice / bad tournament' blues - here's the action plan: Put the tournament in its true perspective, then look at the match from your competitor's viewpoint. Build yourself up mentally, and then visualize and affirm to yourself just how great the whole experience is going to be.
So if you find yourself stuck in a negative pattern, change it. You can create your life into anything you WANT it to be. You've got the action plan, now the rest is up to you!
"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"
The best of success, Craig Townsend
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