Confidence vs. Pressure: There’s a fine line between them

I’m heading up to Vail, CO tomorrow afternoon for a tournament.  Tennis at high altitude (8000 ft) is going to be interesting.  I played in Breckenridge (9600 ft) several years ago and remember the ball really flying on me, but that was when my game was an absolute mess and I really can’t blame the altitude.

When I met up with my coach, Jeff earlier today, I wanted to brush up on the basics.  I haven’t been out on a court for a couple weeks now and it doesn’t make sense to try and learn something new when I haven’t mastered some of the basics yet.  We spent our time together doing a refresher on all of the shots and footwork we’ve covered in the last few months.

We also talked about the mental side of the game.  I’m in a weird place now mentally because I go into tournaments knowing that I have put in a fair amount of work over the winter and should be winning more matches.  Thinking about all of that work and time spent on fitness, nutrition, learning new shots and footwork comes to life in two ways: 1) confidence that I have a shot at winning matches and tournaments and 2) added pressure that if I don’t win, I’m not living up to my expectations.

In this video, Jeff and I talk about the mindset I need to take into these kinds of matches.  Let me know how you mentally prepare for your tennis matches when you expect a lot out of yourself by leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

About Neal

tennis, go-karts, blogging, turkey sandwiches.

Posted on February 25, 2012, in mental, tournaments and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that the moment you start focusing on the wins you will loose your focus on the game. We have experienced this phenomena with our tennis son many times. The moment he started putting pressure on himself to win his performance went down. He was the best ever underdog when he had nothing to loose and could “let it fly” So how did we battle this demon? We gave him the same advise your coach gave you, be confident but just focus on your tecnique. I would like to say that this simple advise was the cure to his problem, but I am afraid to say it was not. It helped and he listened but he just couldn’t get the score out of his head. It was not until he figured out a strategy for himself that he was able to turn it around.
    Since he couldn’t get the concept of the score out of his head he decided to work with it. Rather than looking at the over all score he focused on points won. If he lost a point he told himself he had to focus harder to win the next two, if he was broke he shrugged it off and pulled up his focus to break back the next game. These short bursts of extra focus he was able to bring to his game turned into wins. So if you can’t get the score out of your head try breaking it down a little and use it to your advantage. In the end he has learned to bring a new level of sustained focus to the court.
    Good luck in the tournament.

  2. I’m currently trying to improve my play from the 3.5 to the 4.0 level. I’ve definitely made a lot of progress in my goal, which has increased my confidence, but it’s easy for me to forget to play in the moment. I have a league singles match tomorrow, and the two things I’m going to focus on to help me stay in the moment, when I start to feel frustrated with my shots or feel pressured to win will be 1) hitting smoothly from a balanced stance and 2) watching the ball all the way to the racquet.

    Thanks very much for this blog and the great videos you post on it. And good luck with your tournament matches; I’m sure you’ll do great!

  3. Crazy Tennis Mom- Thanks for the comment! You’re absolutely right, you gotta let it fly. But oftentimes, that’s easier said than done. I think it’s part of our culture to put so much emphasis on winning over playing well. The thing I try to remember is that playing well and striking the ball clean actually feels better than winning – at least during the match.

  4. Eric- Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you like the blog. Watching the ball is key and I try to remind myself of that too. It’s so easy to look up and watch where you want to hit the ball and hope it goes there instead of having the confidence in your technique.

    Good luck with your league match.

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