How to improve your self confidence in tennis
The player’s expectations are a reflection of his confidence. Confidence is the belief that you can reach your objectives in a given situation. It is the level of confidence that usually makes a difference between players who are very successful and those who are less successful. High level players believe in their abilities. Let’s take an example to illustrate this: When you think in a negative way on the tennis court, or you think only in defending, it can generally result in a backward shift of your center of mass (more weight is carried on the rear foot) and a stiffening of the body (which becomes unbalanced and falls backwards). When this happens, you no longer have enough power to hit the ball and you compensate with the arm. This is when your balls become shorter and your opponent can get the ball earlier, being inside the court. This is where the expression of “playing with short arms” comes from.
On the other hand when you are confident, it gives you positive emotions and thoughts, it is easier to concentrate, and pushes you to set more challenging goals. Your self confidence increases your perseverance and effort, influences how you choose your shots and psychological ascendancy, and makes the player feel more optimistic and realistic. This feeling that nothing can happen to you, that the ball is bigger than usual, and that you are two seconds ahead of your opponent,
Examples of situations that can be negative for your self confidence in tennis
All the situations described below will seem obvious to you, because 100% of tennis players have already experienced them. However, it is important to be aware of them, so that when they happen, you are not surprised by the impact it can have on your game.
– Missing several shots and missing easy balls.
– Losing against a lower ranked opponent
– Losing an important point (break point, game point, match point)
– Spoiling a leading score (you are leading 40-0 on your service game but you finally spoil it)
– Making double faults
– Losing a service game
Of course, if these situations occur when you are leading 6/1, 5/0 against a lower ranked opponent, your confidence will not disappear all of a sudden. But it can decrease considerably if the situation persists, and if you are unable to get yourself back on your feet soon. We can feel this decline in confidence at times when we expect it the least, for example when a match is finishing and we are leading the game (“6/4 5/3, you are about to serve, you get a break, 5/4, it goes back to 5/5, you were so close to win and now you have to start all over again”). Or when you start doing more obvious faults when you do your favorite shot.
Lack of confidence can also become recurrent because of negative thoughts buried in yourself due to certain experiences that you have had in the past.
– Having lost a match when you were close to win it (“I know very well that when the match is close, I never win”)
– To live again a negative situation that has already happened in the past (“my opponent goes to the toilet at 4/4 in the 3rd, I’m going to lose like last time”)
– Having a long chain of consecutive defeats
Sometimes, a player’s lack of confidence can manifest only on a particular shot (forehand, second serve, smash etc). In this case, the problem is usually not mental, but rather technical or tactical and should be treated as such.
You should also be careful about something that normally we don’t like to admit, which is being overconfident in a match. This feeling that can make a person think he is better than he actually is. Is a problem that we often encounter when two players of different levels face each other and one of them overestimates himself and underestimates the other player. During a match, being overconfident will manifest in a player when he plays carelessly (trying to win points by shooting anywhere in the court, forgetting the basic tactical schema, playing (as if he was walking) which often results in a bad score from the very first set of the match, making it difficult for him to get back on track, or get a final victory.
How to increase your self confidence
Do not panic! We will give you some tips to help you gain self confidence during your tennis matches. This list is not exhaustive, and you may find other ways to help you gain confidence in other places. Do not hesitate to work on this during your training, so that you can reproduce it more easily in a match. Now, it’s your turn to practice! Speak to yourself in a positive way: Talking to yourself is a process of internal thinking. This “discussion with yourself” can have two natures: positive or negative. Obviously, when it is positive, the internal thinking has a lot of influence on the player’s reactions to unfavorable situations and has a direct effect on his feelings and his future actions. These positive thoughts have to relate to his emotions (“super”, “do not stop what you are doing, it is great”), or about the activity of the player (“lower your legs a little bit more”). Thinking this way will help you control your emotional state, and it will make it easier for you to play point by point and to remain in the present moment.
If you tend to speak to yourself in a negative way, the coach can and should help you. He may ask you to repeat what you said to yourself after you made a mistake in the court (“That was bad!”) or to verbalize what you thought about it and imagine how you would feel if it was your coach who said that same thing to you? What would be your reaction if he told you (“how could you miss that backhand, that was bad!”). Your first reaction would probably be to smile, to keep polite, but inside of you, these kinds of comments are devastating. It is exactly the same thing when you talk to yourself that way. The coach has to make you know that he trusts in you. After all, you are more likely to believe in yourself when others believe in you. Instead, take those negative thoughts (“I’m not doing good”), and turn it into something positive and remake the scene: ball in the net, you are angry and you say (“forget it, it was a good idea, I’d do better next time”). Wouldn’t you feel better and calmer after having said that?
Try to know yourself to anticipate the moments of doubt. Do not hesitate to answer to those questions on a paper, and to discuss about them with your coach:
– When do I start doubting myself? Does my confidence change throughout the match?
– Am I afraid of doing certain shots? When, in what situation?
– What is my reaction when I’m in front of the opponent? Do I appreciate difficult, tight matches?
– When am I overconfident? When I play against whom?
Answering these questions, kindly and not judging yourself hard, will help you to understand, then anticipate certain reactions, and reproduce them if they are positive. Example: “When I think about it, I realize that when the game is tight, I make a lot more mistakes in my backhands. Why not try at that moment, now that you know it, to win the point using a forehand, or for example switch only to forehand when you feel the tension rising? ». It is by asking yourself all these questions and answering them positively that you will be able to maintain a constant level of confidence throughout an encounter.
Take example from exceptional players:
There is always that player that makes us dream, when we remember their attitude, behavior or how he turned a situation around. A player whose shots we try to reproduce in our training. Have fun reproducing the positive attitude of your idols during your training. Because whether they are verbal, physical or non verbal, they will help you improve your self confidence during a match. You should start working on it on your training now.
Reminding yourself of the hard work that you have done and the good preparation that you have gone through:
Entering the field knowing that you have nothing to reproach yourself preparation wise and work wise is a good method to boost your self confidence: (“I have absolutely nothing to reproach myself, whether I win or lose, because I have given all I can to win and to achieve my goals) of course, those goals have to realistic. If you are training to win Roland Garros when you have only won in your neighborhood’s club, you may be disappointed later on. This is why it is important to set realistic and feasible goals in the short, medium and long term with your coach.
(“If I lose, I would probably lose against someone better than me, and if I win, I can be proud of myself and continue to expect more victories in the future”). Feeling good physically on the court, increases your physical strength and your endurance. It helps you to be mentally ready, stay on top of things, not give up for many hours, and stay confident in the most difficult moments of a match. This is why it is very important to establish a high quality and efficient program for a tournament, in order to be able to have at least a week to get into a solid physical condition before your next matches. You will be impressed at the confidence you will have when you feel strong from the first games of the tournament.
Some tennis exercizes to improve your self-confidence
- Playing points with your training partner, telling your coach what your tactical intentions are, before the beginning of each point. You can do the same exercise by telling your coach your tactical intentions for the next two sets.
- Make an exercise with your coach, he can send you easy, high mid-court balls which you could end with a winning forehand.
- Imagine positive words, phrases or dialogues that you have to repeat yourself before certain situations (before a serve “breath slowly and relax your shoulders”), after winning the first set ( “I should continue this way for the first point of the first game of the second set”). Do not hesitate to write them down on paper and to put them in your bag. Keywords, positive phrases that make sense for you.
- Play with points. You lose a point every time that you talk negatively to yourself. Simple and efficient !
The player can not control the mistakes that he does, but he can control how he reacts to those mistakes.