At it's core our mental toughness requires simply bringing our attention into the present at the start of a rally or point and choosing to commit to a helpful process (e.g., a technical cue like 'stay low', or a strategy such as 'rally deep and attack the short ball') during the rally or point.
In this way the formula for mental toughness is Present Moment Attention + Helpful Committed Action = Mental Toughness
The Usefulness of Key Words...
And to increase the chance that we actually commit to helpful actions that increase the chance of success on each new point, it's a great idea to use a key word or words that remind us of the process that we're going to commit to.
To get the idea check out the video above where Bianca Andreescu reflects on her use of key words in committing to helpful actions, and Mentally Tough Tennis consultant Pat Flynn gives us the idea of how to use key words in our between point routine.
We've also put together a Worksheet...
1.) Practice Improving Attention Skills…
The 1stbarrier to mental toughness is when our concentration lapses.
Players can lose concentration during matches when they get distracted by external causes (e.g., sounds), or also when their naturally wandering minds start thinking about things not to do with the match.
It’s quite amazing that although being able to aim and maintain attention on a helpful performance target is such a foundational requirement to successful performance…
And although we are regularly told to “Pay attention” during our developmental years, we rarely actually formally practice it.
This is a little like expecting someone to get fit without doing fitness training!
Here is a super simple way that players can develop attention skills during on-court sessions:
Step 1.) Make a rule that requires at least 5 seconds break between each rally.
Step 2.) Then during the break between each rally players should perform a...
When Dominik Thiem was 11 years old, his coach Gunter Bresnik decided that he was too defensive and on the path to becoming just an average player. So he instructed Thiem to i.) start hitting his backhand one-handed and ii.) hit every ball as hard as he could.
Thiem hardly won a match for the next 18 months as his ranking went from 3 in Austria for his age to somewhere in the 20's. Other coaches thought Bresnik was advising Thiem incorrectly and other parents thought Thiem's parents (who are also coaches) were ill-informed and making a big mistake in letting Bresnik guide their son in this way.
In a 2016 interview Bresnik recalled, “I told his father, ‘If you go to a tournament and the people stop by and say who is this idiot who hits every ball as hard as possible?’ then we succeeded,” Bresnik said. “To make him hit the ball in the court is just a question of time. We needed to break down this barrier that he tries to put the ball...
The great Rod Laver's tweet said it all: "A star is born...What a fighter you are"
In becoming the first wildcard ever to win Indian Wells (the previous best efforts were Martina Hingis and Serena Williams who both made the semi-finals as wildcards) Bianca Andreescu has made it pretty clear that she is a new star in the women's game.
Throughout the tournament she has described that from a young age she trained for hours each day in meditation and visualisation (she has now reduced the amount to 15min per day). When asked about it she said, "Yeah, my mom introduced me to that when I was really young. I was maybe about 12. Ever since then I have been meditating. I do a lot of yoga, as well, and I think that really helps me just have a balanced life.I don’t only work on my physical aspect. I also work on the mental, because that’s also very, very important. It’s definitely showing through my matches where I’m staying in the present moment a...
1.) Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Trying To Finish You, As This Is When It's Most Likely They'll Play Their Worst
As we saw in the final stages of the women's tournament, finishing close matches is hard, even for the best. And it was this fact that allowed Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova to get back in their matches against Serena and Osaka.
These 2 recoveries were my favourite efforts of the tournament. To do this, the key is to recognise the difficult thoughts that will surely arise when our opponents seem likely to finish us (e.g., Pliskova remarked that her head was 'already in the locker room' against Serena), and commit to taking actions that increase the chance of success on just the next point (and practice repeating these steps over and over.
2.) Choking is Rarely Fatal, So How Players Recover From Getting Tight Is Super Important
All players tend to get tight at least occasionally when finishing sets and matches...Federer struggled big...
Almost universally, coaches and parents report to me their advice to players regarding competing effectively includes the aim to control unintentional match related thoughts and feelings like nerves, frustration, and helplessness. For example, statements like: "Believe in yourself", "Stay calm", "Don't worry about the outcome", "Accept errors", Don't get frustrated at the wind", etc, etc.
While this is well-intentioned and sensible on the surface, a crucial question to reflect on in trying to help players improve is this:
How well does it work?
For example, I imagine that before their matches against Nadal and Kerber, Alex De Minaur and Kim Birrell's coaches advise included a combination of certain strategies to employ and also the message: "Believe In Yourself".
But as their respective matches unfolded, I wonder whether their dominant thoughts and feelings were more reflective of self-belief or helplessness.
I strongly suspect that no matter what their coaches did or...
With the Australian Open qualifying event underway, Mentally Tough Tennis consultant Pat Flynn advises on what players should focus on and commit to during points...
He also reflects on his consulting role this week involving new coaching rules that are being experimented with for the 1st time in a Grand Slam this week.
Check out Pat's video above :)
With the Australian Open about to start Mentally Tough Tennis consultant Pat Flynn is hard at work preparing a player for the Australian Open.
Today he shares with us 2 tips for responding well to the normal and frequently occurring pre-tournament worries and concerns. This topic is especially relevant at the start of the year when we may not have competed in a while...
Check out Pat's report from the tournament above and if you would like to access a video example and instructions for the activity that we find most useful in helping players apply Pat's tips during matches you can do so here :-)
If a player's tendency to choke, lose concentration, give up, act angrily or simply underperform stems from listening to the difficult passengers that often get on our bus during matches (or maybe even trying to kick them off the bus), this activity called ‘Thanking the Passengers’ is very helpful when practiced regularly.
As soon as a player recognises that they’re no longer committing to helpful actions during a match (such as your strategy or helpful cues), they should scan their mind for any difficult passengers commenting on the situation.
Typically we find that the nervous passengers say things like “you’re going to mess it up/don’t lose from here/don’t miss”, the frustration passengers say “that’s not good enough/that’s not fair”, and the helpless passengers say “there’s nothing you can do”. When players notice what their difficult passengers are saying...
Amazing as it sounds, everything players need to know about developing mental toughness can be learned in a 2 min story about a bus driver...
Each day the bus driver selects his bus route and tries to drive his bus where it needs to go. The more the bus driver is in touch with why it is important to him to do his job well, the more motivated he will be to drive well (Key 1: Performance Aims).
To increase the chance of a successful trip the driver puts his attention on the road in front of him/her (Key 2: Present Moment Attention) and takes actions of steering and pressing the accelerator and brake in a way that takes the bus in the right direction (Key 3: Committed Action).
The bus driver stops the bus to pick up passengers at each bus stop. Different passengers get on depending on the stop. The driver doesn't have a say in who gets on the bus, everyone is welcome as long as they pay their money. Therefore, sometimes good passengers get on the bus...
Register your details below to get our 'Mental Toughness Made Simple' video tips each Sunday to help you get your week started right :-)