If we want to understand player match behaviour better there are 3 factors to consider.
Context is the situation in which the behaviour occurs. So, for example, a particular behaviour may occur only in certain match situations.
Form is the behaviour that we see. So, for instance, a player who gives up when losing, a player who plays poorly under pressure, or a player who acts angrily when not meeting expectations.
The function is the reason for the behaviour. When we look at behaviour through a functional lens we are repeatedly asking ourselves, “What is the player’s current behaviour in the service of”? “Why might it be occurring”?
When we look at match behaviour we can often see that similar forms of behaviour e.g., giving up, acting angrily…might have different functions. It’s the function that is important for us to understand if we want to help players regulate their behaviour.
If you have been following my suggestions you would have heard me talk a lot about what I call ‘Committed Actions’. These are the processes that players should commit to during points that increase the chance of improvement and success.
But what are the actions that players should commit to? At Mentally Tough Tennis we categorize them into 4 categories...and that’s what this week’s ‘Mental Toughness Made Simple’ video is about.
During times when our actions aren’t matching our stated Purpose on a consistent basis, it’s great to complete this 4-question activity to help re-commit to helpful actions for the next time we are going on-court.
1.) Imagine you are attending your own retirement party from sport. If the party was to occur right now what would people important to you (e.g., your coach, parents) say about your involvement in tennis?
2.) Now imagine that the retirement party is occurring in the future. What would you like these people to say at this time about your sports participation?
3.) How does what they would say now compare to what you wish they would have to say?
4.) What’s the smallest, easiest action you could take in your next session to make it more likely they would say things that reflect what is important to you?
If you'd like a copy of the Retirement Party Activity, click here...
If your efforts to help your players control emotions haven’t helped them compete better, you’re not alone!
Instead of trying to reduce the intensity of difficult nerves and frustration when they show up during matches, here’s an alternative 3 step approach that you can advise your players to use…
In the video, I’ll also explain why this approach is helpful. And if you’d like a copy of the activity instructions to go here: https://www.mentallytoughtennis.com/notice-look-activity-signup
The next time you go to say to your player or child: “Believe in yourself”, stop 1st and ask yourself this key question:
Based on the situation and their history in similar situations, is it possible for him/her to have self-belief?
If it isn’t, by telling players to believe in themselves we add more difficulties to their experience e.g., “I should be able to have self-belief and I can’t”
Instead, normalize their lack of self-belief and change your statement to: “I believe in you”
There is 1 misunderstanding regarding what is required to improve mental toughness that I frequently come across when talking with coaches and parents.
And it results in the communication of unrealistic expectations for players to do with how quickly competitive skill can be developed. This then leads to other competitive issues as a result.
Check out this week’s ‘Mental Toughness Made Simple’ video where I discuss how thinking about mental toughness development like developing physical fitness can help overcome this problem…
##This was an article I wrote in 2014 summarising Maria Sharapova's incredible mental toughness...
It would not have been quite right had Maria Sharapova completed one of the all-time great grand slam title runs in any other way.
A mighty struggle of over 3 hours; faced with the adversity of double faults at key times throughout the match; seeing the 2nd set slip from her grasp when so close to victory; but ultimately decided, like so often throughout her magnificent career, by her ability to respond to the adversities characteristic of 3-set encounters just a little better than her brave opponent.
Sharapova’s Remarkable Career 3-set Record...
Think of any quality associated with mental toughness and Maria Sharapova ticks the box:
Competes effectively when behind;
Competes effectively when not playing her best;
Competes effectively under pressure;
Competes effectively when in front;
Competes effectively through adversity.
Traditionally the field of Sport Psychology has recommended strategies like controlling difficult emotions to feel better- because we know when we feel better it’s easier to commit to helpful actions.
Similarly, the recommended goal to do with anxious, angry, or outcome thoughts has been to avoid or reduce them.
When done successfully this helps players in the short term.... but there are 2 problems with this approach that tend to lead to big problems in the long term.
1.) Because the thoughts and feelings that show up during competition are based on the situation and our history within similar circumstances (including human evolutionary history), these strategies are very hard to do effectively when players most want them to work.
2.) In the long term players become less ‘fit’ in being able to tolerate internal difficulties, and more reliant on having to feel good to play good. This in turn tends to lead to players experiencing more...
If players' want to fulfil their potential, there is one question that is the most important of all for them to reflect on before they play matches.
And that is what this week's 'Mental Toughness Made Simple' video is about...
I hope you find it helpful :-)
The emotions we feel during matches are based on the situation itself combined with millions of lifelong learning experiences from past similar situations.
This means that it is actually easier to improve the relationship we have with our difficult match related emotions (and therefore respond better to them with our actions) than it is to control the difficult emotions itself.
The weird thing is that this ‘emotional fitness’ approach tends to result in less intense difficult emotions in the long term, without ever trying to control them.
The same goes for difficult unintentional match related thoughts as well.
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