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.
Recently I read Nick Saviano’s book ‘Maximum Tennis’ which had lots of great tips in it but in the book when he told the story of losing after having 3 match points during his 1st ever Wimbledon performance he gave some poor advice regarding what we should try to do when it comes to thinking about possible match outcomes during matches.
The advice Nick gives is among the most common ways I see coaches and parents accidentally hinder player mental toughness development.
You can check out the advice and what I think we should do instead in my latest ‘Mental Toughness Made Simple’ video.
When Novak Djokovic was reflecting on his bizarre collapse of energy during the Aus Open final against Dominic Thiem, he said this:
"There was definitely an emotional aspect to all of this. With all the experience that I've had, I'm still nervous, still stressed out about what's going to happen, how am I going to play.
"Then there was one point where I just said 'OK, I have to accept it. It is what it is. Let's try to do everything possible to come back.'
Often when I work with players individually, or when consulting to coaches regarding player competitive issues, we discover that, at least in part, a lack of awareness and acceptance of the normally occurring stresses/fears of competing are at the core of the issue.
Watch the video above where Novak discusses the skill he used to be able to regain his focus and recommit to actions that helped him continue his march to becoming the greatest male player to ever play the game.
Where To Start?
When considering where to start...
Time and time again Novak Djokovic successfully navigates both the external and his own internal challenges to find his way to finish line 1st in the biggest matches.
Asked after his 8th Aus Open victory what it is that gives him this mental edge in the biggest matches Novak said this:
"My upbringing was in Serbia during several wars…embargo in my country where we had to wait in line for bread and water.
I think these things make you stronger. They make you hungrier for success in whatever you choose to do. That has been my foundation, the very fact that I came from such difficult life circumstances.
And going back to that and reminding myself where I came from always inspires and motivates me to push harder and so thats probably one of the reasons that I manage to find that extra gear or mental strength to overcome challenges when they present themselves."
Too often those of us responsible for helping players develop the required resilience and grit needed to...
I listened with fascination to Darren Cahill's interview following Simona Halep's dominant quarter-final win at the Aussie Open, and thought I'd share a couple of the key points and reflections.
1.) Regarding her improved approach to responding to difficult internal experiences that are part of competition Cahill said:
“As far as I'm concerned, the relationship is exactly the same. She's still as stressed on the court as she always is, but she's learning ways to deal with it and to handle it.”
“After letting two breaks slip against Mertens in the Round of 16 and then having chances in the 4-3 game in the second set, Simona got back to 4-all, had break points in the 4-all game and missed them. The old Simona would have let that game go, but she refused to give up in that game."
“That's what I'm most proud of is that fight that she's showing when a few things go against her. That's been the big change in her I have seen over the last two or three...
The Great Escape!
To give himself a chance to survive Roger Federer followed one of the golden rules of mental toughness:
Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Trying to Finish the Match, As This Is When It's Most Likely They'll Play Their Worst.
The moment that a player realises they are in reach of winning a match, but have thoughts to do with the possibility of losing it from that winning position (which is common) is among the most common times they will play their worst.
In commentary Jim Courier called it the 'Invisible Wall' and it was one that Tennys Sandgren couldn't quite break through today.
The key here is that as much as people talk about ‘not thinking about the outcome’ even the best players in the world have unintentional thoughts popping up about potential outcomes regularly thoughout matches.
So, just like Federer did, it’s vital that we recognise the difficult thoughts that will surely arise when our opponents seem likely to...
Wow...what a match!
Nadal was at his incredibly tough best and my sense that Kyrgios is finally making great progress towards becoming an effective competitor to complement his crazy physical talents looks more and more likely to be the case.
Here are 2 vital lessons to take from the match:
1.) Nadal shows again that choking is usually not fatal if you can respond well to the common experience of trying to finish close matches.
In tonight’s match, when Nadal realized that the finish line was in sight when leading in the 3rd set tie-break and again when he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the 4th set he suddenly tightened…A couple of double faults and playing more tentatively, along with Kyrgios's great fighting spirit, allowed Kyrgios to win the 3rd and prolong the 4th.
But, as usual, to Nadal's huge credit he recovered from both chokes quickly and got the job done…
There are a few key things we want to remember when trying to...
Why is getting angry at others, particularly those people who players are close to like their support team, so common?
In my latest 'Mental Toughness Made Simple' video I use Nick Kyrgios as a case study to help understand why players so commonly get addicted to this habit. I also discuss the 4 Step process that breaking the addiction almost always requires.
Interestingly, the reason players develop this habit can be the same reason that they give up, use excuses, or even lose concentration so if any of these issues sound familiar to you this video really is a must watch. The great news for Kyrgios is that on the evidence so far this Aussie Open, with the support of his team he appears to be finally making steady progress in improving all of these issues...
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