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 regarding how quickly players should be able to develop competitive skill. 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.
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...
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