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 compete poorly 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 (or yelling), they should simply thank them for their...
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: Purpose).
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 and...
Given that a break of serve would have almost certainly resulted in another Nadal Slam victory...who would have thought that when Novak Djokovic walked up to the line to serve at 7-7, 15-40 in the 5th set of their Wimbledon semi-final a few months ago that he would wake up regaining his #1 ranking by early November...
After all, in that moment he must have been experiencing significant self-doubt given that he hadn't won a Grand Slam for more than 2 years (which probably included the prediction that he would likely lose the match)...And he must have felt frustration at having just double faulted at 15-30 and earlier twice coming within 2 points of victory (0-30 on Nadal's serve).
But what happened next was that Djokovic cracked a Serve + 1 combo to force a Nadal error, followed by an ace. This gave an insight into what was to come in the minutes and months that lay ahead... And how Djokovic had regained the mental skill that had provided the foundation for him...
If ever there was a match that points a microscope on the mental challenges that competing in tennis ensures it was this match.
It spoke to the mess of applying what tennis psychology legend Dr Allen Fox calls“The #1 Rule of Tennis Success” that even the greatest tennis competitors can make:
Never Do Anything That Doesn’t Increase The Chance of Winning
It seems like this should be so simple right…
So why is it that even Serena Williams, the player who has successfully applied this rule at the highest level perhaps better than anyone in tennis history, so spectacularly failed to apply it in the final?
Well, as simple as it seems, the human condition combined with the nature of tennis means that what seems like it should be so straight forward is actually incredibly hard to do.
But Why Is This?
The basic reason is that losing is emotionally painful due to our brain’s inclination of interpreting a tennis math akin to a life and death...
When Marco Cecchinato was down 2 sets to 0 against Marius Copil and fighting for survival during a tight 3rdset in the 1stround of the French Open I wonder if he ever imagined, having never won a Grand Slam match, the possibility of what might lay ahead if he could find a way to scrape out a victory.
My guess is probably not…
But 9 days later, he is still standing as the 1stItalian man to make a Grand Slam semi-final since 1978 after defeating Novak Djokovic in another amazingly gutsy effort.
His life changing run is a strong reminder of an often overlooked keys to tennis success….
This key is that because of the one on one match play structure of tennis, how players compete on their worst days is often more important that what they do on their best.
So, in golf for example (unless in a match play tournament), players’ performance over 4 rounds in averaged out to decide the placings. This means that golfers can often survive a round where their...
During the 2018 clay court season, Rafael Nadal broke another amazing record, becoming the first male player to win 50 straight sets on any one surface. Consider that in his last 46 sets on clay before yesterday, no opponent had reached a tie-break against him and just once had someone achieved a 7-5 loss and his mind boggling run seems even more astonishing.
It got me reflecting on the mental attribute required to achieve such a feat and one stood out.
Andre Agassi described this attribute well in his book: ‘Open’. He said this about the difference between the great champions and the rest:
“The more you can be present on every point. I think that’s why you see great champions separate themselves at the end of a set or at the end of a match, because they are the ones that aren’t changing in their execution. They are not assigning a value to any one point more than another. It is about what they do...
And a classic case study for how in vital ways the field of sport psychology has set coaches, parents, and players up for failure when it comes to developing long-term mental toughness. But to understand why this is so, I need first to summarize the match and Federer’s experience of it.
Part 1- Federer’s Pre-Match Jitters
It was refreshing to hear Federer talk about how difficult he found the build up to the final.
He said, “Well I think my thoughts were all over the place all day, I was thinking what if I lost how horrible it would be to lose it, what if I won, it’s a late match start so I thought about this all day, I was so nervous going into this match.”
Part 2- Federer Looks To Make It An Early Night
With Federer off to a flyer as Cilic struggled to find his range in the cooler closed roof conditions, the 1stset was over in a flash. And early in the 2ndFederer looked like he was going to cruise to victory as he...
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