The reason why all the shots go in...
If you want to build self confidence, you must first find out what it actually is. It is a belief – trust – faith the player has about him being able to complete a task in the future successfully. He trusts in himself and his abilities which he perceives to be good enough to overcome the problem – challenge.
If the player looks to build confidence, then we must first discover the reasons why he hasn't any self confidence. There are 4 main reasons for that:
1. He hasn't done anything worth any good value. Self confident people are those with good results – with notable achievements. This is the first step to a true and deep feeling of confidence which is based on real facts – results.
2. If the player has done a good job – practicing hard and with 100% effort, has developed good sound technique, understands the game well and plays a tactically smart game and he thinks that all that is nothing or not very good, than he will not be confident about himself.
Many players are too critical about themselves or some parts of their game. They see mistakes which may be there, but there are also many good points that the player has but doesn't notice them.
Many are also too focused on fixing »wrong« things instead of »improving« their already good things that will eventually make the »wrong« things disappear.
For example: if you hit the ball long you can then try to: - not to hit the ball wrong – fixing the problem- Or try to hit the ball in – improving on the good point
3. Players focus too much on winning, which is not under their control. For some players only a win means that they are good. If they lose, they lose also their feeling of self confidence.
4. The last reason for not being really self confident about himself is the foundation of self confidence – self esteem. It is the feeling and measure of self worth in general. If the player thinks about himself that he is no one special, that he has many flaws, he is not really a worthy person, then these feelings and beliefs influence his tennis self confidence too.
Then what is the opposite of self confidence?
It is doubt! Doubt is actually a series of questions that we ask ourselves and then reply with NO. The graphical presentation will make this clearer.
Most sports (and tennis included) have 4 main areas that a player needs to master in order to be a top player: technique, strategy and tactics, physical preparation and mental preparation – toughness.
Every player has some weaknesses in some areas – which are represented in the upper diagram as white areas – holes. This is where his answer will be "no", the constant doubting questions that appear in his mind.
Unfortunately, this is not the whole problem about the lack of self confidence. The biggest problem for the player are his perceptions of what he is good at, which skills he masters and in which areas he can rely on himself.
The player may have a technically excellent backhand and can play every possible type of shot with it with good consistency, but his belief is that his backhand is poor. So even though in reality his backhand is good (he has no »holes« in that area) he believes that his backhand is poor (perceives a »hole«).
That results of course in fearful, doubtful, indecisive executions of the backhand shot which of course lead to poor results.
So the player sees the confirmation of his belief in reality and thus reaffirms his doubt even more strongly.
There are two ways of getting rid of those limiting beliefs: affirming the positive side of shots and using logic to weaken the limiting belief.
The same principles of mind that made this belief will also be the ones that erase it and make new ones.
If we reverse the 4 major ways where player loses his confidence, then we can see how he can build his confidence:
1. There are no shortcuts. A player has to work hard, has to be focused and persistent to be at least solid if not very good in all areas of the tennis game. He must work on all his weaknesses to eliminate all »holes« where doubt can cling on.
2. The player needs to be aware of what he does well. This is crucial and the most important aspect of building self confidence. Even though he may be focused on a weakness which he is working on he must be alert and ready to see every good shot that he makes.
3. He must also get very clear on what elements he can control and focus on those. He cannot control winning and he must not allow his self confidence to depend on winning. He needs to focus on his best effort, how he fought with all the circumstances and never gave up. This is what gives deep and solid confidence.
4. Last but not least – he needs to be successful in other areas of life. He must value himself as a worthy human being who is also a nice person, someone that people can trust and rely on, and someone who is successful in career, relationships and general life skills. This is the foundation of his self worth which affects his tennis specific self confidence.
I will put another article on this topic that will explain why players »break down« and how you can easily understand the process by using the diagram above.
How to practice (improve)
Every day after practice write this down:
1. 3 things that you did really good today – and have at least one of them psychological (for example: I was totally concentrated for 10 minutes, I didn't get angry because of a missed sitter, …)
2. Which weakness did you work on today? What improvement did you notice (it can be very small, just see it.)
3. What other improvements of the 4 main areas of the game did you notice today?
If you are diligent with this practice and write down every day just 3 positive things about your game, you'll have 15 positive thoughts about your game in just 5 days. That will reach 60 in one month.
If you then read these positive statements, which are not some out of the air affirmations but your actual notes, then you will feel a great deal of self confidence which will represent your inner strength. No coach or parent told you these positive things about your game – they are yours. And this is true SELF confidence.
Next week - Beliefs
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