Confidence plays a key role in our everyday lives. Simple tasks like driving a car cannot be fulfilled unless we have confidence. Tennis, unlike many other sports, is individual focused rather than team focused. Your weaknesses can be nullified in team sports by your teammates but if you are not confident in your abilities as a tennis player, then it gets very hard to beat your opponent.
No matter which level you play at, pro or club level confidence and self-belief make and break your abilities. Countless pros have succumbed to the monster of low confidence and that has jeopardized their careers for the worse.
Tennis is a game that requires a lot of mental fortitude and that is acquired by practice and learning the psychology of the human mind.
There are ways to gain confidence and this post is going to touch on them. Some thoroughly and some briefly.
Definition of Confidence
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary Confidence can be defined as “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances” or “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way”.
So, having the belief that you will play a shot perfectly or close to perfect is called confidence. No matter how grave the conditions seem to be, if you have the confidence to perform and are proficient in your abilities then you can perform.
Reward of Confidence
It was Wimbledon 2008, Andy Murray vs Richard Gasquet. Gasquet was playing the tennis of his life. But Murray was extremely confident in his abilities.
The match looked grim for him when Gasquet was serving for the match in the third, instead of losing his composure Murray put his foot on the pedal and started playing in overdrive. Forced a third set tie-break sprinted to the finish line for the five-set finish.
As you can see both players had pretty much the same abilities, but in the end, Murray got into his opponent’s head with an extreme amount of confidence.
It’s the same confidence that Murray clinched a lot of grand slam tournaments and masters 1000 titles and Gasquet was not able to do the same.
The most recent pro that has been suffering from a lack of confidence is Novak Djokovic. He was the world no.1 in 2016 and lost all interest and confidence in his abilities. He suffered a career-threatening elbow injury during Wimbledon 2017 but he had started losing matches prior to it.
He has been constantly struggling with the lack of confidence for close to a year now. He appointed the great Andre Agassi as a coach who dealt with the same problems in his career and was able to overcome those.
Apparently the combination was not on the cards and Agassi left him a few days ago.
Let’s see if he is able to regain his confidence, if not then he may just be a former shadow of his great self. Losing to players left right center is not a great feeling but unless he regains that confidence he can never win another grand slam tournament again.
Temporary Ways To Improve Confidence
The most used and probably the most talked about way to improve confidence is to think positively and forcing positivity.
This can work but only temporarily and becomes more and more redundant when you do not see improvement in the long run because the human mind is way more complex.
It can not simply be tricked into acting positively and translating it into confidence. A lot of people think that forcing positivity in yourself will improve confidence but that has been proven scientifically to be a false way to fool the brain. This post from the Washington Post goes into the details of the phenomena
Why Relying On Confidence Can Be Bad For You?
Confidence is pretty much a drug that calms us down. It makes us think that no matter what happens we can handle it.
It helps fight against anxiety fear of not performing very well. It makes you think that you have the ability to do just about anything.
But the thing that makes this model faulty is that it is based on theory. It’s typically based on a prediction that you make you make, that you can (win a match or do the task you want to perform) when it is the moment to perform.
However, one cannot control the outcome. So it’s always a gamble no matter which way you look at it.
You can not guarantee that you can 100% win the match and beat your nemesis. There is no absolute surefire way to do ensure that. And that feeling is present inside your mind and that eats at your confidence.
You may believe that you can easily beat your opponent but suddenly you are two breaks down and that preconceived belief that you can beat your opponent is about to be destroyed and that breaks your confidence even further.
There can be countless events in a match that will unfold in the opposite way that you had imagined prior. Like making a double fault, committing too many unforced errors, missing easy returns or volleys and that can make further dents in your confidence theory.
For most people that’s a losing battle, they continue to see that their theory that they thought was perfect is suddenly getting diminished by the minute and you stop believing in your abilities.
This thing makes their performance nosedive and whatever chances they had of winning are now pretty much gone.
This upward and then downwards psychological spiral is faced by almost every player in almost every sport.
There is no way that your theory of winning points 100% of the time and then winning matches is true every time. Your thinking pattern should follow a pattern that no matter how many points you lose you have the ability to get back into the match at any moment. And that you won’t win every match but you can try to do so, in a very systematic and logical way.
Why Do Parents and Coaches Praise and Criticize the Outcomes?
That’s just how human culture has developed over the years. As kids, parents, and coaches were praised and criticized on their outcomes – no matter what field, school grades, their athletic successes, and everyday tasks.
So, they think that is how kids develop and gains self-confidence. And that is how a child learns to associate self-confidence, either based on the outcome or the skills and abilities – which in fact improve all the time with training and competing.
If coaches and parents are to help build self-confidence in our children/tennis players, we Must praise more than we criticize and we must criticize Only the things that are under the player’s control.
The outcome is not. Even hitting one single ball in the court is not 100% under the control of the player.
If hitting the ball in was under the control of the player, then we would see no unforced errors – as every player would choose to hit the ball in.
Then What Should You Be Thinking About?
Let’s think of a hypothetical situation. Imagine you are playing against Rafael Nadal and you have to try and win a point against him. Can you try to give your 100% to do that?
Of course, you can. It does not matter that your chances of winning the point against him are astronomically low but that will not stop you from giving you your 100% right?
So, having a high or low probability of winning a point does not have any impact on your performance.
Again imagine you are about to face Ivo Karlovic’s serve. Can you return his serve with ease? Do you have the confidence to return his serve and hit a winner? That’s very hard but does it lower your ability to return the ball, of course not!
If you follow the right technique and keep your eyes on the ball, then no matter how low your confidence really is, you will make the return.
Being able to desensitize yourself and focussing only on the right technique and pattern of play is the key performing better. Your confidence level should not be dictating how you play the game.
You should be able to perform the same whether you are at the start of the game or facing match points for the opponent.
What Really Creates Poor Performance
Fear Of Failure
The main thing that causes poor performance is fear of failure. To find out what causes fear of failure we first have to understand what “failure” actually means?
Failure is a different monster for different people. What might be failure for one person might just be a great learning experience for another.
All of us have different definitions of failure, simply because of our different values and benchmarks.
A lot of people are afraid of failing definitely once in our lives. But having the fear of failure also known as “atychiphobia” is when we allow that fear to overcome us and hinder us from achieving whatever we set out to accomplish.
It can be linked to multiple factors for different people ranging from unsupportive or critical parents which humiliated or undermined their achievements when they were in their childhood.
Those feelings carry over into adulthood and can hamper personal and interpersonal growth.
Traumatic events at some point in your life can cause fear of failure too.
How To Overcome It
To overcome it requires some self-patience and control! The main goal is to identify the fear, imagining is fine, it creates the same responses in your brain.
Imagine losing and think of all the potential side effects of it. What would you lose in the end? Is it worth making such a big fuss over it? Then imagine that you have already lost the match and are facing those consequences. Is it really as bad as you thought they were? Will be able to handle them easily or will you lose sleep over them?
Once you are able to completely deal with your fears, you’ll feel like you have opened a new super power and that lack of confidence is not really a problem at all. You will be aware that it is just a gamble that you will be able to win every point a 100%.
You will come to realization that regardless of whether you are confident or not, if you have the right abilities that you can perform at your 100% in order to compete with honor and sportsmanship.
If you are able to do that you greatly increase your chances of winning.
Clearing Your Mind and Focusing on The Now
The second most important thing to impart permanent confidence is to stop thinking about the past and the future and start thinking in the now.
Stop predicting events you have no control over and focus on playing this beautiful game. All you have the ability to do is to play the point to the utmost of your ability and if your mind is thinking about something else instead of focusing on the point then you are in trouble.
You also need to be a 100% ready to face the reality of the situation, no matter what happens in reality (losing a point, missing a sitter, losing the set), you must accept it as just a part of the job that is tennis. You have to deal with the trials and tribulations that come with it!
There are countless situations that you have no control over in a competitive tennis match. That’s just how the sport or anything in life really is. You just have to focus on each point and each shot without ever trying to predict what will happen(that’s what being confident or not being confident really is).
So, not thinking about it creates the real confidence and that is what being confident is all about.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to know how long does it take to learn tennis then you can view this post .
The post goes into depth of how long does it take and what you should be expecting at the skill level you desire.