CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I am a doubles tennis player and know that winning is part physical and part mental. I feel I have a great partner and that our skills are proficient enough to win matches. But we've had bad tournament results because one or both of us not handling the pressure on the court. We bash ourselves when we don't play well or miss a shot. Then we're distracted and play goes downhill. How can we stop the negative self-talk and concentrate only on the physical game? -- Tim
You can't just concentrate solely on the physical part of any sport because the mental side is woven into every point. Success, whether it's a team sport or a solitary one, will most often go to those who combine solid physical skills with a durable outer shell. This outer shell acts as an emotional thermostat and keeps the heat down to a nice comfortable level.
No, no, no!
Self-bashing can have a huge effect on a person's ability to play their best. Those who know how to win will tell you they have learned how to stay calm yet aggressive during competition. Being able to embrace both is what enables an athlete to maintain fluid strokes yet stay keenly focused.
Once a player starts a conversation inside his head, his game will suffer. As you said, half the battle is mastering the mental game, which in a sense means not thinking about it during a match. Experience is one way to mature on the court. In tennis, mental toughness is equal to an ace every now and then just when we need it and, believe me, we always need it. Based on your question, you may be able to identify with the scenario below.
A day on the court