Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Chris Ducker on the way home. He was talking about an annual audience survey that he does with his audience (mainly entrepreneurs). This annual survey has given him lots of insights over the years, as these entrepreneurs share their pain points, struggles and expectations. This year though, he has noticed one word that has cropped up over and over again, and that word is FEAR.
It’s not a new concept for entrepreneurs. They all struggle with it on a regular basis: fear of taking risks, fear of financial difficulties, fear of failure. A fear can be a good thing and give us the kick we need to push on. And a lot of the time it ends up in causing procrastination, doubt or becoming overwhelmed.
What has this got to do with tennis?
From my experience with tennis players, fear plays a huge part in their game. You might have these invisible scripts floating in your head when you serve in a game. "What if I don't serve over the net? What if he/she (your opponent) attacks on my serve?"
Sometimes it might not be the invisible scripts in your head but the way you play that shows that you are scared. For example, you feel tense when you hit the ball, you hit the ball cautiously and you don't dare to attack even when you see the open space.
Whenever I asked my tennis student, Carrie (not her real name), to practice her serve, she would have a deep sigh. I would ask her what was wrong and she would sheepishly tell me that her serve sucks. She felt a lot of pressure when she served in front of her friends during a match. In her mind, she was always feeling scared when she served and wanted to get her service game over and done with.
The truth is when she is practicing, her serve can be pretty consistent. Her technique is not perfect but I see it improving during practice. I commented that her serve is quite consistent and she agreed. She knows it because she feels more relaxed on the practice court.
Isn't this interesting? The serve consistency can vary so much just with a different state of mind.
I think what matters most is the mindset behind the fear. Once we can overcome that mindset, we can achieve better results.
Chris Ducker suggested some alternatives for his listeners so that they can view fear in a more positive light. I'm going to modify his suggestions so that they are applicable to tennis.
Use these alternative phrases to overcome fear in tennis.
#1: "I'm inspired to..."
Just use this first phrase in your saying, "I'm inspired to...", when you feel fearful or scared the next time. When you are learning a new techniques, use this context very often. This will help you get rid of negative thoughts that you can't cope with the demands of the new technique. Just keep telling yourself that, "I'm inspired to try it out myself. "
This instant change of your mindset lets you open up the mind and venture into new things. You willing to absorb new ideas when you stay inspired.
It could be that you are trying to change the habit of not following through when you execute the tennis forehand and someone has corrected you.
Instead of resisting the change, tell yourself, "I'm inspired to try and change my forehand." Be patient and accept that it takes time and effort to change. In the long run, your tennis forehand will improve.
#2: “I’m capable of…”
Another phrase that you must use when you feel anxious is "I'm capable of...". This is obvious that after loosing a match, your confidence is shaken and you get anxious or worried about playing the next match. You must tell yourself "I'm capable of avoiding those mistakes in the next match." Or to be more specific, you should tell yourself, "I'm capable of increasing my first serve percentage to 60%."
By being specific on the tasks that you are capable of doing, it gives you the confidence to achieve better results. You avoid the fear of overthinking the 1001 things that can happen in a tennis match. Give it a try. It's very powerful.
#3: “I’m ready to…”
The last alternative that you can use is to tell yourself, "I'm ready to...". For example, there are many reasons why people avoid playing tennis matches. One of the reasons is they feel they are not good enough or they are not ready to play.
To be honest, I feel that people will never be ready. For example, when I asked my students, if are they ready to take the 2.4km running test, 100% will say that they are not ready and give a ton of reasons why they are not ready.
My reply to them is always, "You will never be ready. Go and form up at the track and we will commence the run in 3 minutes." They just have to do it!
This is funny, that most of thoughts have decent timings despite saying, "I'm not ready." You must be worried during your first tennis match and thinking that, "I'm not ready because my serve is still very weak." Or "I'm not ready because my forehand is not consistent. " Just throw those thoughts away.
Tell yourself "I'm ready to play." Arrange your first match and just play! It's that simple. The most important thing is to learn from the match and improve on the next one.
Think of any application on your phone. The developers are constantly upgrading the apps from version 1 to 1.1, 1.2 and so on. There isn’t any major change in the application. It’s always something minor, an upgrade or rectifying certain bugs. Just do the same after playing matches. Review what are the key areas to work on and implement small steps to improve them.
Experts believe it's a good thing to have fear in us. It keeps us safe. However, we give too much power to fear and this prevent us from advancing. Replace your phrases with these alternative phrases- "I'm inspired to...", "I'm capable of ...", "I'm ready to...", the next time you feel fearful in your tennis.
Unleash your tennis potential and don't let fear hold you back. You are definitely capable of achieving better results.