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Player to Player: Struggling with Confidence

February 13, 2012 11:59 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Jennifer:
Can anyone offer some advice on how to improve my return of serve?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Ted
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
I have been playing erratically lately and have been struggling to get my confidence back. Has anyone else experienced this problem, and if so, how did you overcome it?
Player Responses:
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

I find it best to eliminate the two negatives. It's much harder to think of how to not lose confidence than to think of growing confidence. Here are my suggestions of getting your mojo back:
1) Be positive. There are occasions when I hear a player verbally abuse himself after losing a point in practice. I then will stand next to his court and give him similar dialogue after he misses the next point. I repeat the process one more time. I then ask him,"How does that make you feel?" Usually angry and disgraced is the reply. Then I turn the tables and give positive feedback following each error. I use phrases like, "That's OK. Next time," "Hang in there," or say a keyword like "focus," "move," or "relax." The player usually prefers these comments much better. I explain that there is an "inner coach" in all of us. Choose which one that you want to listen to. Be sure that your doubles partner is supportive, too.
2) Set simple goals. Some examples are make the first volleys, return the majority of second serves, a low number of double faults per set or win the first three points of tiebreakers. With simple goals, success is gained much quicker. My motto for goal-setting is, "The closer the rungs are on a ladder, the faster you can climb it."
3) Seeing is believing. If you discover that a certain shot is not working, do repetitive drills. I recommend talking to a pro or coach first. Repeating the same mistake reinforces bad habits. If you feel that the level of your game has dropped off a bit, do what Bjorn Borg does. I read that when Borg lost unexpectedly in a tournament, he would go to a local country club and take on their members just to gain confidence.
4) Inspiration. Watching videos of great comeback matches can set the right frame of mind. My choice is the Sampras/Becker Masters final in Munich. Books are another media form that can help put the fire back, like "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert, "A Champion's Mind" by Pete Sampras and "Inner Tennis" by Tim Gallaway.
Just remember, if you find yourself falling, you can always bounce back. You just need to know where the trampoline is.
Coach Poppie, PTR Professional 4A, Florida and Delaware
Vince Lombardi said it best, and it went something like this: Winning is contagious; unfortunately, so is losing. There is no quick fix for this syndrome. It takes time, effort and patience.

First thing to do is take five 30-minute sessions with a teaching professional - serve, forehand, backhand, singles and doubles match play. This is to pull your swing and game into proportion to your goals and not for mastery. Next, start playing people just below your level of play, at least six best-out-of-three sets.

Here is the tough part. Journal your strengths and weaknesses, and show them to your pro. Once you start putting more wins in your journal than losses, start playing at the next level. Should you not be able to consistently win at the next level, then that means you were really playing up, and this is also good. Follow up this routine with playing at the level you do best at while mixing in a few next-level matches, and you will know when you are ready to play guys at below, at and about your actual recorded level history. Many people try and play up thinking this will make them a better play. However, often the consequences of doing so become counter-productive.

Mostly, Ted, you need to learn to have fun, enjoy the game and look forward to your next match. Learn Practice Play
Kenny S.

You lost your confidence in your game. There are a few routs you can take. Stop caring if you win. Train harder off the court, and work on problems with your game, hopefully with a coach.  Watch tennis and see what the pros do. Maybe you need a two-week break or more? Maybe play a tournament if you are just playing at your club or with friends. Have fun. You might be thinking you're better than you are or just having a low point, which with more practice, building quickness, fitness and other ways to get better, it will come back.

*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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