Building confidence in junior tennis players

Matt Dektas | August 02, 2021

The American Development Model (ADM) is helping coaches, players and parents to develop the next wave of junior tennis champions.


The USTA is utilizing the "5 C’s,”as a guide for this development: competence, confidence, character, connection and creativity.


Today’s focus is confidence.


Here are three easy, tangible and practical tips to help build confidence in your young athlete.


1. You don’t just arrive at confidence's door.

Building confidence is a daily commitment. We all want to be confident but are we all willing to work at it? We can work on confidence as players, parents and coaches. The hard part about mental training, and especially confidence, is how do we do that?


2. The best way to work on confidence is by practicing healthy self-talk.


This is a skill that can be practiced with both the player and parent and can be impactful in tennis and, more importantly, in life.


Players can practice self-talk that builds confidence by:


  1. Using fair speech. Fair speech is accurate. Not pessimistic, not optimistic, but realistic. For example, don’t allow “I miss every ball.” Change it to “I missed a lot of balls in the last game.”
  2. Using replacement thinking. Negative thoughts will arise and are natural. Instead of trying to not have those, try to replace a negative with a positive. We call this the '50/50 rule.' On a player’s worst day of thinking, they should have 50% negative and 50% positive thoughts. This is possible if the player commits to replacing any negative thought with a positive one.
  3. Practicing present moment speech. It is natural to dwell on what happened, good or bad. Counter this tendency by using phrases like “right now,” “right here,” “this point,” “this return," etc.


3. Body language is important.


Body language can be practiced. Most parents know what confident body language looks like. Teach players to “walk the walk” of the top, most confident athletes in the world. In tennis, this usually means shoulders back, racquet in the non-dominant hand, and a somewhat swift pace. 


As a parent, these are great things to focus on, practice and evaluate on the long journey of junior tennis. You can have a huge positive impact on building confidence systems!

To learn more about the USTA American Development Model and the "5 C’s,” visit


Matt Dektas is the author of “The Perfect Tennis Parent," a guide for competitive tennis parents. He is also the executive director of the Cincinnati Tennis Foundation and has helped to develop over 300 NCAA athletes.

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