How tennis builds resilience: Tips and reflections

Dr. Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D. | September 20, 2022

In one of the USTA's recent competitive pathways webinars, various elements of resilience were discussed. Resilience is an important piece of developing a mindset which will nurture a life-long love of tennis. A few reflections from the webinar, which you can watch below, are as follows:

  1. Resilience can be defined as the ability to bounce back, and to adapt well to change and/or difficulties. Resilience can be a component of one’s character that is present from birth or can be developed over time. We may not always be resilient yet we can return to being resilient by focusing on self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care and social connection and resources. Over-emphasizing winning and being critical can hinder the development of resilience.
  2. Dr. Larry Lauer discussed three pillars and strategies to develop resilience during the webinar. The first pillar is to reframe adverse experiences as opportunities to learn and strengthen the muscle of resilience. The second pillar is to master and apply the skill set related to resilience in adverse situations. The third pillar is to seek out support and a supportive environment in order to develop resilience. 

Having said the above, to assist in understanding resilience, think of a rubber band. Adverse experiences stretch us, like a rubber band. If we do not have adequate resilience and/or coping skills, the rubber band will stretch until it breaks. With adequate resilience and/or coping skills, we can halt the stretching before it becomes overwhelming or too much.


As we are being stretched like a rubber band, we need to practice self-care, such as eating healthy and getting enough restful sleep, in order to be able to bounce back. Look at adversity as an opportunity to strengthen your skills, develop them and bounce back.

Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D., is a former WTA touring professional and current licensed psychologist who has been recently appointed to the USTA's Sport Science Committee. A nationally and internationally-ranked junior player who went on to an All-American career at the University of Indiana, Foltz-Emmons competed as an amateur at all four Grand Slams in 1984 and 1985.


She was the second-youngest player to earn a WTA ranking in 1984, and was also the singles and doubles champion at the 1986 Orange Bowl.


In the present, Foltz-Emmons owns her own business, Advantage Performance Consultants, and consults, advises and provides her services for various companies across the country. She is also brand ambassador and psychologist for SonderMind, a Denver-based company which offers technology-driven solutions for therapists and patients seeking online and in-person appointments, and is the tennis advisor and psychological consultant for the First Serve Tennis Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of Arizona youth through transformative and engaging tennis programs.

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