PDA

View Full Version : Tennis Psychology 101


predrag
08-25-2004, 09:25 AM
I have been working with my kids for quite some time.

Both of my kids are exceptionally tall and strong for their age (10 and soon 8 to be).
Younger one being a better mover.

I was trying to have my older one play tournaments once a month.
Recently, he developed a habit of getting angry with himself after a very few mistakes.
This anger makes him lose focus and lose the set on an instant.
His stokes are awesome, including his serve.
I mean, everybody is admiring his strokes.

Now, I tried to explain to him, what is happening is first of all nervousness.
Butterflies are something quite normal, and it makes player swing with shorter strokes,
which generates an error, which in turn makes player panic, and get angry.
Getting angry is a feedback that does not help.

Until the very last tournament I did not quite get this.
I was telling him NOT to get angry. Well this does not work. Whenever there is a problem one should provide what to do, not what not to :)
So, I started telling him (to late for the last tournament, unfortunately) to
tell himself to move. To swing at the ball. To set up.
Eventually, players usually loosen up, so strokes get more fluid, and hopefully that will prevent
further errors.

Any other suggestions, everybody?

Opinions?

Regards, Predrag

dozu
08-25-2004, 09:40 AM
from pure psychology stand point, anger originates from fear. Do you put 2 much pressure on him? does he put 2 much pressure on him? Is he afraid of / embarassed by losing?

The other thing I can think of is that kids watch tour pros and view them as role models..... let him watch Federer, and let him learn that only coolness is cool..... racket throwing and yelling and cursing is uncool, just stupid.

last but not least, it could just be part of the normal psychological development process for a kid.... my 3-year-old daughter gets frustrated and angry quite easily and I just view it as "being a kid". Federer himself used to be a racket thrower when young.

predrag
08-25-2004, 09:49 AM
from pure psychology stand point, anger originates from fear. .

Absolutely agree.
I tried to explain to him, that even if he losses sun still comes out tomorrow.

Do you put 2 much pressure on him?
Well, I try not to.
I tell him that I do not really care if he wins or not.
What matters to me is that:
1. he tries hard
2. he behaves properly

does he put 2 much pressure on him?
He definitely does. '
One of his problems is that he is way too competitive in everything he does.
Totaly opposite from my younger son.

Is he afraid of / embarassed by losing?
I think that everybody is.
Nobody likes losing, and we all fear from it.


The other thing I can think of is that kids watch tour pros and view them as role models..... let him watch Federer, and let him learn that only coolness is cool..... racket throwing and yelling and cursing is uncool, just stupid.
I do. I have many tapes and had him watch the ultimate iceman, Borg.
Federer, Sampras, too.
Safin, as an example of the wasted talent, because of the poor anger management.

Regards, Predrag

polakosaur
08-25-2004, 10:14 AM
He may be to young to understand but i use this motto "either step up or step down" either yout going to step up and get the job done and get victory or your gonna step down and be crap. I guess it may be a belief thing too, does he believe in himself, what about confidence?

predrag
08-25-2004, 10:17 AM
He may be to young to understand but i use this motto "either step up or step down" either yout going to step up and get the job done and get victory or your gonna step down and be crap. I guess it may be a belief thing too, does he believe in himself, what about confidence?

I think that he did not have confidence until recently.
He improved footwork tremendously over the summer.
Only thing left to improve is temper :)

Regards, Predrag

kevhen
08-25-2004, 11:14 AM
Maybe try to tell him that he can release his anger on one or two points but to let it all out and then go back to just playing his game the best he can and not worry about if he is making too many mistakes. We all have to learn how to best deal with frustrations at times. If his anger makes him play worse, tell him to slow down when he feels angry until he can calm down again. It's tough with kids, since they don't have as strong of control over their emotions. It's better not to play competitive matches until they can handle it emotionally or the kid will get burnt out and become too frustrated.

predrag
08-25-2004, 11:19 AM
[snip]
It's better not to play competitive matches until they can handle it emotionally or the kid will get burnt out and become too frustrated.
That's what I was thinking, however others, more experienced, some coaching pros included,
told me that he should play more.
There is some thruth in it. I remember my playing days (table tennis) when
I got to be so nervous that I was dropping my racquet.
Butterflies were still there, after many tournaments, but I was able to play through.

Regards, Predrag

kevhen
08-25-2004, 11:29 AM
Most kids play team sports when they are younger because individual sports can be very tough on the pysche since they will blame themselves and think they are worthless when they don't win. There is alot of pressure there in a sport like tennis even when the parents aren't applying any.

Let him decide what tournaments he wants to play in if any. Don't try to push him into any that he is not ready for yet.

predrag
08-25-2004, 11:32 AM
Most kids play team sports when they are younger because individual sports can be very tough on the pysche since they will blame themselves and think they are worthless when they don't win. There is alot of pressure there in a sport like tennis even when the parents aren't applying any.

Let him decide what tournaments he wants to play in if any. Don't try to push him into any that he is not ready for yet.

Actually, just yesterday, two days after the loss in the consolation finals, he was checking
on the USTA site when is the next tournament.
I refuse to drive more than 30 miles so we settled on the Sep 17th :)

Regards, Predrag

kevhen
08-25-2004, 12:16 PM
OK sounds good. Consolation finals shows he is willing to battle back after losing early so that is good. Maybe he will learn to control his anger if he eventually realizes it is hurting his game. Sounds like he is having fun and enjoying the sport, except for those few frustrating moments when he really gets down on himself.

joe sch
08-25-2004, 12:27 PM
I bet if he starting reading Tim Gallweys "Inner Tennis" it would have an very positive impact on his game and these problems would be history

polakosaur
08-25-2004, 12:27 PM
how about maybe when he doesn't see you you tape him during a match and show him how he acts on court so then after the match when he settles down you can show it to him and maybe he'll be able to reflect whats going on and change?

thehustler
08-25-2004, 12:33 PM
I understand your kid's mindset. Granted I am a lot older than he is, but I do tend to put a lot of pressure on myself as well because I know what I can do and I expect that same performace each time even though I may not get it. What I do when I screw up is just laugh it off or just let out a loud "Aww crap' and then fiddle with my strings. That's it. I'm instantly refocused and ready for the next point. If I actually lose a match as rare as that is, I take it as a good thing. I think back on what I did or didn't do and what I need to improve on. I always seem to be more focused after a loss than a string of wins. I figure if he does enough tournaments he'll get over the nerves and butterflies. I've only done a few tournaments and I still get nerves, but it happens a lot less now, especially when I am in a final. Good luck to your kids.

predrag
08-25-2004, 12:35 PM
Advices from joe sch and polakosaur sound pretty good.
Thanks guys.

Regards, Predrag

mucat
08-25-2004, 12:55 PM
Is he having fun on the court? Being 10 or 8, I think they shouldn't take the game too too serious yet. If he is having fun, he will be relax.

predrag
08-25-2004, 12:59 PM
Is he having fun on the court? Being 10 or 8, I think they shouldn't take the game too too serious yet. If he is having fun, he will be relax.

I would guess so, since he keeps coming back.
Without being pushed.
Seems to be enjoying tournaments, too, even he has not won any of them, yet.

Being too relaxed in the tournament would not necessarily a good thing.
That might mean that he doesn't give a damn.

Regards, Predrag

Kobble
08-25-2004, 02:18 PM
This is such a complicated topic. Trying to simply all the contributing variables to poor performance is a life worth of work. I will say this, I do not think you have done anything wrong by reading what you have wrote. The most fundamental advice I would give to anyone is to expose the kid to different ideas, and make knowledge available. Let the kid grasp the link between the details and the big picture of something. Confidence and poise will come as a result of understanding.

Camilio Pascual
08-26-2004, 03:29 AM
He may be to young to understand but i use this motto "either step up or step down" either yout going to step up and get the job done and get victory or your gonna step down and be crap. I guess it may be a belief thing too, does he believe in himself, what about confidence?

Predag - Polakosaur's advice is TERRIBLE! I actually thought he was joking at first and making fun of bad tennis parents, but you are taking him seriously! Go read the tennis psychology books and the ones on how to coach kids and you will find them to be totally opposite of his advice. They advise to have the player focus on PROCESS and not to be unduly concerned with RESULTS. I hope for your kid's sake you ignore that poor advice. Focusing on results makes a kid question what others' think of him and can start a very negative internal dialogue. And this type of talk coming from one's parent is even worse than coming from a stranger.
Polakosaur, tell him you're kidding. Please. You sound like a parody of an out of control youth camp counselor.

gmlasam
08-26-2004, 05:57 AM
from pure psychology stand point, anger originates from fear. Do you put 2 much pressure on him? does he put 2 much pressure on him? Is he afraid of / embarassed by losing?

The other thing I can think of is that kids watch tour pros and view them as role models..... let him watch Federer, and let him learn that only coolness is cool..... racket throwing and yelling and cursing is uncool, just stupid.

last but not least, it could just be part of the normal psychological development process for a kid.... my 3-year-old daughter gets frustrated and angry quite easily and I just view it as "being a kid". Federer himself used to be a racket thrower when young.

Unfortunately, this is so true. Coaches, and specially Parents put so much undue pressure on their kids, and the kids starts to develope the hate for the game. They just play the game just to please their coach or parents and not enjoying it at all. At the teen age level, and specially pre teen age level, coaches and parents do not realize that these kids play sports for fun, to develop the love of the game. Once putting undue pressure on them, then the fun is gone.

I've taken some 300 level college classes on sport psychology, and its amazing on how the effects of negative coaching and parenting can greatly effect the child's physical and mental development as an adult.

predrag
08-26-2004, 06:22 AM
He may be to young to understand but i use this motto "either step up or step down" either yout going to step up and get the job done and get victory or your gonna step down and be crap. I guess it may be a belief thing too, does he believe in himself, what about confidence?

Predag - Polakosaur's advice is TERRIBLE! [snip]


Well, I have to say that I did not like this advice, so I never responded to it.
However the next one he gave, I think was rather clever.

Regards, Predrag

polakosaur
08-26-2004, 06:34 AM
i wasn't making any jokes, that was a serious statement that if used can be correct.

The guy who wrote about results is right, you can't focus on results you have to focus on becoming better everyday one step at a time. I think you took my statement the wrong way. And like i said he may be to young to understand that concept.

predrag
08-26-2004, 06:41 AM
Unfortunately, this is so true. Coaches, and specially Parents put so much undue pressure on their kids, and the kids starts to develope the hate for the game. They just play the game just to please their coach or parents and not enjoying it at all. At the teen age level, and specially pre teen age level, coaches and parents do not realize that these kids play sports for fun, to develop the love of the game. Once putting undue pressure on them, then the fun is gone.
[snip]


I agree. And I tried to introduce him to having fun just by hitting the ball.
Winning does not matter. The only reason why I would like him to win more is because
he puts sooo much pressure on himself.

I tried to explain many times, if he does not like it, he should not play it. It is fine by me.
And nobody should play just because parents make them to.

Both of my kids love basketball, too. And that is encouraged in our house. If they decide one day
to play b-ball instead, I told them, I will not try to stop them.


Regards, Predrag

Camilio Pascual
08-26-2004, 07:28 AM
how about maybe when he doesn't see you you tape him during a match and show him how he acts on court so then after the match when he settles down you can show it to him and maybe he'll be able to reflect whats going on and change?

Predag - Yes, this is good advice from Polakosaur. It reminds me of the racists who come back on the talk shows and recant because they saw how angry and ridiculous they looked on TeeVee. A good approach about his anger is to give him permission to feel angry since he is going to feel angry, anyway. Then work with him on how to deal with and express the anger in a healthy way.
Polakosaur - I'm glad you didn't really intend it for a kid. I still think making judgements about one's self based on tennis results is not very healthy regardless of age. It is something the pros have to do and it must be very stressful. Take care.

predrag
08-26-2004, 07:32 AM
[snip]
A good approach about his anger is to give him permission to feel angry since he is going to feel angry, anyway. Then work with him on how to deal with and express the anger in a healthy way.
Polakosaur - I'm glad you didn't really intend it for a kid. I still think making judgements about one's self based on tennis results is not very healthy regardless of age. It is something the pros have to do and it must be very stressful. Take care.

This is something that I came to realize.
He has to deal with being angry, not to prevent it.
However, last night I had to step in, and remind him that just being angry is not enough.

Regards, Predrag

polakosaur
08-26-2004, 09:58 AM
[quote=polakosaur]
Polakosaur - I'm glad you didn't really intend it for a kid. I still think making judgements about one's self based on tennis results is not very healthy regardless of age. It is something the pros have to do and it must be very stressful. Take care.


i never said anything about making judgements about one self based on their tennis game, now your just putting stuff on the board thats bs,

I don't think anyone does that not even the pro's, tennis is just a sport and it challenges the body and mind, its not a way to put self worth on.

Camilio Pascual
08-26-2004, 12:04 PM
either yout going to step up and get the job done and get victory or your gonna step down and be crap.


Okay.

LoveThisGame
08-26-2004, 01:04 PM
Let me throw out another way that might relieve stress a bit.

When I have encountered juniors or adults who over focus on winning, I say:

Let's say we have a tournment with 16 entries. Fifteen are going to lose, by definition. What, are we masochists?!

No, competing can be fun and a measuring stick of progress.

predrag
08-26-2004, 01:06 PM
Let me throw out another way that might relieve stress a bit.

When I have encountered juniors or adults who over focus on winning, I say:

Let's say we have a tournment with 16 entries. Fifteen are going to lose, by definition. What, are we masochists?!

No, competing can be fun and a measuring stick of progress.
I like this.
I will have to remember to tell it to my son next time before he plays with somebody.

Regards, Predrag

tennisluv
08-02-2005, 06:21 AM
I would suggest to take an optimism test either for children or adults. I can provide it for you if you like. This will be an excellent opportunity to improve his mental skills and performance. Ask me for it.

Lior Doron

FedererUberAlles
08-02-2005, 07:22 AM
Just let him get through it. I've got a similar problem and everyone telling me what to do only makes it worse. Sometimes if i really let the anger get out , I can start hitting aces, my shots start going where I want them to go. But I could be wrong,

SageOfDeath
08-02-2005, 10:07 AM
Anything you want to do in life should be fun. A sport is completely optional and he should try to make it fun for himself.

Getting angry is unsportsmanlike and doesn't help your game or you having more fun. Maybe let him play pressure free matches. Like maybe with a friend of his or you, its very common for young kids to get angry with themselves. Its their personality, their competetiveness, which I don't think should necessarily change but having a positive attitude and feeling good about yourself is healthy, getting angry with yourself is unhealthy.

Like roddick, he has some unsportsmanlike conduct. Gets angry a lot and isn't a great role model. In that particular athlete, I see an 8 year old boy.