I need some mental coaching

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by boosted180, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    Ok, I admit it, I must be "mentally weak" b/c more often than not, I'm losing matches I shouldnt be losing. It feels freaking horrible.

    I know what it feels like to play well and be relaxed and loose (I win almost every match when I feel like this). But there are times when the match gets really close (esp. towards the end of the match) and my nerves get the best of me and I start to fall apart very quickly! It feels like sliding down a steep cliff and I cant stop. What can I do?

    My pattern is that I usually start matches very strong but when it gets close, I become tight and cannot finish. I lost my last match 6-7, 6-7 b/c the level of my play dropped dramatically in the tie breakers in both sets and I basically just "gave away" the match! I felt horrible!

    Sometimes I think it's kinda rediculous and almost funny that I get affected this much by some stupid match that no one even really cares about. But I guess it's not really losing the match that bothers me, IT'S THE MANNER IN WHICH I LOST!

    If only I could find a good "mental coach", I'm sure my game would improve dramatically!
     
    #1
  2. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    books.google.com/books/about/Winning_Ugly.html?id=-ycjQqzdQugC
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
    #2
  3. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    What's your approximate winning percentage in close matches/tiebreaks?
     
    #3
  4. Ballinbob

    Ballinbob Hall of Fame

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    I went through a year where this happened to me all the time, it sucks.It was really frustrating and I took a lot of embarrassing losses.

    Something that helps me is just to bounce around between points, this helps if you freeze up and can't move(like me). I also try and focus on my breathing as much as possible so I don't think too much about the score.

    To be honest it just clicked for me one day, these are just things that helped me a little bit. They didn't solve it all for me unfortunately

    Good luck
     
    #4
  5. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Championship Tennis by Frank Giampolo.

    Makes Winning Ugly look like a story book - which it basically is
     
    #5
  6. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    In non-league matches, it's definitely over 75% 3 set match wins and at least that much for tie-breakers.

    In league matches (this is only my second season playing in a league), I've lost all three matches that went to 3 sets, and lost all three tie-breakers. So my record is 0 and 3 for both tie-breakers and 3 set matches. :cry:

    So this just shows that I'm not good at handling the pressure of "important" matches? (league vs. "fun" matches)
     
    #6
  7. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    Thanks. I'll give it a try. Looks like it's got great reviews.
     
    #7
  8. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Okay, just wanted to make sure there actually is a problem. Another guy started a thread on a similar issue and answered my question as something like, "About half the time, but I'm still frustrated."
     
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  9. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    The absolute game changer for me, both as a player and a high school coach, has been Mental Tennis by Vic Braden. I've read it more than once myself and also passed a copy along to a few pals who gained a lot of insight, too. Sounds to me like this is exactly what you're looking for to help with managing the space between the ears.

    I won't go off on a bundle of ideas (just get the book), but I think you could consider one issue right now. That's learning the ritual of playing nothing more than the next point. Doesn't matter if you're serving or returning, winning or losing, or if you're playing just for fun or a big deal final. Learning and practicing the ritual of mentally "wiping the slate" and planning only the next point can make a huge difference with staying sharper regardless of the setting or the score.

    One easy way to familiarize ourselves with this can be simply playing an occasional tiebreak during a session on the practice grinder. It sounds repetitive, but it's a mental discipline that can bring a lot of clarity during match play. You're having trouble when things get tight or when you're in a match that you "should win". If the overall score or your own expectations are affecting you that much, you could stand to learn how to shut them out. That may come naturally for some competitors, but I believe that a lot of us need to develop this skill. One more thing to practice...
     
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  10. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    Thanks. I'll get the book today. Good idea about playing some tie breakers during practice. I've been doing that and have definitely seen a difference. I just have to make a lot more progress.

    These last two matches I lost showed me very clearly that ultimately the thing that screwed me up was the fear of losing to lower ranked players or players that I think I "should beat". That explains why recently, I have a strange tendency to beat higher ranked players and lose to guys just below me. In fact my two losses this season are against guys who got beat by someone I had a win against last season (who's at the top of the ladder now). Strange and so dissapointing!

    Anyway, I'm learning...
     
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  11. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    The first thing is to get that out of your thinking. Most of the time, recreational players lose matches because they should be losing them.
     
    #11
  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Post 11.
    You should never think you can win, unless you breadstick the opponent every time.
    Believe it or not, HE is also trying to win, and adjust his losing game.
    The world is not always about me me me.
     
    #12
  13. BHiC

    BHiC Rookie

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    I completely agree with this advice. I also went through an extended period where I had some very poor match results and I have recently started turning it around by focusing on being really high energy. Especially when you are feeling nervous, getting the feet moving really does seem to help.
     
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  14. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    You're right. That kind of thinking is what gets me in trouble - expecting to beat a guy just b/c I've beaten him before or that he's ranked lower than me or that he's been beaten by someone who I had wins against.

    I guess technically, there's no such thing as losing a match you "shouldn't" lose. That makes me feel a little better. I just have to accept that on that particular day, that guy played better than me.

    The frustrating thing is one of the guys I lost to, I'd beaten 5 times before in straight sets. But I guess it was the "playoffs" so I was nervous or whatever, but he pushed me to 3 sets and beat me in the tie-breaker 3rd set. I felt horrible and immediately asked him if he wants a re-match.

    Two weeks later, it felt awesome when I completely demolished him 6-4 , 6-0. I've never played with that much intensity and focus and freedom from nerves before. That second set was the best tennis I've ever played in my life. Too bad I cant get into that "state" or "mind-set" every time I play.
     
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  15. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Actually, I'll bet you a nickel that you can learn to work into that mind-set. Many of us assume that if we go out and focus on playing hard, we should be able to win if we turn in a decent effort. While we spend lots of time developing our technique though, it's much less common that we practice that match mode of thinking. If you practice yours a bit, you will likely have a much more positive experience on the courts a lot more often.

    Another significant piece of the Braden book digs into the need for players like ourselves to dig into our own expectations and confront them. You already mentioned yours above and it sounds as though you can already appreciate that your own expectations are something that you need to actively manage. I think that you're definitely onto something. While I don't necessarily want everyone under the sun to read Mental Tennis, I think you could make some real gains with it. Keep us posted.
     
    #15
  16. MissD

    MissD New User

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    Mental Tennis Help

    I really love Championship Tennis by Frank Giampaolo. He has a series of Mental Emotional Tennis Workbooks too www.tennisparentsolutions.com
     
    #16
  17. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    You sound like a classic case of the all too common Fear of Losing. There is a world of difference between wanting to win and trying to avoid losing. Ultimately everyone has to deal with this, you just don't have a technique to do so yet. You know your personality better than we do, so we aren't in a position to choose what to do. Some like coaching themselves, especially between points (Sharapova, Ivanovic for example), others realize that anger is the opposite of fear and blow their stack (Johnnie Mac), others get all Zen-like (Fed, Borg) mostly folks try to pump themselves up, with varying degrees of success.
     
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  18. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Sometimes a coin flip will come up tails 6 times in a row.
    Not necessarily anything wrong with your mental game.

    If the players you are losing close matches to are not supposed to be as good as you, why are you going 3 sets or getting in tiebreakers with them? Is there a style of play that you don't like? Do you prefer to play against pace (that the better players will give you)? Do you get short balls you make unforced errors against? Do the players lock down and play more conservatively in tiebreakers so you are facing a player who becomes more of a pusher than earlier in the match?
    Look at more things to find the cause of why you are losing. If you beat the lower ranked players easily, you take the tiebreakers out of the equation.
     
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  19. Djoker91

    Djoker91 Rookie

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    Oh no. There is absolutely matches you shouldn't lose. As well as points you shouldn't lose. You construct the point, a 7 shot rally, and you pull the opponent off the court. An easy volley awaits to the open court. You net it. You should win that point. You went thru all the hard work to give yurself the best chance. Same with the match. If yur playing great, and capable of maintaining that, but don't when closing the match out, that match should be yours. My strategy, force an error from your opponent. You don't need a line clipper to win points in clutch spots. That's too hard. I serve into the body and hit fastballs down the middle. Leaves room for margin of error, and usually they have trouble getting it back because they themselves are dealing with nerves and the ball is coming in quick right at them. And backhand slice. Heavy slice. Gives them time before they hit it to think if I miss handle this slice I could lose the match. Things like this
     
    #19
  20. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    I just played another match this morning. Lost the first set 4-6. Won the second set 6-2, and felt the momentum on my side (but was still a little nervous). He was too tired to go to a 3rd set and asked if we can just do a tie-breaker first to 10 (don't need to win by 2). I agreed (in retrospect, that decision might have cost me the match).

    Anyway, in the tie breaker, it was super close and we got to 9 all. Next point takes the match. He served a weak second serve and I hit it down the line. He scrambled to get it back. I hit it to the opposite corner. He scrambled again and threw up and easy lob. I came in to hit an overhead and ..... shanked it!!!

    Final score 9-10, me losing! We shook hands at the net and he made me feel even worse by saying "I'm sorry Brian. You're clearly the better player. You had me. That was such bad luck on that last point for you"!

    I don't think I've ever felt this bad in my 2.5 years of playing tennis. Maybe I should just take a break from tennis. Either I'm having horrible luck right now or I just suck!
     
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  21. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Shake off his comment; it's actually a classic Aussie psych. I don't know if he was trying to psych you, but there's a good chance of it.
     
    #21
  22. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    I don't think he meant anything by it. But it doesn't matter, I'm just very disappointed with how I performed.

    Actually I was wondering about something: according to a lot of players (esp. the ones who are relatively new to tennis like me), they feel like their level of play in real matches is a lot lower than in practice. How much lower exactly?

    I would say on a good day for me, my performance in a match is only about 75% of what I'm fully capable of in practice. On a bad day (like today), it's closer to 60-65%. Is this normal? I'm thinking about making a video of me in practice and one of me playing a match and you guys can tell me if it's normal to drop by that much. Or maybe I'm just taking this too seriously....:confused:
     
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  23. Mr.Lob

    Mr.Lob Hall of Fame

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    I feel the same way after a lot of practice, and then not performing well in a match. It is frustrating. Try to keep busy and not think too much before playing a match. Too much anticipation and planning can increase anxiety. Try to get in a comfortable routine before playing.

    There are very few people who play matches as well as they practice IMO. So I would say you are the norm. Keep practicing and remind yourself you are playing for fun... Not to win the U.S Open.
     
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  24. Ballinbob

    Ballinbob Hall of Fame

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    Lost it mentally yesterday as well... It sucks

    Was playing a quality opponent and we got to a tiebreak. I only double faulted once the whole set up to this point. Once I get into a tiebreak, I shank his second serve and double fault twice to go down 3-0 and lose the tiebreak 7-3. Second set I'm up 5-1 and I get two chances to serve it out, and my serve abandons me completely and I lose 7-5.

    So you're not the only one:) I lost to a good player but I definitely should have been able to take the second set. This is happening less and less for me but when I do collapse mentally it's usually pretty bad.
     
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  25. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    Thanks Ballinbob. Makes me feel a little better. =)

    I totally agree with you to Mr.Lob, this is all supposed to be for fun! Gotta keep on reminding myself of that.

    But these three loses in a row has really shaken my confidence. Maybe I just go play a match outside the league with someone much lower than me to make sure I win and give him a beating to get this crappy feeling out of my system. Hahaha... I've done that before and it really works!
     
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  26. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    My evolution in matches has been (historically related by my opponents) opposite of yours: i.e. I start slow and then usually make a come back.

    Sometimes I wonder why and a couple of factors come to mind:

    - Former injuries and being heavy.

    - Need to find my shots (It happened to even Djokovic this year on more then one occasion), since I like to dictate play and push my opponents back with flat deep shots (and ros, serves etc). His confidence in that tactic is inspiring.

    - I usually figure out what I'm doing wrong (i.e. I often don't watch the ball properly and don't keep my eyes on the contact point during ladder matches and that really disappoints me) and address/correct it. I.e. remembering from Brad Gilbert, to watch the striations of the ball, focus on your breathing between points, etc.

    - I might change the game plan/vary my game.

    - I usually outlast my opponents, endurance being one of my few good assets.

    - Finally I just calm down, finally (i.e, during a TB), saying "enough is enough, I'm the higher level player[usually] and I should win", and play more relaxed etc.

    - I remember from other sports how long it took me to find my confidence and become a good attacker (years when moving from kids handball to junior and later adult, basketball).
     
    #26
  27. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    Don't be so hard on yourself, it is possible that you are having horrible luck AND suck!:)
     
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  28. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    I have one question: what's your style?

    B/c while I agree with fuzzy nation that one should play "nothing more than the next point", I'm also looking at statistics and style.

    I.e.

    a) Am I statistically better then the opposition, point by point, overall?

    b) As for style, like Djokovic I prefer to dictate play and have the match (usually) on my racquet. I hone my shots in order to be able to produce winners etc. And of course some defense, etc, but I usually prefer to live or die by the sword.

    No point in giving up tennis for a while, as you stated initially etc.

    Lastly I see your point about matches one shouldn't lose (i.e. against pushers who are overall also lower skilled then you and/or when you have a mental collapse/bad day), but the longer the match goes, the more time I have to calm down and execute (especially in a TB, which, come to think about it, its ....longer then a game and that gives me more time to settle it).
     
    #28
  29. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    My guess is you are too result oriented on this and need to focus more on the process and execution. Think more about the actions you should take and less on the outcome. You win some and you lose some, but let it be decided with you "getting after it", and just sort of be surprised at the outcome when it's over. You are spending too much thought towards the finish line and not enough action on getting there. :)
     
    #29
  30. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. I finally recognized this but by the time I did, it was hard to stop it b/c I'd already lost 2 matches in a row and felt like my next one was a "must win", which put even more pressure on myself and when I lost that in a tie-breaker 9-10, my confidence was destroyed!

    I made a resolution to myself that from now on, my focus is not to beat the other guy, but instead on being able to play as close to my potential as I know I'm capable of. And so far the ONLY thing that's preventing me from doing that is the undue pressure I put on myself to win, and especially not lose to guys who I think I "should beat".

    So starting my next match, I will not care about winning or losing. Regardless of the result - I will feel good if I can walk off the court feeling like I played my game well, hitting the ball well, and most importantly *without* choking as a result of nerves. And just having FUN! Winning or losing or doing well in the league will all take care of themselves as long as I play my game - which I haven't been doing lately.

    Thanks for everyone's inputs. I feel like I've made some progress and am on to something here. We'll see...
     
    #30
  31. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    As far as my style, here are my pluses and minuses:

    Pluses:
    I'm fast and have good reflexes, esp. for a 40 y/o.
    I prefer to go to the net (esp. if I'm nervous) - more reaction and less thinking
    I like to go for my shots. I hit worse if I try to push.
    I would describe my game as all-court

    Minuses:
    I break down under pressure and my strokes and footwork all go to crap when I get nervous
    My stamina is not great. I run out of gas in most 3 setters.
    I'm very streaky. I'll do great for a couple of games and then crap for the next few
    My serve has no power. Great consistency but no power. I injured my shoulder and afraid to hurt it again.
     
    #31
  32. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    Ok, a quick update - I finally got some wins! After I started the season 0-3, and with my confidence totally shaken and feeling horrible about the way I lost those matches, I finally won my next two matches.

    The one today was especially satisfying b/c it was a guy I lost to last season b/c of choking in the deciding tie-breaker... sounds familiar, doesn't it. LOL.

    Anyway, today I spanked him 6-0, 6-4. In the second set he elevated his game big time and made it really tough for me. I got a little nervous and memories of how I lost my last matches and how he beat me the last time (also coming back from down a set) started creeping in! I tried my best to push out those memories and emotions and just focus on each point.

    I managed to break his serve at 4 all and then served it out at 5-4. The game that I broke him was a long hard game with 9 deuces. It felt sooo good to win that game! Then I served it out relatively comfortably (although still with some nerves).

    What a relief! Is it just me or do other people feel like it's such an emotionally demanding sport?
     
    #32
  33. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    It is because you're out there alone, not even in close proximity to your opponent, and the scoring system adds pressure because of the winner take all nature of games and sets. Just remember your opponent feels the same way, and learn to enjoy yourself out there because it is a game after all.
     
    #33

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