One of the more curious things that tennis players tend to do is give up the lead when ahead. They could be dominating, have a set lead and are cruising along just fine, but when victory is in sight, they soften up and fold. It’s as if a switch has been flipped off and all of the energy drains from their body. They start to steer shots, hit weakly and lose focus and aggression. The next thing they know is that they lose and are shaking hands with the winner wondering how did this happen again? So, what goes on here and what can be done if this is your case?
RX: Your first job is to determine that you have a problem. Some call it a fear of success, but it’s not fear so much as a belief that you are not really good enough to win. In psychology, this is called “cognitive dissonance” or a failure to believe in yourself.
Others unconsciously feel that being ahead is tantamount to winning and it becomes time to relax. A talented player who is not performing up to expectations may harbor a low self-image deep inside and has spent their whole life giving things away. These are the nice guys, the givers who are always putting others before themselves. Usually, these players have been raised to give, rather than to receive and this is just what they do on the court.
To put an end to this is not easy, but a first step is to set up a pre-match routine where you look deeply into your own eyes in a mirror and say to yourself: “I can do this, I really am a winner and really am that good. I want to win this match.” Years ago, the famous entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. had a ritual before he went on stage. He would kiss his ring and say, “I’m a star. I’m a star. I’m a star.” This may sound awfully silly, but when faced with a great challenge, it is nice to have a ritual set up to remind you of who you really are and what you want to do. Develop one for yourself and do it before every match. This will be your little mantra that can settle you and perhaps unleash your strength. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
For consultations, treatment or on-site visits, contact Dr. Tom Ferraro Ph.D., sport psychologist, at (516) 248-7189.
Dr. Tom Ferraro
For consultations, treatment or on-site visits, contact Dr. Tom Ferraro Ph.D., Sport Psychologist, by phone at (516) 248-7189, e-mail DrTFerraro@aol.com or visit DrTomFerraro.com.