I recently had the chance to meet Taylor Stanton, head tennis pro at Cherry Valley Club, and asked him a simple question, “What is the most common psychological problem you encounter with your students?” He quickly answered, “Oh that’s an easy one. The biggest problem many have is when they lose one or two games. For some reason they automatically lose hope and give up.” Taylor has touched upon one of the central problems in tennis. Tennis players lose many matches because of the tendency to become discouraged after a few lost games. Many players will lose one game, get angry, get down and then give up. This is what we call a short-term depressive episode in tennis.
The reason players lose hope so fast is that, deep inside, they are actually expecting to lose and it only takes the slightest setback to let this attitude of despair surface and take over. Tennis is extremely competitive, and over time, we all lose our share of matches. This chips away at our confidence and we slowly build up an expectation that it will happen again. So, when you get down a game or two, you start to say to yourself, “ Here we go again!” It’s a short trip between that statement and giving up all together. Most matches are lost because players quit on themselves when faced with adversity.
The cure for this is simple. First, you must realize that you have some control over this reaction. You need to see that the act of giving up is the cause of your losses and not the losing of two games in a row. Learn to keep at it. All champions have that quality of never giving up when down. They rarely beat themselves. Conversely, the players who never play to their potential are the ones who are giving up too fast. Teach yourself to say something like “Keep at it” when you lose a game or two. This is far better than losing hope and slouching around the court. The second thing to do is to make sure you are always building up self-esteem when off the court. Always place trophies and signs of past achievements on the walls in your home so that you give yourself subliminal messages of your talent and strength.
Hope is a word rarely used in sport psychology, but it is a key concept in sport. Rollo May was a great existential psychologist who emphasized this concept all the time. Hope springs eternal and is one of the greatest traits we have. Successful entrepreneurs always have hope and an optimistic air about them. So next time you play, bring this secret weapon along with you. Bring hope to your game, and when you fall behind, pull up this hope and it will keep you focused, optimistic and aggressive. Use this secret weapon and you will begin to win more matches starting today.
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.