It’s Your Choice: playing competitive tennis can be stressful. And you all know that stress, beyond a certain level, makes any player perform well below her level. (I’m still waiting to hear from anyone on any subject whatsoever where excessive stress is beneficial!).
Imagine a few different scenarios.
Scenario #1: You played tight the entire match against a team which you should beat. It goes to a Super-tiebreak and you lose 10-8. All of the following occur: 1) You are deeply disappointed because, not only did you lose, but you also played poorly. We call this a lose-lose situation; 2) You have zero confidence going into your next match because you just played like crap; 3) You are not improving your level of play.
Scenario #2: You play tight against the same team and WIN 10-8 in the Super. All of the following probably occur: 1) You won, but you don’t even feel good because you played like crap. You get some solace from the win, but it’s ultimately not all that satisfying. I call this MAKING A PACT WITH THE DEVIL. Numbers 2 and 3 still hold, i.e. you have no confidence moving forward and you are not improving as a player.
Scenario #3: You play the way you want to – aggressive at the right times – hitting up the middle when the score is close, etc. You win the same match 6-4, 6-4 because, as you suspected going into the match, your team is simply better. FACT: If you attack 10 times and hit 6 winners while 4 other shots hit the back wall on a fly, you will win by 6-0, 6-0.
Scenario #4: You play the way you want to and lose to the weaker team. (HINT: This probably will never happen, but, to be fair, it needs to be included). Now you have the pain of the loss, BUT you also have the knowledge that your game is on track to peaking in August when you want to be playing your best tennis, i.e. THE PLAYOFFS!
One way to limit stress is to “frame” your competitive tennis differently. Instead of saying “I have to win this match”, you should be saying “I would like to go 10-2 this season”. You are still committed to winning but with less pressure in any given match. Imagine a portfolio manager who had to make money on every single trade – he would have a nervous breakdown!
Frame it correctly, build your games, build your confidence … and you will have more fun too!