Handling the Fear of Losing

Competition brings out the best or the worst in our tennis games. We
either meet the challenge or we choke. Sometimes we do both in the span of
one set. Fear cripples our ability to strike the ball cleanly with confidence.
Fear of making an error, fear of losing, or just fear of failure makes us
crumble like stale bread.
   To combat this fear we need to do several things.
   First we need to realize that tennis is only a game. A game that is to be
enjoyed not feared. We won’t die from losing a tennis match. Everyone
loses, everyone makes mistakes, do not base your self worth on whether you
win or lose. We are unable to control winning and losing, we can only control
how we react.
   Second we need to instill confidence in our abilities. We do this by
practice. We hit thousands of forehands and backhands grooving our swings
to perfection. The key however is to groove our swings under pressure of
match play. Having confidence in your shots allows you to relax and hit
precision winners.
   Third we need to accept failure. No one hits every shot for a winner. Most
points end in an error, and not because of a great placement. Being able to
clear the mind and relax after a “flub� allows us to meet the next point
with the same confidence as the last. If you cannot clear an error from your
mind you will build up layers of failures which will increase the chances of
more errors. Negative self talk is very damaging to confidence. Positive talk
and encouragement will give us more inner strength.
   Go out, play more tennis and have fun. Feel the challenge in this contest
of skill and determination. The greatest players all have this in common, they
loved the game!

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors
just the same……you'll be a Man, my son!� Rudyard Kipling, “If�.

Doug Hofer, USPTA          September 30, 2007   hofertennis.com