Focus on What’s Important

It’s a common scenario. You are playing a player who, before you step on the court, you think you have a good chance of beating – but you aren’t making a dent, let alone racking up games. In fact you won the warm up but don’t look or feel anything like that same player. What is going on?

Let’s visualize what you look like out there. First of all you probably look miserable. As the match progresses you may start talking to yourself, berating your every error. Eventually you look totally lost, having no idea how to counter the other players attack, and in fact you lose.

Most often, I see the player who loses when he should have won as having been distracted by irrelevant thoughts from the very beginning of the match. Your opponent, most likely, focused all his energy on taking care of business – the business of outsmarting you.

He has a major asset that you need to develop – the competitive mind. All else being equal, the player who is more competitive will win. Clear your head. Go in having a plan and adjust it if you need to after you’ve seen your opponent in the warm up, adjust it later in the game if your plan isn’t having any results. Think about the plan with a clear mind, your goal is to draw his weaknesses and set up your best weapons. Be confident by training your mind to ignore negative thoughts. Have positive comments on hand to substitute for all your usual negative self talk.

Winning will take care of itself when you focus on achieving your game plan via your own performance goals. For example a performance goal could be to increase your first serve percentage by 5-10%. Another could be to use the drop shot, lob and volley as offensive tools to create opportunities. In this way, even should you lose, if you have made progress with your performance goals you can still build confidence.

While it’s crucial to get the ball back in play a competitive player will get the ball back in play offensively. This is not a game of “patty cake” this is all out physical and mental effort to outwit the opponent. Muster some passion or what we call heart. Dig deep and be a worthy opponent.

If you want to win more of those matches you think you think you should give yourself a job. Work your way into point winning opportunities by applying yourself to the task at hand – be more deliberate and intentional with your choice of shot and placement of the ball. And enjoy doing it!
Originally published in the Laguna News Post 12/05/06

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