Don’t get me wrong, I can feel just as enthusiastic as any tennis player after winning a match or even a point. I think it’s important to have that desire to be competitive and strive to be the best you can. However I’ve realized that there has been a roadblock in the improvement of many players I have trained with. It’s something I’ve had to deal with myself, and that is ego. I’ver written in the past about how ego can ruin a player’s ability to play matches but this is more on the drills we use to train and improve our tennis skills. Usually drills are cooperative or competitive. Cooperative drills entail an end goal that is completed together, such as hitting a certain number of groundstrokes past the service line in a row. This is not as common as the competitive drills, where points are counted and a winner/loser is declared at the end.
Here is where ego can get in the way….
Winning a point requires a player to either A) hit a winner or B) your hitting partner misses the ball (forced or unforced errors). Whatever the setup is for your drill, ask yourself, “what is the main objective of this drill?” I would guess that it’s related to improving a certain stroke or pattern, not to necessarily win the drill. Then the points begin and the competitive juices start flowing. A ball that is just out feeds the ego as winning a point make us….well, feel good! We soon forget that we want to improve and winning is more important. We go back to automating our strokes and not analyzing and thinking of ways to improve as that might cost us a win. In the end, we might be victorious but our progress to improvement gets stagnant.
I know how this goes as I’ve been victim to this mindset for many years. I’ve noticed a bit improvement in my game when I stop thinking about the winning and thinking about the progress in my drills. With this new mindset, I play many more balls that are out to give me extra reps in the drill. If someone says the score that is not correct and in their favor, I shrug it off as the score isn’t as important to me anymore. This might also help you have a clear mindset in your matches and realize the pressure you feel is what you put on yourself and can be controlled.
So the next time you’re practicing think about how your ego could be getting in the way of your progress and you might see that you will be well on your way to improving your tennis game!
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