The way you communicate with yourself in a tennis match often determines the quality of experience you have. Many times we look for opportunities to remind ourselves of what we are doing wrong, which feeds into an endless cycle of criticism and self-doubt. When you look closely at what your conversations are, it might be surprising to see a few words that stick out that can cause damaging conversations with yourself. Words used to take away your grit and determination during a match are called weasel words. They often put the blame on something you cannot control so therefore is easy to give up. Obviously, these words need to be avoided.
Let’s check out the 4 weasel words to avoid in your tennis matches!
- Can’t Can’t gives no solutions to your problem. It zaps all innovative thinking, which is perhaps the most important form of thinking in a tennis match as adaptations are almost always necessary to give you your best chance to succeed. Can’t usually means you don’t have the resources, tools or knowledge on how to do something. So this goes back to the innovative thinking during your match. When you get into a situation where “I can’t” is being used, add “yet” to the end of it. For example, by saying “I can’t hit my backhand yet” is much more productive self-talk to get you in the innovative thinking mindset to find solutions to the problem.
- Need The word need implies “can’t do without.” So you’re adding two weasel words into one! It is very likely that you don’t need whatever you’re implying during your tennis match. The bigger issue with this word is the mindset it creates. The dependency on whatever you “need” puts you in a dependency mode that cripples grit. Grit is that feeling of overcoming whatever obstacle is in your way. Needing something to get through that obstacle gives you an excuse to not pursue that obstacle. “If only I had….” is commonly associated with the word need. Instead of using need, say it like it is. For example, “I could use a big first serve here.” It gives you an opportunity to adapt if that outcome doesn’t happen and keeps you competitive in your match.
- Bad Is anything really “bad?” Especially when we consider the outcomes that play out in a tennis match. “Bad” puts us in a judging mindset that doesn’t offer perspective or insight. When you consider a shot you hit in your match as bad, you end the conversation. You have come to a conclusion that doesn’t give any opportunity to learn and grow. Instead of something being bad, think of it as a way to learn and improve from. Try this during your match: Instead of thinking of things as bad outcomes, think of how all these outcomes are designed for you to win your match. That is a powerful mindset! Think about it; if you miss a forehand into the net on breakpoint and you think that missed shot will somehow get you to winning your tennis match, you will be an unstoppable force on the court!
- Try This weasel words seems good on the surface. I’m sure your coach has asked if you “tried hard” in your match. We have been often told that trying is the key to success. The problem is by saying you will try at something gives you an excuse to fail. Let’s put it into context. If you have a big match coming up and someone asks how you feel about it and you respond, “I’m going to try to win,” what feeling does that give off? I would sense uncertainty and a lack of confidence. “Trying” subconsciously sets you up for failure. As long as you try, failing is OK. But did you give it your best effort? Use words that give you more say in your future such as “determined” or “going to”. As the wise Yoda said, “there is no try, only do.”
To improve your self-talk on the tennis court, avoid the words discussed in your everyday life as well. The more you can practice avoiding these words, your mindset will be so much stronger and allow you to keep improving your mental strength!
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