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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Coaches Q and A: Why Do I Play Better When I'm Behind?

Andy Brandi of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has decades of experience in coaching. He provides the answer to today's question.

I seem to play better when I'm behind. How can I change my psychology to play more consistently no matter what the game or match score is?

How often do we games play with our own mind when we compete? How often do we talk ourselves out of winning a match? How often are we way up in a match and proceed to fumble it away? How often do we play our best when we are behind?

As competitors, we need to approach a match with a plan and not with concern about the outcome. When we have the outcome in mind, we do not play to our potential because we are tight, playing not to lose. Expectations make us tight.

Our plan should be to focus on the things that will give us a chance to win the match. It is the process that counts. Think about how loose you are when you play and you are behind. You go for your shots and you have a purpose in how you play each point. You are focused, aggressive and have a plan as to how to dictate and win each point. You take it to your opponent. You make them pay, you strike first.

Because we make winning or losing large than life, we do not allow ourselves to perform. When we are in this state of mind, we allow our opponent to control the points and the match. We react to what they are doing. Our goal should be to dictate and control what happens in the match. We need to love the battle.

To play your best:

1-Embrace pressure
2-Have a strategy and plan
3-During tense moments try to regulate your breathing to relax
4-Realize that your opponent is nervous as well
5-Use positive self talk after each point and reassure yourself
that you can succeed and you deserve to succeed.
6-Concentrate on the process and not the outcome.
7-Enjoy the battle.
8-Remind yourself that pressure begins in your head. As Charles Barkley said, pressure is the air in the tires!

Lastly, in practice try to simulate match situations, pressure situations. See how you react to them. This will allow you to get used to them and deal better with them in tournaments.

Best of luck!

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.