Confidence is a tricky and fickle thing in tennis. Discover how to understand how to evaluate what is affecting you and how to overcome confidence challenges.
Coach: Kendall Brooks, head tennis coach
Bio: Former head women’s tennis coach for the St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas for six straight seasons. In 2018, brought Hilltoppers to their highest national ranking in school history at #17 and was named the Wilson ITA South Central Coach of the year. They would finish their 22-6 record-breaking season as Heartland Conference runner-up, earning their 3rd NCAA Tournament berth, and close the year ranked 22nd in the country. Four-year letter winner for Texas Tech Red Raiders, with career singles record of 61-58 and 41-17 in doubles. Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science.
Length: 3 min 2 sec
Confidence is a tricky and important thing in tennis.
You can have it one minute and lose it the next and not really know what happened. Dealing with situations involving confidence, I think the most important thing is to first find out why you are having issues in the first place. Have you been losing a lot recently? Is it a certain situation or certain stroke that you specifically feel less confident in? Is it a certain opponent you are facing when this happens? That way, you have a clearer picture of what you're dealing with and can attack it head-on. It completely comes down to how you view yourself. I often tell my players fake it till you make it. And while this might seem silly, it really can work. It's similar to the saying, walk the walk and talk the talk. If you start walking with your shoulders back head up and looking like you truly believe you belong there, then you might just start believing it.
Most importantly, I think it's how you talk outwardly and to yourself. What is your inner script like? Most likely, this lack of confidence comes from a very negative script running through your head. And even if you think it's only a few comments here and there, it can be very detrimental. You have to start skimming down the negative self-talk and replacing it with positive thoughts. What you say to yourself affects what you think and feel - period. If every time you get a sitter forehand at the net, and you approach it with fear and negative thoughts of "Oh, please don't miss this, don't mess this up", then you probably will. If you don't believe you can win before approaching the court and you voice that whether aloud or internally, then you most likely won't. Conversely, if you were doing a good job of talking positively, it's really hard to think and feel negative. I have a colleague that always says change your thoughts, change your life. And while most people would roll their eyes at this, it's a very true statement.
The next step in building or regaining confidence, and probably the most basic, is preparation. We all know that success often breeds confidence, but so does purposeful training. There is no substitute for the feeling you get from knowing you've done the work and put in the time. So, I would also encourage you to have some very specific performance goals. For example, improve my first serve percentage by improving toss consistency. Or focus on forehand approach or first volley when coming in, running a pattern etc. That way, you're not looking at the big picture of winning or losing, but are more focused on smaller things within your match or practice. And then I'd encourage you to work on these things as much as possible over and over again. Repetition is great. The more success you have practicing them, the more confident you will be in a match in that situation without even thinking about it. And a lot of times that trickles over into other areas of your game, and hopefully you'll get a snowball effect of confidence.