Jan. 20, 2021

Threat or Challenge

Like many other sports, it is much easier to focus on threats rather than embracing the challenge. Stop placing so much emphasis on winning or losing. Learn how to flip things around and change your mindset.

Coach: Aleks Szymanski, Founder of Tennisletics, and Certified Mental Coach.
Bio: Founder of Tennisletics and tennis fanatic. Started work life as a military and search and rescue helicopter pilot. Spent the past two decades founding and nurturing fast-growing technology businesses across the globe. Competed at high-level squash, judo, and rugby. Certified Mental Coach.

Birthplace: England
Residency: Austin, TX, USA

Length: 3 min 50 sec
Theme: Concentration


In tennis, like many other sports, and often in life, when something happens, it is much easier to focus on the problem, rather than the opportunity. To see the threat instead of embracing the challenge.

The issue is that problems and threats are often 'contrary viewpoints'. And if you're not careful, your response to these situations will be emotional, reactive, or timid. All of which are not helpful on the tennis court.

For example, let's consider these situations.

You're about to start a match against a player that is ranked higher than you. Is this a threat? Or a challenge? Now imagine you're playing someone ranked lower than you that you've never seen play? Same question, threat or challenge? The reality is, in both cases, most people see threats. Is that you too?

So how can we improve that? How can we change our mindset, so we view things differently and put the odds on our side? Often, we perceive threats emotionally. We consider winning to be the most important goal and failure as unacceptable. In competition, players usually put too much emphasis on the results and their ranking. The threat arises when you believe that there will be severe consequences for not achieving your goals. But the truth is, tennis is only a sport. And let's face it, it is supposed to be fun, most of the time. But from our experience, this may not be how you see it. And the outside pressure from your coach, team, parents, and others can add to the tension. Together they alter your perspective. So you see the very act of competition as a threat instead of a challenge.

So what about outcomes? With this emotional burden, if things go wrong, your confidence and feelings could be damaged. In the worst cases, players can even experience strong adverse reactions such as fear, anger, or frustration. It is not surprising that when this is the case, it results in abysmal performance and almost no enjoyment.

So what is the answer? Well, like other aspects of life, when we encounter problems and threats, we try and avoid them. In tennis, that would mean never playing a match, so you can skip the pressure to perform and not have the risk of experiencing those feelings ever again. While that might be a rather sad, short-term solution, if tennis is your passion, and you need to find a different path. Thankfully, the answer is simple.

You need to flip things around and change your mindset. Be emotionally challenged not emotionally threatened. See the competition itself as an exciting opportunity to enrich your tennis journey regardless of the result. Figure out why you play. For some people, it brings balance to their life. For others. They feel alive in tournaments. Maybe you like the social aspects and having fun. There is no right answer. In sport and in life, the things that scare you most at first glance will undoubtedly bring the most significant rewards when you manage those fears and eventually succeed.

Your biggest opponent on the tennis court is yourself. Success comes from setting the right mindset. Stop worrying about others and concentrate on yourself. Go out there and start believing. Play without fear to focus on achieving success rather than avoiding failure.