by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder
The chicken or the egg causality dilemma certainly applies to tennis, and all sports for that matter, as it relates to confidence and winning.
You can say that winning leads to confidence but without some form of confidence it’s very difficult to win.
That’s why when an athlete wins their first match, a Grand Slam (like Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open) or tournament their celebration is an explosion of emotion. It’s a combination of surprise, disbelief and relief. When I heard Team USA’s soccer player Carli Lloyd speak, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, she said that she imagined scoring three goals in the 2015 World Cup finals the night before. When the first goal happened she was surprised, when the second goal happened she was excited and when her third goal happened she wasn’t surprised just happy that she did what she had imagined she would do.
The thing is that although winning does create confidence you don’t have to win first. This is where imagery comes in.
The best athletes use imagery as a way to bolster confidence.
Some people confuse imagery with visualization. Visualization is primarily when you use just your “vision,” whereas imagery you use all of your senses. Done correctly, it puts you in the eyes of the person accomplishing the task or goal rather than seeing yourself do something like watching yourself on television. Putting yourself doing it is more effective. To use an example, when my brother and I set the Guinness World Records™ Title for the longest tennis rally in August of 2008, we had never held a world record, although we tried and failed in 2007 when set the U.S. record. We wrote a press release of what the headlines and story would be the day after our world record. We put it our achievement into words and started to imagine actually setting the record before it actually happened. By writing it and by reading it you start to believe that you will actually accomplish it. We used imagery to build confidence and belief without having actually done it before.
You can break it down into small pieces of confidence. Confidence can be gained from small successes not just from the overall winning. If you are serving big, returning the way you want, attacking or executing your game plan, improving on a weakness or building up a strength, these are small steps to achieving confidence. Rather than allow yourself the confidence only when you win, you need to allow yourself to gain confidence with other things besides winning. You can’t think about the end during the match but focus on the process.
Another way to use imagery is to imagine failure in order to come up with solutions to deal with failure. The world’s best athletes use imagery to experience failure so they don’t have to actually fail to practice the right mindset to deal with not performing well. When you lose your cool you can use imagery to deal with how you would handle losing your cool. What would your thought process be to remove yourself from these negative thoughts and emotions and how will you respond.
Confidence is the degree of certainty that players have in their ability to be successful in executing a skill or series of tasks, which is proven to be one of the best predictors of competition success. (tennis science – how player and racket work together; edited by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott & Miguel Crespo)
Use imagery to rehearse the good and the bad in order to bolster confidence and belief rather than waiting to win to improve your confidence.
Your past success gives you the confidence that you can. Your past failure gives the humbleness that you can’t. However, if you believe you will.
-Angelo A. Rossetti, 1-26-13
Additional reading: tennis science – how player and racket work together, edited by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott & Miguel Crespo
I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.
You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:
FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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