All tennis and sporting greats have an abundance of self-confidence. To achieve, the player must have an ability to believe they can win and that they can be successful in their efforts.
Consultants at the United States Tennis Association report that self-confidence is one of the most important attributes an athlete can possess and should be fostered by both athletes and their coaches.
Self-confidence is developed within the players own mind and is not something they can receive from others. Positive encouragement and feedback from coaches or supporters isn’t enough unless the player identifies with success. The player must take ownership of their confidence and not allow outside influences or circumstances to interfere with their self-image…even when they’re having a bad day!
Tennis requires leadership and self-reliance, as no one can help you when you are out in the battlefield of the tennis court. Personal responsibility is something that can be nurtured from a young age with juniors having to organise their own kit, hitting sessions with others, stretching, food choices and much more. With the player’s I have worked with, those who understand what the above means to being a better tennis player, have improved their game further than others in the same time period.
Influences and environment
To be a great player, you must surround yourself in a great environment. Self-confidence originates within the player, but positive role models and supporters will continue to reinforce positive internal self-talk. There are many places that players can look for inspiration and positive influence, for example, current or retired athletes, spiritual advisers, coaches and training partners.
I believe that environmental influences can make or break a player as every successful sports person can’t do it alone. The trust and bonds the players establish with people in their development stages give the player stability. The safety that provides the player, knowing they have people they can rely on will provide a positive platform and emotional safety net.
Struggles and set backs
Sport is like life…nothing goes 100% to plan! With jubilation, there will be turmoil but self-confidence isn’t reliant on a player feeling great all the time. There is not one athlete that hasn’t experienced negativity and self-doubt. Through adversity comes success as players will work through the tough times believing that they will come good again.
Roger and Rafa are prime examples of this…who would of thought that they would be at the Aussie Open Grand Slam final this year, especially after the 2016 they have both had. Elite players will have confidence in themselves and believe that they can bounce back from anything. This again is another important time for the player to be surrounded by positive influences who will tough out during the hard times with them so the player doesn’t feel isolated.
Managing emotional control and being able to not let external factors influence, are important skills a player must possess, otherwise performance is affected. Resilience and determination to fight back from failure and never giving up are attributes to self-confidence. Confident players don’t allow defeat to make them to feel angry or negative, but instead use the losses to give them motivation to train harder and win the next one.
How and when a player trains are important elements to building self-confidence in a player. The day to day work that is performed is the reality of what they are doing. The more they practice, the better they get. Through practice and real-life improvement that they see, self-confidence will improve as their belief in their performance is grown and extensive training overcomes weaknesses. A player must win and be successful to breed self-confidence as they need to experience what it feels like so they get a taste for future success.
Self-confidence comes from certainty, so the player must be doubt-free. If a player is only confident based on outcome, then this won’t build self-confidence as outcomes won’t always be good or certain. Permanent confidence will come from believing they will achieve. Confidence is based on the player’s self-assessment of their abilities and the task they face.
Because outcomes are not certain, when a junior player gets praise for them, they base their success on it. This is where the cracks will form in their self-confidence as they will perceive themselves negatively if they don’t win. As coaches and parents, we should be praising the things the player can control, e.g. behaviour, hard work, attitude etc. From this, the player will be able to rationalise their performance better so in the future the results will reflect with self-improvement.