So you want to be a 3.5

 In Coaches, Professional & Olympic Athletes, Tennis

I recently had two separate conversations with tennis players, one who was a 3.0 and one who wants to be a 3.5. It seems that the 3.0’s always want to be a 3.5 and the 3.5’s want to be a 4.0. In my experience working with tennis players this has been the case. 3.0’s are never happy being 3.0’s and 3.5’s are never happy being 3.5’s. What is it about being a 3.0 and a 3.5 that makes people uncomfortable?

Here is what is going on in these situations

There is a sort of stigma attached to being a 3.0 & 3.5 player: I am not good enough. This level of tennis player then struggles to be in the process of tennis and are looking toward the outcome: being better & what’s next. What is the problem with that? You can’t have an outcome without a process. If you are not fully committed to the process the outcome is likely to be less than what you may have hoped or expected. You can go from a 3.0 to a 3.5 but in order to effectively make that leap you have to perfect the process of your tennis game from a mental and a physical standpoint. Here’s an example. Take a few minutes to think about the progression of your professional career. You had to go through a process to get to where you are today. You certainly didn’t wake up one morning and decide that you were going to apply for a job as a lawyer having never gone to law school or practiced law. If you are a lawyer then you know that the process to become a one takes many years. In your journey as a professional you experienced short spurts of growth, dips and plateaus but you kept going because it was important to you. Tennis is similar. You have to allow yourself an opportunity to be in the process and find a way to enjoy it without hurrying to be in another place.

Not being focused on the process shows up in upward movement and in your game

Not being ‘in’ the process effects the outcome of your progress toward the next level and your game. If you are not focused and in a hurry to move up you are more than likely not focused and hitting bad shots in practice and in games because you are in a hurry to win as many games as possible.

Practice is a good time to train mental and physical skills. It is a good time to practice being focused and playing in the moment. Tennis is a fast game and you have to trust your physical and mental training during games and aren’t going to be much better in a match than you were in practice the day before. By not being ‘there’ you are placing yourself in a potentially hazardous situation. For example, you’ve practiced your cross-court shot over and over. You know how to hit it but in your game you seem to be unable to do what you did in practice because you are focused on ‘hitting the big cross-court shot’ or winning. This is mental. You either have too much anxiety and are losing focus or you are focused on the wrong thing: hitting the big shot or winning. The right thing to do in this situation is to bring your focus back and hot your cross-court shot the way you know how to do it; allow your muscle memory to do it’s thing. When you start thinking about not being able to hit the shot, losing points or losing the match, that information confuses the brain, information gets jumbled up and before you know it you don’t know what you should be doing and you are losing.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a 3.5 but enjoy being a 3.0

You are at 3.0 for a reason. Soak in all the coaching and education you can because when you get to 3.5 you’ll need it. You will be playing with other tennis players who are a 3.5 which means competition will be harder. When you aren’t playing ‘process’ oriented tennis because you want to jump up a level you may be setting yourself up for failure. Play where you are to the best of your ability and the outcome of moving up a level will surely follow.

 

Dr. Michelle Cleere
In her own private practice as an elite performance expert, Dr. Michelle Cleere helps top athletes, musicians, and executives in competitive fields unlock the power of the mind and create the mental toughness to be the best. Dr. Michelle’s extensive academic background, which includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Sports Psychology, allows her to help clients deal with performance anxiety, gain more confidence, and build resilience. In addition to personal coaching, Dr. Michelle takes on many roles – a best-selling author, athlete, and teacher. Dr. Michelle’s bestseller line, Beating the Demons, helps clients develop practical skills to gain more control over competitive environments and mitigate the interruption in play to overcome intense odds and defeat adversity. As a 15-year USAT Coach, she developed simple and effective tools to mentally train her athletes, and they are used by coaches around the world. She is a professor at John F. Kennedy University where she teacher her students to use the mind as an ally to improve performance.
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