The most frustrating time for me as a teacher is trying to keep
players thinking positively in the face of negatives such as
failures and mistakes. I tell players that mistakes happen and
failure is inevitable from time to time, yet they still have
difficulty. Handling negatives, mistakes, and failures is tough
for everyone. When it comes to negatives most people have a
short-term focus. Players become so preoccupied and discouraged
with the immediate problem they become mentally blind and do
not see the solution. The solution is understanding the
principle that negatives, mistakes, and failures are part of
the success process. In fact, as I have mentioned before,
success and failure are two sides of the same coin. The
difference is success gets up and keeps moving.
The question is - why do players have such a short term focus
in the face of these negative obstacles? The one word answer
is - emotion! Their mentality is being controlled by their
emotion. Here is a principle you should remember: when emotions
control your mentality, you cannot think under pressure. You see
only the problem, never the solution. Do not let your emotion
dictate to your mentality, instead let your mentality dictate to
For instance, you are learning a new technique because the old
one was adequate but not improving your game. So you are making a
lot of mistakes and immediately you think, "I hate this, I will
never learn this technique. If I went back to the old way I could
do it much better." Now, do you think this makes a lot of sense?
You have been working on a new technique a whole five minutes and
you just cannot perform correctly so you might as well go back to
the old way and leave your game in a quagmire of inadequacy? This
is a typical emotional reaction when choosing a short-term
solution. You are more interested in protecting your little ego
from failure. Feeling good about yourself is more important than
learning and improving. Obviously, this is counter-productive.
You may feel better about yourself for a moment, but in the long
run, you will be just a mediocre player.
In a match, or when you are practicing, you must learn to overcome
your terrible feelings when you fail. How can you do this? By
constantly choosing to control your emotions with your mentality.
That is why they call it MENTAL toughness. You keep the correct
perspective by using your mentality to conquer your emotions. The
next time you are in a match and experiencing negative feelings,
practice controlling the incorrect emotional impulse with your
mentality. Remember, you control whether or not the negatives,
mistakes, and failures will work for you or against you.
If you are controlled by your mentality your response will be
courage under pressure and you confidently say: "the next shot is
more important than the last mistake." If you are controlled by
your emotion your response will be surrender under failure and
you whine: "the last mistake is more important than the next
shot." It is your choice! Stop letting your emotion dictate to
your mentality and you will begin experiencing the mental courage
that champions must exert within themselves to play at their
optimum level. Courage becomes confidence, confidence becomes
stability and stability triumphs over failure.