There are two types of attitudes when it comes to handling failures
during practice or match play. The first attitude is total
frustration with the misses and mistakes; the second attitude is
total motivation to improve. Which one are you? Do you give up or
are you challenged?
What fascinates me is that all players confronted with the same
situation react differently. No wonder coaching is tough. As a
coach you must know your students and teach them accordingly. You
teach the frustrated players differently from the challenged
players. That's why true coaching is based on individualism and
not placing all players into a cookie cutter mold! A crucial part
of coaching is getting to know your student. Is my student
frustrated easily by adversity or challenged by adversity?
To clarify: I'm not referring to isolated moments of frustration;
we all become frustrated from time to time. I mean a mental
attitude of consistent frustration. Challenged players can bounce
back quickly, while frustrated players make a slooooooooow turn
Of course, your best choice is always to be challenged by failures.
This mind-set motivates you to focus forward and keep practicing,
which in turn decreases your failures. When you become frustrated
with your misses you tend to give up or practice with less
intensity. This lackadaisical attitude causes even more failures!
Interesting isn't it? The very thing you are trying to avoid, you
actually cause! Your focus is backward; you overemphasize past
failures and become emotional. Emotional reaction accomplishes
With all of their experience and training, even the pros miss. So
what! No one is perfect. How do pros handle these failures? They
meet the challenge head-on. That takes practice! Mental practice!
This mental practice, or thought conditioning, involves two steps.
First, be aware that you are becoming frustrated. And two, practice
CHANGING that thinking the moment it occurs on court (focusing
forward). Remember, the next shot is more important than the last
STEP ONE --- BE AWARE!
The key to solving frustration is immediately recognizing the
frustration in practice or in your match play. Do not rationalize
or deny your frustration. And do NOT think you are a victim. I call
it the victim mentality: After all of my practice...I'm still
missing! Being aware that you are steeped in frustration and you
are thinking negatively is the first step. The second step is to
refocus and move on!
STEP TWO --- REFOCUS AND MOVE ON
Right on the spot have a talk with yourself, pull out of the nose
dive and soar to the sky to meet the challenge. Practice thinking
the opposite of what you normally would think. Obviously this is
easier to execute in practice sessions, but with persistence you
will slowly apply this new thinking in your match play. As a coach
I stop my players when frustration wells up too many times in a
practice session. I challenge them to not judge or criticize their
shots, but direct their thoughts toward what's important...
practice! I encourage them to just keep swinging, forget the
failures and go for their shots. Eventually the players work
themselves out of this destructive thought pattern. But they must
stay sharp to catch themselves from slipping back because
frustration is the kiss of death in the competitive arena.
One thought can make you or break you! Failures can make you weak
or strong. Practice correct thinking when frustration appears on
the horizon. Turn those frustrations into the pot of gold of the