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Tennis Warrior
June 2006 Article

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Are you challenged or frustrated by your failures?

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Tom Veneziano

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 around!

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 nothing!

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 mistake.

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 challenge!

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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights reserved.

Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.

     

In Tom Veneziano's book "The Truth about Winning!", tennis players learn in a step-by-step fashion the thinking the pros have mastered to win! Tom takes you Step-by-step from basic mental toughness to advanced mental toughness. All skill levels can learn from this unique book from beginner to professional. No need to change your strokes just your thinking.

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