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Tennis Warrior
November 2010 Article

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Focus on improving, not winning!

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Tom Veneziano

If I were your coach, I would teach you that your number one priority is to focus on improving, not winning. Every decision to develop your game would be subordinate to the improving concept. When your priority is to improve, winning becomes a natural result. When your priority is winning, improving becomes a natural disaster! Why? When you focus on winning in your practice or match play you will do anything, including the wrong thing, as long as you win!
Now, do not misunderstand. When you have an important tournament match, you play with your best stuff, with or without flaws. But when you are developing your game you must focus on improving, even if you lose! This is not easy and one that requires confidence and stickability in a player. But the final result will be a fabulous game with a mental attitude to be envied!
I've watched players from all levels of play struggle with this philosophy for years. Many even think they are focusing on learning to improve because they have practice sessions. This is ritual without reality! The truth is, physically the players are going through the ritual of practice, but mentally are not focusing on the reality of improvement.
For example:
In practice they have been hitting short to their opponent and winning. Of course they should be hitting deep, but when they do they often hit the ball beyond the baseline and lose the point. So, they have two choices:
1. Continue to hit short and win (focus on winning).
2. Practice hitting deep and possibly lose (focus on improving).
Which option do you think they will choose? Which option would you choose? The choice is crucial to your development into a solid tennis player. Most players pay little attention to these choices. But this is what it is all about! You must learn to make the correct choices to separate yourself from all the other players. Most players would definitely choose number one. You must choose number two... always! The champion mindset always selects options that other players will not.
In another instance you have a choice between pushing the ball back (defensive strategy) or going for your shots (offensive strategy, the absence of cautiousness without pulverizing every ball). Remember battles are won by offensive tactics, not defensive. Pushing the ball back has been winning, but this is only temporary. Going for your shots could result in a loss, but this is also only temporary. Same choice:
1. Push the ball back consistently and win (focusing on winning).
2. Go for your shots and lose (focusing on improving).
The answer again is number two. If you continue to go for your shots match after match, practice after practice, do you think your game will improve? Of course it will! Will you make that decision? I don't know... will you?
The champion mindset always selects options that other players will not. This is a key to your ability to excel and to your match-play toughness. Do the opposite of what most players will do!!!
I am constantly encouraging players that I coach to make these tough choices relentlessly. But be aware - many will tell you to change what you are doing just to win... DO NOT BELIEVE THEM! Stay the course. Focus on improving, NOT winning. Let winning take care of itself... and it will!

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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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