In sports, there can be one person or team that is the winner. On the tennis court, there can only be one winner.
It definitely hurts to lose. I bet you right now that you hate to lose and feel like a failure. I also hate to lose. However, I have had to learn to accept losing.
When I was a freshman in college, I started out winning 7 straight singles matches and played in a higher line-up. I felt so invincible, but on my 8th match, my opponent snapped my perfect winning streak, losing in a third set 10-point tiebreaker. I was able to win a couple more matches but then one week, I lost every match I played. I never felt so upset and angry at myself for failing and letting my team down. I had a meltdown and isolated myself from the team.
My head coach approached me the next day and asked me what was going through my head. I told him all of my negative thoughts and told him that I was doing so well earlier in the season but was not sure why I was playing so bad on that week. He understood that I hate losing but he told me something that made me open my eyes. He told me that failure is not permanent and is controllable. After his explanation, I understood.
Failure is not permanent and failure is controllable.
So what does that mean? What does it look like? I will tell you what it means and how my college coach explained it. Just because I failed that week does not mean I will fail the next week or the next series of matches. Each new match I played is a new opportunity to succeed. This is the same for you too. Remember that one match with that one opponent you choked on the last set tiebreaker? You will play that same opponent again and play the last set tiebreaker again. You might remember your failure from that experience, but it will not be your final moment.
The mistake I made during my “freshman slump” was that I let failures become generalized in other parts of my game. I put so much pressure on myself and had negative thoughts that my game slipped away. You have probably felt this way yourself too. I am here to tell you that you need to build your self-confidence. I built my self-confidence by telling myself that I can make my serves or that I can hit 80 ball rallies or that I am much fitter than my opponent. I knew my strengths and I kept working on them with more practice on the courts and more fitness outside the courts. I did this to feel assured that during the heat of the game, I will outlast my opponent with my fitness level. Because of my extra work, I felt more prepared and confident in my play and point strategies. I felt more capable and strong that my negative thought patterns diminished.
Find your strengths and keep working on them until you feel confident. This is how I got back on course, and this will happen to you. You need to have the belief that you have the ability to achieve the best game while overcoming physical and psychological barriers. You have to block out your negative internal thoughts and focus on the present. You have to have the ability to stay calm when feeling nervous or anxious. To avoid your slump, stay on your course and have confidence in your next match. You can do this because that slump is just one incident.
Being a tennis player and athlete means you will fail. However, your success is based on how you own your failures. Owning your failures means that you know how to fix your mistakes. You can get better because you can correct and take steps to fix your failures so that they do not happen again. Simply, you are taking control of what you can control.
After my “freshman slump” experience, I ended up having the best singles record in the team even though I was just a freshman. I became more resilient. You can also bring your success as long as you do not let your failures interfere with it. There is no time to dwell on the failures of the past. There is only time to focus on the possibilities that the present brings.
Failure is only temporary. So let’s bounce back from it and get back on course!
Remind yourself of all the reasons you have to be successful today and focus on your strengths.