Our Rock Bridge High School Girls Tennis Team won the state title in Class 2 Tennis in Missouri for the fifth consecutive year on Thursday, October 18. There were a few things that stand out to me that helped put us in a position to be a contender this season. First of all we had some very good players at the top of our line-up. But even the better players, and more so the lesser-talented players, are capable of getting nervous when the stakes are high. We had to take steps to deal with it.
Secondly, after our only defeat this season, I had each player on varsity set performance goals moving forward based on any deficiencies that came out of the tournament in late August. I reviewed those goals with each player periodically throughout most of the rest of the season. It’s one thing to set a goal but another thing to actually put time in working on goal improvement.
Thirdly, I had the players focus on developing a strong mindset as the season was winding down. It can be an emotionally challenging task when you deal with the finality of the season. Here are some things we did:
- 1) We discussed how to develop a positive attitude toward pressure (see the exercise in the Next Level Coaching book). Each player created a couple If-Then Statements related to how to deal with an emotional barrier. For instance if this happens (i.e. anxiety), then my solution to the barrier is this (i.e. focus on my breathing).
- We discussed how some athletes are more oriented toward achieving success rather than to avoid failure. Athletes that derive great satisfaction from pursuing success without worry about failure are success oriented. These athletes stand a better chance of performing well when the competition is close.
- Lastly, we discussed the following thought – You have to be willing to go to uncomfortable places to be successful. Our “problem” was our path was not challenging in our district, sectional or state semi-finals play. But I knew whoever we played in the finals would be an excellent team. Our girls had to be ready to deal with uncomfortable situations if we got to the finals.
Doing the things I outlined above does not guarantee you the outcome you want. But they do create a mindset that will allow the athlete to be better prepared and to play with a success-oriented mindset.