How to Overcome Fear of Failure in Tennis
Fear is the greatest limiting factor in tennis…
That’s right, not ability, not training, not your coach, not your practice facility, not your teammates, not your equipment, not your parents… It is fear that prevents you from achieving all you can in your tennis career.
What is the most dangerous fear for a tennis player?
Well, that would be the fear of failing.
The fear of failure is relatively common among athletes, so you are not alone. If you can recognize the signs of “fear of failure,” you can break free from the chains of fear and start achieving those goals you want to accomplish.
There are several signs that you have the fear of failure:
- You are worried about what other people think about you or about disappointing others, such as teammates, coaches and your parents.
- You are worried about not achieving your goals and what that might say about who you are.
- You tend to tell others before a match that you don’t expect to win in order to lower their expectations.
- Once you fail at something, you use it as evidence to support your belief in your inability to succeed.
- You are petrified of making mistakes during a match.
- You get highly anxious before tennis matches because you feel you will embarrass yourself during the match.
- Your self-talk is primarily negative, especially during matches, which interferes with your focus.
- You don’t fully prepare for matches because you don’t believe it will change the outcome of matches.
- You believe you need to be perfect in order to gain the approval and respect of others.
Let’s see fear in action…
You are scheduled to play a higher-ranked opponent… You have seen him play in previous matches and dominate his opponents.
His serve is practically impossible to return. He seems to get to every ball and paints the lines on his return shots.
You feel you will be totally embarrassed and demolished in your match.
You are so anxious that you can’t seem to get your serve in.
You can’t seem to get into the flow of the match and with every lost point, your negative thoughts run rampant.
All you want to do is get off the court as quickly as possible.
Does this sound familiar?
Well, you are not alone. Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has revealed that his fear of failure was the main reason for his ineffective play in 2015.
NADAL: “For the first time in my career, I went on the court with ‘fear of failure’… I went out there with this uncertainty. The problem wasn’t about tennis. When mental problems influence you, when you have to hit a tennis ball, everything is much more complicated. Or I would say, impossible.”
If you do consciously confront your fear, then you allow fear to be in the driver’s seat and fear is a reckless driver. The good news is that YOU can beat fear and take back your tennis career.
Try This Strategy To Manage Your Fear of Failure
Redefine Failure – First, understand that tennis is not all smooth sailing. In fact, you started playing tennis for the joy and challenges of competition. Don’t misuse the term “failure.”
Losing is not failure. Mistakes are not failure. Getting beat by a lower ranked opponent is not failure.
Failure is giving up.
If you keep moving forward, losses and mistakes are merely feedback or insights on what you need to do different in future matches.
By reinterpreting setbacks, you can apply feedback to move you forward towards your goals. Reframing how you see failure is a total game changer and allows you to take back control of your game.