“I have to win this match.” “I have to advance to the next round.” “I have to win this tournament.”
Just by reading those thoughts, you can feel the pressure start to simmer.
“I have to” statements create pressure. You can probably recall a time when you had a conversation with a frantic, nervous teammate who told you something like the following, “I have to win today. I keep losing easy matches. If I don’t win, my parents will be mad. I have to win today or I won’t make it onto the college team that’s my top choice.”
Every “I have to” statement is always followed by some kind of rationale which is often misguided. The more you try to convince yourself of the reasons why you “have to” win, the pressure rises to overwhelming proportions.
The truth of the matter is you “want to win” and that’s a good thing. “Wanting to win” is what pushes you to work hard to be the best you can be. “Wanting to win” pushes you to care about the outcome, leading you to give it your all. “Wanting to win” keeps you focused on improving little aspects of your game that can tip the scales in your favor during matches.
When “I want to win” crosses the boundary to “I have to win,” that’s when all hell breaks loose. “I have to” statements are energy-zappers, anxiety-creators, pressure-builders and confidence-wreckers.
While the “wanting to win” mindset motivates you to prepare and play to the best of your abilities, the “have to win” mindset creates tension and perfectionism impacting your ability to play your best tennis
Jelena Ostapenko talked about the pitfalls of “I have to win” thinking heading into the 2019 Volvo Car Open. Ostapenko, who is trying to break back into the Top-10 rankings, was fully engrossed in her match against hometown favorite Shelby Rogers. Ostapenko pulled off the comeback win, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, in a grueling, hard-fought battle.
Ostapenko rallied, after being down a set, and won the second. In the third set, Ostapenko demonstrated incredible focus battling back from being down 5-1 to pull off the comeback win in a tiebreaker.
In her post-match interview, Ostapenko revealed her mindset during the match and her focus on enjoying the challenges within the match.
OSTAPENKO: “Sometimes when you go to the match, if you are the favorite of the match and you have this in your mind that you kind of cannot lose the match, but you understand that the other player is playing good as well, and it makes you feel more pressure – you want to try to play much better. But you play worse because you have this thinking that you have to win. But now I’m just trying to go on the court without thinking that I have to win. Just try to enjoy it.”
The “have to win” mindset throws many additional obstacles in your way during a tennis match and is a far great foe than the opponent you face.
Conversely, the “want to win” mindset actually, not only helps on be on top of your game, but gives you the best chance to win.
Tardio Tip: How to Develop the “Want to Win” Mindset
Mindsets are not just something you bring along to a match. Mindsets are carried with you to practices, training and competition. The “want to win” mindset encompasses preparation, both in practice and prior to each point.
To hone the “want to win” mindset, follow the ONE thing rule. Focus on ONE thing you intend on doing in the very next moment that will help you be at you very best. The One thing Rule is all about being the best version of you in the moment… That is the mindset that keeps you on the path to athletic success!
Related Article: The Mindset of Winning Without your A Game
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