Transitioning to a more competitive level can be physically demanding and mentally challenging.
Opponents at the next level are stronger, faster and craftier, so you will need to up your physical game. The physical demands are often not the most difficult challenges.
The big obstacles that trip up many athletes trying to compete at the next level are mental hurdles.
Winning may have been relatively easy for you in the past and when you are winning, competing is fun. You may have gotten by doing the minimum in training because you relied heavily on your natural ability.
The things that got you by in the past, most likely, will not work for you against tougher competition. So, succeeding at the next level will require adjustment, patience and confidence.
Seventeen year-old rising tennis player CiCi Bellis understands how difficult it can be to perform at the next level.
In a recent interview, Bellis identified some of the challenges she has faced after moving from juniors to the pro circuit.
BELLIS: “For the longest time, it seemed liked no amount of hard work was helping at all. I couldn’t catch a break to save my life and as the losses piled up, I started to get incredibly negative and frustrated. And, of course, the more I wanted to win, the more I couldn’t win. I finally realized that I was pushing way too hard for success. Winning had always come naturally to me and this new drive of mine was preventing me from playing as freely as I had always played in the past.”
Bellis had to increase her training to meet the physical demands of playing better players but saw no immediate results.
Not seeing an immediate payoff from your hard work can be frustrating and demoralizing.
To make matters more difficult, Bellis had to deal with losing at a higher rate which can chip away at a player’s confidence. Bellis’ initial response was to try to force victories.
When you become desperate for victories, anxiety mounts and your confidence wavers. You start doubting your ability and question if you even deserve to compete at this level.
The result is that you try TOO HARD, meaning you put a little too much pace on your shots hitting them long or you try to make the perfect shot. All this pressure crushes confidence and detracts from your play on the court, as Bellis experienced.
Bellis became aware of the negative path she was traveling and made a conscious effort to make changes.
BELLIS: “To fix the situation, I set about reminding myself every day that my hard work would pay off eventually and that I wasn’t on a timetable for success. I took the word “should” [i.e. I should be doing better than I am right now] out of my vocabulary and have never used it again. Most importantly, I went back to enjoying tennis the way I used to and the results have followed. I’m playing the best tennis of my life right now and love the game more than ever.”
You too can take action to mentally prepare yourself to play at a new competitive level. By understanding the challenges you may face and having a plan to meet those challenges, you will have a smoother and more successful transition to that next level.
TARDIO TIPS: How to Play A Next-Level Game at the Next Level
Tip #1: Adjustment – What helped you achieve success at your current level may not be sufficient for success at the next level. Identify areas (physical strength, technique, mental toughness, etc.) that you may need to improve to be competitive at the next level.
Tip #2: Patience – Working to strengthen your overall tennis game takes time. Don’t get too wrapped up in wins and losses. Focus on the process. It is more important to gauge your success in terms of improvement.
Tip #3: Confidence – Give yourself credit for small successes despite match outcomes. Small wins, like improving your serve or battling back after being down a set, can help you grow your confidence.
Related Article: Mindset of a Rising Champion…Ready to Up Your Game?
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