Confidence is shrouded in mystique.
Athletes know they need confidence to be at their best but they are often unsure of:
- What exactly is confidence?
- What goes into confidence?
- How is confidence built?
Let’s jump right into the confidence debate…
Many tennis players would say the more they win, the more confident they become. That makes sense…
These athletes believe winning begets confidence. No one would argue that point.
Then the counter-statement must also be true… The more an athlete loses, their confidence dips.
Let’s look at a counter-argument…
What if you are mired in a 3 month slump. The previous argument suggests you can only be confident when you are winning.
So how would it be possible to break out of your slump without that needed confidence?
Let’s take this argument in another direction…
What if you played a lowered rank opponent and had a truckload of unforced errors but you narrowly eked out a victory… Would you be more confident?
Or, if you played the No.1 player in your area, who has dominated you every single time you played and you held serve for the majority of your sets… Would you be less confident because you still lost?
Much more goes into confidence than wins and losses.
Confidence is more like a recipe, two pinches of this, a little of that, a smidge of this… Unlike baking, the recipe does not have to be exact or complete.
Each ingredient adds to your confidence recipe.
Your confidence recipe includes:
- recognizing your strengths
- having a good game plan
- solid practice sessions
- being mentally on top of your game, etc.
The more ingredients you add to your confidence recipe, the better you will play on the court.
Another misconception is the relationship between confidence and doubts.
Some tennis players see confidence as the absence of doubts.
This misconception is tricky because ever tennis player has doubts.
That is worth repeating…
EVERY TENNIS PLAYER HAS DOUBTS!
When you hear post-match interviews from players who win majors, you often hear, “I was confident heading into finals.”
Of course they were. If they were not confident, the result may have been dramatically changed.
When a top-ranked player talks about confidence, they are saying they had a high level of belief in their abilities for that match. These players are not saying they were 100% doubt-free.
Confidence is not the absence of doubt.
Confidence is a matter of:
- defining yourself by your strengths
- crediting yourself for successes
- preparing as best as you can
- focusing one point at a time
- refocusing when doubts sneak through the backdoor of your mind
To say it another way, confidence is your belief you can successfully perform a task despite a little bit of doubt.
Confidence was a huge factor in Novak Djokovic’s 2018 US Open victory over Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Djokovic was ranked No. 1 in the world for 223 weeks until some injuries, change in coaches and performance issues knocked him down to No. 12. Djokovic’s rank slid down further to 22nd in 2018.
Even with double digit Grand Slam career titles, Djokovic needed to restore his confidence.
With his win at Wimbledon, Djokovic got the confidence ball rolling and with his US Open win, Djokovic has broken into the Top-10.
Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda, had some profound insight into Djokovic’s resurgence.
Vajda admitted that Djokovic had doubts but he still had the necessary confidence to win Wimbledon.
Where did Djokovic’s confidence come from?
Djokovic built confidence through his preparation, improvement on his serve, conditioning, etc.
VAJDA: “[Djokovic] didn’t expect to win Wimbledon, this is the biggest surprise from all the years I was with him. Queens helped him a lot, giving him slight confidence, but he was always doubting how he would be at Wimbledon. I think the biggest improvement here was his serving, patterns were fantastic, and the most improvement was on the return.”
Djokovic’s comment on his US Open victory is even more telling.
Djokovic talked about confidence more like a process or being built over time. When you see confidence as a process, a bad match or loss is just a step in the journey.
DJOKOVIC: “There was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back [to] the desired level of tennis very soon. But at the same time, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can center yourself, balance yourself and thrive. The last two months have been terrific.”
If you learn to follow Djokovic’s lead, you can build your confidence one step at a time, even though you have slight doubts or bumps in the road.
Tardio Tips: Building Confidence One Step at a Time
You don’t need to eliminate doubt. In fact, you cannot get rid of all doubts.
If you understand that, you wouldn’t freak out when a doubt springs up in your mind.
It is important to know you can play well and have confidence despite some doubts.
Focus on the “build” or the little successes that lead to bigger things.
When it comes to confidence, be patient and keep working.
Related Article: Confidence: The Difference-Maker in Tennis
Identify mistakes you may be making in your pregame mental preparation. Download our Free Pregame Mental Preparation Tips!
Interested in upping your Mental Sports Performance? Free 15-Minute Mental Coaching Session
Parents learn more about Mental Coaching: About Mental Coaching