October 23rd, 2021
Two days ago, I lost a tennis match that I shouldn’t have lost. It really made me frustrated. I couldn’t sleep that night, and I kept criticizing myself for how I blew my lead - I choked!
I went online and did some more research. Came across this video:
What I took away from this video: Pressure is a privilege. Instead of running from the pressure moments, and wanting to avoid the “nerves”, embrace them.
Flip the “nerves” on their head. Have fun. Be less concerned with the outcome and be more concerned with the present.
Because “nerves” are what lead to progress, if you handle them right.
Being nervous means you’re out of your comfort zone. Which is Step 1 (in tennis, and in life). The only thing you can control is your reaction to those nerves.
You can embrace the pressure, focus, and be at peace with the outcome. Or you can panic, and figure out how to get back into your comfort zone.
What do you say? “Today I lost” or “Today I learned”?
The comfort zone, the learning zone, and the panic zone
You can’t play a really conservative game if you want to win (comfort zone). You also can’t panic and try to hit shots that are out of your wheelhouse. You need to have a balance and hit the shots you know you can hit, be aggressive, and be OK with fucking up, as long as you’re LEARNING from your fuck ups.
Today, I went into a match with this new mindset.
I started out really poorly, lost the first set 1-6.
But it didn’t really phase me. I breathed, laughed, and smiled. I made conversation with the people around me.
Then I took the 2nd set 6-4.
After each changeover, I muttered to myself “embrace the pressure”. I said it loud enough for people to hear me. I smiled and didn’t think about the outcome of the match.
Went to the 3rd set (tiebreaker) with the same mentality.
Here’s an example of what I changed: Before, on a second serve, I’d be nervous and think: “what if I miss this?”. But this time, I felt grateful to have this pressure on me. I embraced the nerves, threw the ball up, and visualized exactly how I wanted to hit it.
I “went for my shots” and I didn’t get mad at myself when I missed. Because I was making the tough, aggressive shots, that I needed to win, and I wasn’t falling back into my comfort zone.
When I missed, I told myself “that was the right shot, good job”.
I won the tiebreak 11-8 and won the match.
Today was my biggest breakthrough, so far, in tennis. This breakthrough had nothing to do with strokes or technique, it was purely mental.
When you’re in the match, you’re not going to get better physically - you can only focus on being mentally tough. Tennis is such a mental game.
I love this game and I feel such a privilege to go through this process!