Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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Mental Strategies - Part 13

You are a loser!

If you are a tournament player, shaking off a loss will be one of the biggest hurdles that you need to jump.  This entire article can be summed up in 1 sentence…
Stop the excuses, admit you lost.  
After admitting to yourself that you lost that match and it was your fault, you will then be able to clearly think why you lost and you will learn from your mistakes.  If you continue to make excuses, then you won’t change, you won’t improve, and you will keep losing.
After losing in tournaments, here are some of the excuses that I have personally heard people say…
Quote #1   “Well, he was higher rated!”
Oh, so you are allowed to lose to him?  During the match, were you fine with losing because he had a higher rating?  What if you played the same player and he had a lower rating?
Quote #2   “Well, his family was there!”
Please remind me to bring my family to every tournament.  I never realized that people let me win if my family is present!  This is one of the worse excuses ever.
Quote #3   “Well, I didn’t get a good warm-up!”
Ummm, whose fault is that?  You should plan in advance to arrive 1-2 hours early with a training partner pre-arranged.  You should practice for at least 20 min and play at least 1 match prior to your first tournament match.  If you aren’t able to practice much, as least do plenty of stretching and jogging.
Quote #4  “Well, I just wasn’t ON!”
Could you please be more specific?  If one area of your game wasn’t working, could you do something else?  Could you slow down?  Could you spin more?  Could you focus on placement instead of power?  Just because one aspect isn’t up to par, doesn’t mean that you need to shut down and quit!
Quote #5   “Well, his forehand loop was on fire!”
Was there any possible way to prevent or stop his forehand?  What if you served short?  What if you attacked first?  What if you played to the wide backhand?  What if you played to the extreme forehand?
Quote #6   “Well, he was cheating – he was serving from his fingers, not his palm!”
Just for starters, serving from the fingers doesn’t give any advantage at all unless your opponent was spinning it from his fingers.  Also, if you have a problem with it, politely ask your opponent to serve properly.  If he persists, then graciously ask for an umpire.
Quote #7   “Well, he kept rushing me between points!”
Your opponent is not allowed to serve until you are ready.  If the ball is on your side, walk slowly to retrieve the ball while thinking of your next strategy.  If it is your serve, take your time.  If it is your opponent’s turn to serve, step back and take a breath before getting low in your ready position.  If needed, use your timeout as well as your 6-point towel breaks.
Quote #8   “Well, I couldn’t get over the fact that his rating was so low; he is a sandbagger!”
His rating should not be a distraction.  Remember that you are playing against an opponent, not against a rating.  If you feel like this might possibly be a hindrance to your tournament, then avoid looking at your opponent’s rating prior to the match.  If you need to record the score then ask a coach or friend to do it for you.
Quote #9  “Well, I just didn’t sleep much last night!”
Try to get extra rest in the previous 2-3 days prior to a tournament.  If you still didn’t get enough sleep, then eat some fruit prior to your match or drink some Gatorade.  During the match, don’t dwell on what you can’t change (like getting more sleep) but do dwell on what you can change (your game strategy).
Quote #10   “Well, I got really hungry during the match!”
Meal planning is a major part of tournament performance.  At each lengthy break during a tournament, force yourself to eat a small meal.  Between matches, have some health snacks to keep up your energy.  At our tournaments in Akron, you will be fed both lunch and dinner J
Quote #11   “Well, I didn’t find out until after the match that he had anti-spin rubber!”
Before beginning any match, you should check your opponent’s racket.  Even if you have played against him in a previous tournament, you should still check.  This is a really poor excuse.
Quote #12   “Well, I didn’t know that I needed to win that match to advance from the group!”
Regardless if you would have advanced or not, you need to perform your best.  Put out your best effort to win every last point.  Putting more or less pressure on yourself by looking ahead at the results/consequences is a poor mental strategy.
Quote #13   “Well, he got too many nets and edges!”
Did you attempt to return them?  You should do your best to return them, but still realize that nets and edges are only a small fraction of the points.  Throughout that match, your opponent might have scored 45 points total.  Out of those 45, how many did he actually score from nets and edges?  Possibly 7-8 points.  I realize that those 2 net-balls at 9-9 really put the nail in the coffin (I do have some sympathy), but there were other points that you lost during the match as well.  What about that smash that you missed at 4-5 in the last game.  Or what about those 2 backhand loops that you missed at 6-6 in the last game.  What about the 18 serves that you miss-read the spin over the course of the 5 games?  There were other mistakes.  Don’t blame the nets and edges for the loss.
Sorry, my reader.  If I quoted you, I hope that you are not offended with my bluntness.  Next time, you lose a match…  admit to yourself that you lost and do your ultimate best to improve for your next match!