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Weekly Tennis Column: Being negative, angry, and no goals - Does it work?

2 years ago

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Our whole life, first as students, then as tennis players, and in my case as a tennis coach, we have been told that we need to STOP being negative, NOT get angry, and TO HAVE goals. Almost all of the sports psychologists, trainers, and coaches emphasise this fact to the players.

And I might as well inform the readers now itself that if you are one of the rare personalities who are able to DO the above three things mentioned in this article, then you are unlikely to learn much from this article any further. But on the other hand, if you are one of the millions of people who do not fall into that category, then it is important to explore how to make the best out of that particular situation of being negative, being angry, and not having goals.

Being negative

As long as tennis players can remember, they have been told by coaches, teachers, parents, and others to not be negative with their attitudes. The words “negative attitude” is a famous saying which is very prevalent among the sports circles. Most of our fears and worries are not rational. As humans, we have a tendency to “catastrophize” and think of the worse-case scenario when things are not going our way, and even somehow manage to do it when they are going our way! How often do we challenge these thoughts and actually play out the worst-case scenario to its most logical conclusion?

[caption id="attachment_150208" align="alignleft" width="357"] Here is Harshana Godamanna, unarguably the best men’s tennis player Sri Lanka produced in the present millennium, is well known for his positive, aggressive, and never-say-die approach in matches. Photo Kamal Wanniarachchi /Files  [/caption]

Therefore, it is important to examine the negative thoughts and aspects that can pervade the mind of the tennis players. This should be examined in the context of examining the thoughts to a logical conclusion.

According to an example on tennisconsult, if a player misses an easy shot, the thought process could be as follows:

Imagine you are set the point up and you miss an easy forehand volley into the bottom of the net. You might think, “That was the best chance I was going to get to win this set, I cannot believe I missed that!” – okay, so you missed an easy shot.

What happens if you lose the next point? Well, then I am down game point

And what happens if you lose that point? Well, then it is 5-5 and it is close to a tiebreak and I NEVER win tie-breaks

And what happens if you lose the tiebreak? Well, I lose the set

What happens if you lose the set? Well, I might lose the match

What happens if you lose the match? Well, I will be upset, and my ranking might drop

What happens if your ranking drops? Well, I don’t really know, I guess I won’t be able to get into that college I hoped to get into.

What happens if you don’t get into that college? Well, I will go to another one

Ok, do you really know one way or the other that this college will be a lesser experience for you or provide less opportunities for your future? Well, I guess not, no

Ok, so stop stressing about missing that easy volley and get back to competing…..

Think through to the conclusion

Therefore, a logical conclusion to this thought process is that the players have at the end of the day arrived at the conclusion that it is better to get back and start competing in the match again focusing on the next point, rather than focusing on the point that the player missed. This is an interesting example of how players can be negative, but think their negative thoughts through to a logical conclusion and start competing again. Hence it is important that when negative thoughts get into the minds of the players, and if the players are unable to shot those thoughts out and start focusing on the match at hand, they should think the negative thought process through to the end itself and get it out of their system.

What should not happen is for the player to have the negative thought in the system and keep thinking about it right throughout the match. In some cases when negative thoughts enter the minds of the players, by trying to get the negative thought out of their minds artificially, the player will focus more on that negative thought than they would do otherwise. This is the danger of trying to artificially shut your emotions out in a match. Instead of letting that thought fester in the mind and letting it become a wound, it MIGHT be better to embrace it - think it through and then get it out of the system.


And let me hasten to add, before all the purists start jumping on my back, that I do not for a moment believe that players SHOULD let negative thoughts enter their head. It is of course far better, in an ideal world, if players are able to shut out the negative thoughts and focus on the positive ones only. But unfortunately, as we are all aware, the majority of us do not live in an ideal world. Therefore, it is better that, instead of looking for an ideal world and be frustrated, the players embrace reality and try to work through their emotions and turn it to their advantage.

Next week, it will be examined as to how players can embrace being angry and not having goals and turning those thoughts away through simple processes and turning it to an advantage. Of course, let me reiterate once again, it is better not to be negative, not be angry, and to have goals.  But unfortunately, we also know that is not going to happen either.

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