Chickens Don't Win, They Just Get Eaten
This is one of my favorite things to say to my students when they come off the court after a match and did not have the courage to play their game, hit out on the ball, or lay it on the line when it counted. We typically get a good laugh out of it but there is a lot of truth to this little phrase.
Every athlete in every sport feels tight or nervous during competition. The arms can feel like lead weights, the legs like jelly, and sometimes the stomach can feel as if it has a bowling ball floating around in it. One of the differences of the successful athletes (the players who win competitions), is how they handle these feelings and emotions. What one chooses to do when faced with these anxieties, and fears will determine not only how one plays but how one feels after the competition about themselves - even if they lose!
In the scope of life, what is the most important thing? Winning, well you can't always control that and it can set you up for disappointment. But knowledge that you gave everything you possibly could both mentally and physically to the competition, that you left everything out on the court, that is what you should strive for.
You cannot control winning or losing but you can control your mental approach to competition. That has a direct effect on not only the outcome of a match but how you feel about yourself after the competition.
Vince Lombardi (see quotes under photo below), voted ESPN's coach of the century, pretty much sums up what competition should be all about and brings us back to my phrase, "chickens don't win they just get eaten."
|"It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. . . In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail. . . They may not love you at the time, but they will later."
Vince Lombardi - Coach of the 5 time NFL Champion Green Bay Packers
How many times have you come off the tennis court after a match and thought to yourself, if only I had the guts to go for that serve on game point, or hit that forehand down the line when I had the chance, or put away that easy short ball.
We have all been there and had similar thoughts, but the players who make the choice before they compete in the match; the players who run down every ball and, when it counts, have the courage to let go and go for their shots without fear; they are the players that in the end seem to succeed more than the rest. Whether these players win or lose isn't even the issue. They seem to rebound after losses and continue to move forward towards improvement and self-belief either way.
Whether you are a club player, league player, or a tournament player, how you approach each match mentally will determine if you gain from the experience regardless of whether you win or lose. How many times have successful athletes from the past failed but went on to gain glory because they chose to believe in themselves and to persist through failure after failure knowing in the end they would succeed.
Michael Jordan is one of those examples. He did not even make his high school basketball team in the 9th grade because the coach said he was not good enough, but this only drove him to work harder. Jordan chose not to be discouraged, and instead, decided to believe in himself and take control of his own destiny.
Michael Jordon failed time and time again yet he also succeeded more than any other player.
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan - six time NBA champion and all-time leading scoring average in NBA history.
Click photo: Michael Jordan was not good enough to make his high school basketball team in the 9th grade.
The fact is when someone thinks of Michael Jordan, what comes to mind are the six NBA titles and the best basketball player in history. They do not think of the 26 potential game winning shots he missed or the 300 games he lost.
The attitude Jordan lived by is what made him successful and one that we as competitors can all learn a great deal from. The fact that he was willing to take those 25 potential game winning shots after he missed the first one is what a winner's attitude is all about.
This is the mental approach you as a tennis player should adopt to reach your full potential. When you are in that tie breaker, serving for the match, or any other close situation, do not think of the outcome but rather choose to go for it without worrying about the consequences.
The reality is, tennis is merely a game that you play and what's the worst that can happen? It is really quite simple, you only lose a match and that is all. There is always another match, another tournament, another chance to play, as this sport lasts a lifetime.
|"I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot... when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result." - Michael Jordan
But if you choose to be cautious, to play it safe, to hit it to them, to be afraid, this can leave a much more lasting impact on your character than if you had the willingness to lay it on the line, walk on the edge, and let the cards fall where they may. If you played in fear and are not willing to lay it on the line, then how do you truly know you were not better than the resulting outcome. That's just it, you will never know.
|"If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it". - Michael Jordan
One of my pro player students, Alex Bogomolov, at the 2005 US Open experienced this exact situation. He approached his three qualifying matches with the willingness to let go and chose to play to win with out regard for the outcome. He had a game plan, executed it, and it worked for him. However, when playing against top 10 ranked David Nalbandian in the first round of the main draw, he began to think of the outcome and and how it could help his career.
Alex Bogomolov couldn't stay mentally focused in his match against Nalbandian.
He lost the first set, then played fearlessly in the second and got the break to go up 5-2. However, he then tried to protect his lead and quit doing the things that got him the lead: attacking, playing aggressively, and applying constant pressure to Nalbandian. Instead Alex began to play defensive tennis, hoping Nalbandian would give him some easy points. However, top ten players don't do that and eventually, Alex lost the lead and the set.
After that, Alex mentally regrouped and recommitted himself. Again he broke Nalbandian and led 4-2 in the third, only do the same thing once again. Alex backed off his game and played defensively and the result was the same.
Alex learned a great lesson that day. He knew that he did not go for it when it counted and did not remain committed to his attacking game but rather played not to lose. It was a hard loss and a tough lesson. Much more painful to accept knowing that, "If I had only played to win when I had the opportunities then the result could have been different." It is not easy to approach competition in this manner but that is the great thing about life...we all have the ability to choose.
Today, tomorrow, and everyday I encourage you to make that choice each time you walk onto the court. Make the choice to lay it on the line, to go for it when it counts, to play to win, to leave it all out on the court win or lose. Do this, and I guarantee you will feel accomplished after every match and will have, more importantly, built a stronger character even if you lose. So when faced with big matches, you can always think back to the little phrase "chickens don't win, they just get eaten." Give yourself a bit of a laugh and more importantly perhaps, inspire yourself to not get eaten!
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Virtual Tennis Academy
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training,and much more froma hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from theconvenience of their own home.
Jeff Greenwald - Fearless Tennis
Feel you're playing tentatively and know that you have greater potential than you're demonstrating in tournaments? This one of a kind, double- CD audio program, FearlessTennnis: The 5 Mental Keys To Unlocking Your Potential, will help you compete with confidence, close out matches and is a great way to get the mental edge en route to a tournament.
Schedule Jeff Greenwald to Speak
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