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2 Bouchard Mental Roadblocks Tennis

3 Mental Roadblocks That Destroy Your Tennis Progress

I want to help you overcome three of the most destructive mental roadblocks that prevent you from improving your tennis game: Laziness, Fear, and Doubt.  

I fight against these demons from hell every single day and it isn’t easy. After struggling with laziness, fear and doubt for many years, I have figured out strategies to help overcome them.

Below I explain these mental roadblocks and provide you with actionable tips that will help you play better tennis, increase your confidence, and reach your tennis goals.

Mental Roadblock #1: Laziness

“The only time I can play tennis tomorrow is at 7am, but I’m not a morning person. I just can’t wake up early enough.”

“I should work on my tennis game today, but I’d rather stay at home and watch Game of Thrones. This show is just too good!”

“I need to practice my backhand. It really let me down yesterday. But I’d rather go to Happy Hour with my buddies because it is [insert crappy nightly-gimmick] night tonight!”

If you have had thoughts like the ones above, I don’t blame you. But if you also wonder why your tennis game isn’t where it should be, the answer is staring you straight in the face: laziness.

Laziness is in the mind. Some of you may think that being lazy is a physical deficiency. But when you take the easier path, it means you lack mental fortitude. You can overcome just about any physical limitation with a focused mind. Look at the quotes above: you choose to take the easy road with your brain, not your body.

The problem with humans is that we naturally prefer to do what is most comfortable. We rather follow the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, if we always take the easy route, we will never achieve anything, except perhaps an award for most worthless human of the year.

If success was easy, everyone would be successful. Why isn’t everyone a millionaire? Why do only a tiny fraction of tennis players play on the ATP Tour? Why does only one person win a tennis tournament?

The answer is because it is freaking hard to be at the top and it takes a lot of work that most people are not willing to put in.

Here’s the good news: If you are willing to put more work and effort into your passion than everyone else, your chance of success in that field is greater.

Imprint the two sentences above permanently into your brain and use them as motivation.

The following will be your mindset moving forward: I am going to kick everyone’s butt the next time I compete, because no one will put in the amount of work that I will.

You have to break free from the chains of laziness and pursue your dreams. Don’t let insignificant, unimportant things stop you from reaching your goals.

What will truly make you happy in the long run? Watching an episode of a worthless fictional T.V. show, saving a couple miles of gas, sleeping an extra hour? 

Or kicking the bejeesus out of every player you face and raising a trophy to represent the blood, sweat and tears that you poured into your training while everyone else was sleeping or watching the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars?

And whatever you do, don’t make lack of time an excuse. The following maxim holds true for everything: If you want something bad enough, you will make time for it.

I bet that if you examine everything you did last week, you could replace at least three of them with activities that are higher on your list of priorities, like improving your tennis game.

Knocking low-priority items off your schedule will free up the time you need to pursue your tennis and life goals.

Take Action: I want you to make a playlist of your favorite songs that pump you up and save them on your phone or MP3 player. Then make a commitment to exercise early tomorrow morning (set an alarm clock if necessary).

As soon as you wake up, I want you to start listening to your playlist. I have struggled to wake up early in the past (I am a serial snooze-button hitter), but this tip helps me overcome the urge to sleep in. I am more energized and productive throughout the day when I work out in the morning, and I bet you will be too.

You should also listen to your playlist whenever you feel lazy. This tip will help motivate you to put in the hard work you need to improve your tennis game. Sometimes when I feel lazy, I listen to my playlist, and within 30 seconds I am ready to train like a madman.

Mental Roadblock #2: Fear

“I don’t want to play this tournament. It would be fun to compete but I am afraid I will lose in the first round.”

“I know he asked me to play, but he is way better than me. I will be embarrassed on the court against him.”

“I hope they don’t put me on center court. Everyone will watch my match and I am going to be nervous.”

Get rid of this weak mindset. Are you a weak person? Do you want to keep being weak? Who gives a crap if people are going to watch you? Focus on your opponents and how to defeat them, instead of worrying about the obese lady in the front row eating a cheeseburger and checking her iPhone for most of the match. 

Fear is a creation of our own minds. You can use your mind to to make yourself feel any way you want about a situation. When I sit in my room at night, sometimes I picture a demon-child or floating ghost coming toward me to send me to the underworld. Then I wonder to myself, what the hell am I thinking? By letting fear creep into my mind, I make myself scared for nothing.

This is exactly what you do when you let fear mess with your mind. Don’t worry about what other people think about your tennis skills. Focus on what you need to do to improve. Who you can play with to get the best practice possible. What tournaments will get you where you want to be in your tennis career. Then go for it.

When playing in Mexico many years ago, another kid was on the court next to mine. His father kept repeating to him “Sin miedo!” It means without fear. The son followed his dad’s advice, and when I watched him, I saw nothing but sheer determination in his eyes. He played fearlessly on the big points and defeated a strong opponent. He played without fear.

Keep your focus, be brave, play to win, and great things will happen for you.

Take Action: The next time you are nervous or scared before a match, I want you to repeat the phrase “Sin miedo!” Tell yourself to play without fear, to take control of the match, and focus on doing what is necessary to win.

Remember that fear is a creation of the mind, and can be overcome by focusing your mind on the goals that you want to achieve.

Mental Roadblock #3: Doubt

“She is the number one seed. There’s no way I can win this match!” 

“Why play this tournament? With all these great players, I don’t stand a chance.”

“I’m not good enough. I’m not improving and I don’t think I ever will.”

Here’s another mental roadblock that you need to toss into the garbage can. Why doubt yourself? How is doubt going to help you succeed? If you don’t believe you can win, you’ve already lost.

Doubt is a common feeling among tennis players. It is natural to feel nervous before a match. But if you have doubts in your head, you should send an army of mind-soldiers to destroy them. Turn your nervousness and self-doubt into confidence and use it to your advantage.

Remember all the time and effort you spend training, your strengths, and strategies you have used to defeat players in the past. You have won before, and you can damn sure win again. Put your best foot forward and do everything you can (legally!) to succeed.

Every tennis player is human. If somebody wins a tournament, or achieves a #1 ranking in your section, so can you. Dedicate yourself to your goals and replace self-doubt with self-belief. It will make a huge difference in your life.

Take ActionThe next time you have doubts about your ability to win before a tennis match, remember matches when you played well and defeated a quality opponent. Think of the strategies you employed and visualize shots you hit that won you the match. Then you will be more confident in your game and ready to kick some butt.

You can overcome all three of the mental roadblocks above with one thing: focus. Whether you experience laziness, fear, or doubt, if you can focus on your goals and what you need to do to achieve them, you will push past any mental roadblocks that come your way.

Whenever you overcome a mental roadblock, give yourself a pat on the back. These small victories will help you stay positive, motivated, and increase your mental fortitude. Making the right choice will start to become a habit.

I’ll leave you with an amazing quote from Ghandi, which the President of my alma mater used to quote often.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

10 Things to Stop Doing Before a Tennis Match

Preparing yourself for battle is key, and if you don’t do it the right way, you could be putting all your tennis training to waste.

After thinking about my own experiences, observing other players, and hearing feedback from my coaches and parents, I compiled a list of 10 things to stop doing before a tennis match.

Identify which of the pre-match mistakes you are committing below, eliminate them, and you will be rewarded with better performances in your tennis matches.

1. Stop Doubting Yourself

Have you ever had the following thoughts before a tennis match: “There is no way I can win.” “He is too good.”  “Well, at least I’ll be able to go out tonight if I lose.”  Get rid of these negative thoughts. Replace them with a warrior-like mentality.  Believe in the countless hours of training that you have poured into your game and be confident in your abilities. Know that you will put forth 100% effort into your match no matter what the circumstances.  No one ever won anything by doubting themselves (except for the lottery).

2. Stop Looking at the Draw

All too often, players waste time checking the draw, imagining potential match-ups and looking past their next opponent. Instead, ask yourself the following: is what I am doing right now going to help me win my match?  It is fine to briefly look at the draw and see who and when you are playing next. But anything beyond this wastes precious time that you could be using to warm-up, stretch, and mentally prepare yourself for the match at-hand.

3. Stop Eating Late

Movement is everything in tennis, and eating too close to match-time can result in indigestion, which hinders your movement.  I have experienced this firsthand, and it neither feels nor smells very good 😐 . As we all (should) know by now: movement and footwork is everything in tennis.  The International Tennis Federation recommends eating between 1.5 to 3 hours before a match, and the USTA similarly recommends eating two to three hours before playing.  And since matches can be delayed, bring something light and nutritious to snack on, like an energy bar (Cliff Bar is my favorite!) or nuts.  You must eat clean and healthy foods to prime your body for success.

4. Stop Forgetting Important Tennis Gear 

There is nothing worse than being soaked with sweat and not having a towel, extra shirts or wristbands.  Or having low energy levels and no snack or sports drink in your bag to keep you going. A seemingly small mistake like this can lose you a tennis match.  For example, you could be stuck playing with a wet, sweaty grip, worried that your racquet will fly out of your hand, because you forgot to bring extra grips and a towel. My favorite tennis gear to prevent a sweaty grip are double-wide wristbands. I use this one. The double-wide wristbands absorb more sweat and seem to be more durable than regular-sized wristbands. Make sure you bring all the tennis gear that you need before you leave home so that your training does not go to waste because of a wet grip or low energy levels.

5. Stop Ignoring the Warm-Up

It is extremely important to warm-up before a match.  And I’m not talking about the 5-minute warm-up with your opponent. Find someone to hit with before you play your match. Getting your body loose and ready to play will help you start your match off strong. If you step on the court without breaking a sweat beforehand, the match warm-up will not be enough. Trust me, I have had enough slow starts during my career to make me realize how essential it is to warm-up before a match. If you can’t find a partner, then jump-rope, jog, or do a few tennis footwork drills to get your muscles ready.

6. Stop Rushing to Get to Your Match

One of the worst things you can do is leave your house late for a tennis match. Leaving late means you are going to rush to the match.  This has many negative effects: it encourages unsafe driving (i.e. speeding), you will be nervous when you arrive for the match, and there will be no time to warm-up and relax before the match starts.  You may also have to start at a deficit if you arrive late to the match and get penalized as a result. Start leaving earlier for your matches and you will be more mentally and physically prepared to play.

7. Stop Getting Pumped Up Too Early

It is good to be excited for a match. However, if you get too pumped up before playing, you may not have enough energy to finish out the match. Excessive excitement can make you more nervous and cause you to rush points. Clearly, everyone is different: some perform better when relaxed while others need to be pumped up to get them going. However, keep in mind that sometimes being too amped before a tennis match can have negative consequences.  It is best to conserve your energy and pump yourself up as needed to boost your intensity.

8. Stop Forgetting to Hydrate

You need to drink water before your match, and a lot of it. You also should start increasing your water intake days, and not just hours, before the match. Your muscles need enough water to properly function. If you aren’t hydrated, then you will not perform at your best. Even worse, you increase your risk of heat-related illnesses.

9. Stop Sleeping Late

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your success on the tennis court. Without it, you risk decreased focus, motor skills, and energy levels during your match. If you truly want to perform well, you will do anything to optimize your chances for success.  This includes getting enough sleep to allow you to perform at your best.

10. Stop Wasting Time and Start Focusing on What You Need to Do to Succeed

You need to optimize your time before a match and focus on what you need to do to succeed. Whether it is warming-up, drinking water, or meditating, do what will enable you to perform at your best during your match. Preparation for optimal performance should be your priority. Find what works for you, develop a successful routine, and then follow it.

I hope that you found my list of 10 things to stop doing before a tennis match useful. Are you making any of the mistakes above? Fix them and you will be ready to perform at your best during a tennis match.

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