Jul 30

A Key Reason We Choke In Sport – Mental Coaching for The Nervous Athlete

Pondering tennis“Lisa I had a really terrible tennis match today. We went early and had a good warmup. We also had a good game plan. We were winning 5 games to 2 and on match point I hit a smash out of bounds.

Then I hit the next one in the net and then another smash out of bounds. Then my partner hit a ball out and we ended up going into a tie breaker and losing that. We lost 6 to 4 in the third set. After i made those 3 mistakes I could hardly hit the ball.

I told myself relax, relax, and breathe. I also said just go point by point. Don’t think about anything else. I tried to laugh and stay positive. I am so discouraged. What positive learning can I take from this?

How can I prevent this from happening again? We played so well to start with and then couldn’t finish it off. I CHOKED. I never want this to happen again so please help me.”


Sandra, I don’t think you choked on match point – the choking came AFTER you missed match point

Here’s my mental coaching…

And I suspect it happened because underneath everything you are an intense perfectionist.

My guess is that when you make mistakes, you become so ashamed and fearful that a) you can’t focus and b) you start punishing yourself. On a gut level, you actually don’t believe it’s Ok to make mistakes, including mental ones.

What you are missing is that perfectionists – people who are defensive about mistakes – are not LEARNING.

Mistakes will HELP your mental sport game if you have the right attitude towards them.

When you get uptight about mistakes, you get so emotional that you miss out on what your mistakes are trying to teach you.

What might this be?

“Thanks Lisa…I think my main problem is not hitting the ball with power. I am so worried about hitting it out of bounds that i tend to just push it over and safely guide it instead of smacking the ball. Then it usually ends up short and they step up and hit it hard which puts us on the defense. At some point I need to have the courage to just hit the ball rather than push it. I need to focus on putting the topspin or backspin on it to keep it in the court.

Sandra, the RIGHT FOCUS you need is simple. Hit the ball (don’t push it). If it lands out of bounds, see if you can identify exactly HOW FAR OUT the ball landed to the inch. Get really good at this, and you’ll naturally start hitting the ball inside the court without trying to.

To pull this off, you need to get CURIOUS about where the ball lands when you hit it out. Are you trying to hit a winner? Is your stroke unsound? What’s happening?

You’ll learn a ton about your game, your strokes, and other things that you haven’t noticed because you’ve been wrapped up in your emotions for so long.

And if you’re reading this, remember: the ability to take control your sports psychology is what separates athletes who reach their goals from athletes who do not. The way top athletes think helps them win.

You too can learn the mental toughness secrets of superstar athletes just by downloading my Ebook, The Courage to Win in Sport. To check it out, click here. And to sign up for more free mental game tips, click here.

Light it up out there,
Lisa B.

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