Don't Play A Game Of Perfect:
Play A Game Of Excellence
Mental Game Lessons From Wimbledon
Bill Cole, MS, MA
If you watched Wimbledon on TV in 2003, you may have seen
all those bad bounces on the esteemed, hallowed grass at the
All-England Club. Those terrible bounces are part of the lore
at that historic event. A rite of passage for young pros.
A fact of life on grass for veterans.
Did you notice how some pros took the erratic bounces in stride,
while others seemed to get all bent out of shape over them?
Players who stay even emotionally win. The ones who get flustered
and panicky lose.
Players who expect perfection lose. The ones who plan for
inevitable trouble and adjust, win.
Who are you more like in your tennis, the perfectionistic
ones who become unhinged when everything doesn't go their
way? Or the mentally and emotionally flexible ones who let
errors roll off their backs?
Even at the top levels of pro sports, some athletes are so
hard on themselves, expecting near-perfection, or believing
that to win they must perform virtually flawlessly, that this
sets up impossible expectations that short-circuit performance.
Strive For Excellence, Not Perfection
No one has ever played a perfect tennis match in the history
of the game. They never will. To win, you only need to play
better than the opponent. Expecting perfection sets you up
to fail, because you can't be perfect. Instead, strive for
a percentage of perfection, for excellence, to win your matches.
Here are 20 mental game tips pros use to keep their mind in
the match and stay on an emotional even keel, in spite of
the tremendous pressures they are under. Use these to win
and have more fun.
1. Don't expect to play a game of perfect. Instead, strive
to achieve excellence.
2. Expect that you will make a certain number of errors on
all your strokes. When they happen, remember that these are
the facts of tennis life and accept them, while attempting
to be steadier.
3. When you experience bad calls, bad bounces and poor officiating,
accept them as part of the game and keep competing strongly.
Manage the cheating and officiating errors as best you can
by being assertive.
4. Don't put extra pressure on yourself. Strive for winning
a percentage of points, not every point. For example, strive
for 70% of first serves, not 100%, which is impossible. Even
90% is virtually impossible.
5. Win ugly if you must, but win. Don't be overly proud and
conscious of how you look. Just win.
6. Expect the opponent to hit a certain number of great shots.
When they happen, take them in stride.
7. Expect the opponent to hit a certain number of lucky shots.
You know they will happen, so don't be surprised.
8. Expect lucky shots to generally even out in a match. When
the opponent gets lucky, realize that you will also be lucky
an equal percentage of the time.
9. Remember that winners don't need to play perfectly to win.
Rather, they adjust, adapt and compensate according to conditions
and the opponent.
10. Expect a certain number of wind, sun and court condition
troubles, and adjust accordingly. Remember, the opponent has
the same conditions.
11. Stay emotionally even for the entire match. Reduce your
emotional ups and downs. Don't get too high when you play
well and don't get too low when you play badly.
12. Keep the opponent guessing about how you really are feeling.
If you are upset with yourself, fake it, act like you don't
care. Make them think that nothing bothers you.
13. Be ready for any and all mental warfare or psych-out tricks
the opponent may attempt. When they happen, laugh at them
and vow you will not let any little mind tricks bother you.
14. Pride yourself on being able to win even when you are
not playing well, or when you are not feeling well. Winners
find a way to win, under any circumstances. Find your way
15. Remember, no matter how far behind you are, the tennis
clock never runs out. You always have a chance to make a comeback
in tennis, so don't give up.
16. Remember, and take heart in the great competitive comebacks
of pros, people you know, and most importantly, of yours.
Use this inspiration to re-energize and turn the match around.
17. When you are losing, keep hoping and looking for that
one single positive reversal in a match that may bring the
momentum back to you and dash the opponent's confidence.
18. Stay calm and poised even when your favorite shots are
not working. Pride yourself on being able to come up with
ways to win in spite of that.
19. Ask yourself, "How badly do I want to win this match?"
Then dig down deep and find a way to win.
20. Take comfort, when you are playing poorly and losing,
that when you win this match, you will have one heckuva story
to tell. Then win the match.
Remember, don't expect perfection, because it will never arrive.
Instead, adjust, adapt and overcome adversity. Winners find
a way to win. There is a way to win in every match. You just
have to keep searching for it.
The Next Step Is Yours
Will you make the decision to improve your ability to perform,
starting right now? If you do, the results will amaze you.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What can I begin doing to improve my mental game right
2. In what ways can I stop being a self-destructing perfectionist
on the court?
3. How can I learn to win in spite of "having a bad day"?
Good luck and I'll see you when you pick up your trophy.
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2003, 2007 All rights
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
A complete mental training program includes motivation and
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Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
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