Are You In A Tennis Slump?
Learn About The Psychology Of Slumps
Avoid Them and Perform To Your Potential
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Slumps. We've all been in one at one time or another. You
can't perform to your potential, you seem to be having a perpetually
bad day, and nothing you do helps extricate yourself from
its deadly grip. Slumps are not fun.
What Is A Slump?
A slump is any decrease in performance, over time. A slump
can have mental origins or many other causes. Let's see why
you have slumps and how to avoid them.
How Slumps Start
Many slumps may not be mental. I know that sounds strange.
Everyone believes slumps have only mental origins. A slump
may start innocently enough. You might simply lose a match.
It bothers you somewhat. You lose another match. That bothers
you more. Then someone makes a comment that "you might be
in a slump." You lose again. Suddenly you decide you are in
an "official slump". That's when the slump becomes mental.
Your depression and anger about "being in a slump" fuels it
and makes it worse and maintains it. Your poor play worries
you. You begin to think so much of how to fix it that you
"get into your own head" too much. Now it really is a slump.
Now it really is mental.
How Do You Get Out Of A Slump? My Top Ten Tips.
1. Be Clear About Your Definition Of A Slump. Make
sure the slump you are in is a real one. If you assume you
are slumping after one bad performance, you are far too quick
to judge yourself so harshly. A good working definition of
a slump would be a series of poor performances.
2. Don't Let People Talk You Into A Slump. Some people
love to tell you that you are in a slump. They think they
can see that slumping pattern you are in. Don't let them be
negative around you. Make up your own mind about your performances.
3. Change Your Routine. Sometimes a slump starts because
you are bored. The game isn't as much fun as it used to be.
Your practices are too predictable. Mix it up! Try some new
drills, some new practice systems and some new venues to play.
Often just a change in routine will wake you up and give you
a new perspective.
4. Practice Harder And Improve Your Weaknesses. Simple
as it sounds, sometimes you play poorly not because you are
weak mentally, but just because you have a technical weakness
or a physical limitation. Try practicing longer, harder, better
and smarter and work the slump out on the practice court.
5. Check All Non-Mental Causes Of The Slump. Make sure
you cover all bases on diagnosing the reasons for the slump.
There can be numerous tactical, strategic, physical and other
causes, some of them quite subtle, yet easy to fix. See a
coach for a complete diagnostic checkup.
6. Stop Trying So Hard. Slumps are very frustrating.
They can drive you crazy. They can make you exert more and
more effort. From a performance psychology standpoint, only
a perfect amount of effort gives great results. Too little
effort and your performance can fall flat. A slump brings
out too much effort in an effort to defeat the slump. Relax
and try softer, not harder.
7. Remind Yourself Of Your Skills And Abilities. Remember
that you are a skillful athlete, that you can and have played
well, and that this too is temporary and will pass. Think
back about past successes and particularly, about how you
overcame past slumps and went on to play well.
8. Get Some Coaching. A qualified, experienced coach
can guide you through a slump by seeing what you can't see
and by having the experience to know what interventions will
make the biggest impact. In fact, seeing your coach when you
are playing poorly can be one of the very best times to go,
because the coach can help you figure out how to de-bug your
game under real game conditions.
9. Play For Fun More Often. People who often fall into
slumps often take themselves and their performances too seriously.
Lighten up. Play more for fun with friends and make the outcome
have less importance.
10. Take A Break. Sometimes the ticket away from a
slump is distance. Take some time off, get a fresh perspective,
clear out your mind. When you return you will feel eager,
you won't expect as much, and your body will be more relaxed.
Even the top athletes in the world take planned breaks from
their sport to avoid slumps and burnout.
What Should You Do Next?
Make sure your definition of a slump is a clear one and
don't assume you are in one before it is truly there. Have
a slump plan ready to go and take concrete, positive action
should the slump rear its ugly head. Stay one step ahead of
the slump and you'll keep your performances soaring.
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA 2001,
2006 All rights reserved.
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
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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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