Did you know competing is a skill?

posted on: May 4, 2016
author: Brian Lomax

If you are a tennis player who has ever had to come back from an injury, you realize that the hardest part is getting back to your level of play in a tournament or competitive environment.  After practicing for a while, your strokes may feel like they used to, but the first time you decide to compete, your game just isn’t there.  Frustration ensues and you wonder what is going on.

WHAT IS GOING ON???  The reality is that competing is a set of skills, and those skills need to be sharpened just as much as your physical game if you are to return to your competitive level as quickly as possible.  I’ve had to learn this the hard way.  Since 2000, I’ve had four major injuries each resulting in time off the court of 3+ months, and I feel as if I’m becoming an expert on how to come back.  In fact, I’m in the midst of another comeback right now so it’s good for me to write this blog post while I’m immersed in this process.  If only I could become an expert at staying healthy rather than pushing myself to a complete physical breakdown!

When you first return to the court to compete, realize that the following skills may not be at the level they were prior to your injury:

  • Focus
  • Decision making
  • Confidence
  • Breathing
  • Time management
  • Mindset under pressure

Without these skills, it will be difficult for your physical game to succeed in match situations so be patient with the process.  As you play practice matches and tournament matches, work on these skills more consciously by setting process goals that support them.  For example, I might combine focus and time management into one goal such as “use my in-between points routine consistently and always reset to a next point mentality.”  Sharpening those two skills allows me to play with a one point at a time mentality and that’s a big part of my mental game.  If I didn’t work on those two skills, I might get too emotional about past mistakes and let those affect my thinking going into the next point.  Then 0-15 becomes 0-40 and I am wondering, “how did I get here?”  Let the downward spiral of frustration begin!

A few weeks ago, I played my first competitive tennis in over 5 months with the express purpose of practicing my competitive skills.  In that regard, it was a success.  I managed to win a couple of matches mainly because I was better at the competitive skills than my opponents and I didn’t get frustrated with myself.  I’ve got a lot more work to do to get back to my pre-injury level, but I believe I’ll get there faster than I have in the past.  The competitive skills will be the difference.

As you design your comeback plan, budget time for training your competitive skills in a conscious and patient manner.  You’ll find the process to be much less frustrating and you will probably find your top competitive game even sooner than you normally would.  If you need some ideas on how to train your competitive skills, let me know in the comments or email me at brian@performancextra.com.

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/

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