Have you ever experienced a tennis slump? Have you gone through an extended period of time where you felt like you were constantly losing? Have things gotten to the point on occasion that you just wanted to give up on the game? In this episode, I'll talk about just what constitutes a “tennis slump” and I'll give you my best tips for surviving one. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
What is a Tennis Slump?
What exactly is a tennis slump? Well, for most players, a slump can be defined as when you're experiencing an extended period of poor performance on court, lower than your average expectation. Another way to put this is that a slump occurs when you're losing – a lot, like many, many matches in a row. The fact is, we all have a level of tennis play that we expect to be able to achieve pretty consistently. And when we don't achieve that level, when our really bad days seem to go on and on, we can enter a tennis slump. And when you get into a slump, it can feel like a trap that you will never escape from and you can start to wonder why you ever took up tennis and if perhaps golf might not be the right sport for you.
Physical and Mental Causes of Tennis Slumps
Just what causes a tennis slump? Well, the causes can be physical or mental. Physical causes of slumps include getting injured, of course. But they can also occur when we're making technical changes to our strokes, like changing grips on our serve, or when we change to a new racquet. Those changes can often have an immediate negative impact on our game for a while and leave us feeling like we're taking only two steps forward for every three steps back. The amount of practice time we put in can also contribute to a slump – when we practice too little, we never have time to dial in our strokes. When we practice too much, we can become exhausted or even injured.
Mental slumps occur too and there are lots of causes of mental slumps. Maybe we're burned out from playing too much. Maybe we're worried about the consequences of failure and losing. Maybe our negative and judgmental self-talk is overwhelming us on court. Maybe our expectations of how we should be playing are just too high. Maybe our expectations are too low – we expect the worst so we get it. Maybe we have other problems off court that are interfering with our tennis play.
Whatever the cause of a slump, physical or mental, the fact it that slumps happen to all players at all levels. Even at the pro level, especially at the pro level, we see incredible players who seem to go through periods when they can't win matches or beat players that have never given them problems in the past. So we need to accept that slumps can, and maybe even will, happen to all of us.
So once you find yourself in a tennis slump, how do you survive it and hopefully get beyond it. Well, here are my best tips for surviving a tennis slump:
Tips for Surviving a Tennis Slump
- Realize and accept that slumps happen to all players. As I've previously said, slumps happen to players at all levels and even the best players may go through a long dip in the level of their performance. Understand and take some comfort from the fact that you're not the only tennis player to experience a slump and you will be able to work your way out of it.
- Be positive during your matches. If you talked to your tennis partner the way you talk to yourself on court, you'd probably never be asked to play with that partner again. So much of our self-talk on court is negative and judgmental. We need to be aware of this since this negativity does not help our on-court performance.
- Forget about winning and losing for a while. I know this is easier said than done, but to improve your performance you definitely need to reduce some of the pressure you're putting on yourself and bring down your on-court frustration levels. So try focusing on your tennis skills and the effort you're making. When you walk out on court, be prepared to play simple, straight-forward, high-percentage tennis. Be ready to grind it out, to work each point and to wear your opponents down rather than blowing them off court with flashy shots. This may mean taking a little off your serve instead of going for the ace. It may mean throwing a few more lobs in instead of rushing the net for the sharp angle volley. Play simple, high-percentage tennis and let the score take care of itself.
- Set some new on-court goals for yourself. Rather than making every match you play all about winning or losing, change the focus of your tennis play with a different set of goals you hope to achieve. Perhaps your goal is to remain calm throughout your match and focus on what's happening on your court. Maybe your goal is your serve, not necessarily to win your serve but to have some really great service games. There are so many aspects of tennis that we work on that we can find plenty of goals to accomplish during our matches outside of just winning the match.
- Consider a “change of scenery.” By this I mean try changing the players you regularly play with or even the teams you play on. This might not sound very nice but see if you can find some lower level or weaker players to play against and hopefully beat. And do not put all of the pressure of carrying the team on your own shoulders. Yes, I myself have had the experience of a team captain telling me that I have to win my next match so the team makes its points or we'll be bumped down to a lower division. But I promise you, you alone did not get your team into that position and it is not your responsibility alone to save the team. If you are playing with a team or players that do not appreciate your performance and you feel you will never play up to their standards, maybe it is time to find a new team to play with.
- Take a break from tennis for a little while. Sometimes we just get burned out on tennis. This can be true if you play multiple days per week and especially if you play on multiple league teams and all of your tennis is focused on winning points for the team. While you may think that working harder on your game is what you need to break through your slump, often a mini-break can help you get re-energized and eager to play again. And this is obviously true if you are working through an injury where a rest may be the only thing that can help you to properly heal.
- Enjoy the game. Remember, tennis is fun. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the winning and the losing that we forget why we started playing tennis in the first place. Because it's fun! If you're not having fun playing tennis, you're doing something wrong and you definitely need to change that.
This Week's “Tennis Month” Free Download
Well, those are my best tips for surviving a tennis slump. If you're in the middle of one or you find yourself in one in the next few months, I hope you'll put a few of these tips into play. And remember – slumps are really just a natural part of the game, the ups and downs in performance that all players experience. Tennis pro Chris Evert said it best:
If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that's a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life, and there's going to be a life after tennis that's a lot longer than your tennis life. – Chris Evert
In fact, I love that quote so much that I'm using it as the basis of my giveaway this month. If you're listening to this episode when it comes out, then you're listening to it in May which is National Tennis Month. With each episode of Tennis Quick Tips this month, I'm giving away some kind of helpful download. And my giveaway with this episode is a mini-poster of this Chris Evert quote. The image below shows you just what this download looks like and if you click on it, you will be linked to a PDF version of this image that you can download, print off for yourself and keep close at hand, over your desk or on a bulletin board, to inspire you and remind just why tennis is such a great game. So just click on this image to get the download:
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
- To get the free PDF mini-poster of the Chris Evert quotation shown above, just click on the image above or on this link: Chris Evert Quote Download from Tennis Fixation
- For a very limited time (until May 22), you can get a huge discount on my tennis mini-course, “Simple Endurance Training for Tennis.” For more information and to get your “Happy Tennis Month” discount, click on this link: http://www.tennisminicourses.com/happytennismonth.
© Kim Selzman 2015 All Rights Reserved