| By Conrad Singh
Photo courtesy of Getty Images


I always wonder why whenever a player I work with is in a positive mindset about themselves, they tend to also be playing very well.

Take for example Nick Kyrgios at the Citi Open...

If you saw him on and around the courts and listened to his interviews, he was in a positive state of mind all week. This resulted in him acting professionally, keeping his routines and feeling like he was ready to play, leading to him winning the event.

The relationship with how you feel and what you think about yourself clearly determines how you act, which has an overwhelming correlation to positive outcomes. When a player has a general sense of happiness, those positive feelings flow over into better performance on the court.

The question then is: How do you create those optimal feelings within your rituals to experience happiness?

The key aspects which are most important to our happiness are:

►Autonomy = A sense of choice about what you do.

►Competence = You are effective at what you do.

►Connected = Being close to people and bonding socially with the feelings of support.

►Challenged = Having a challenging daily obstacle or target to keep you motivated to achieve.

►Fulfillment = Being proud of the work load and satisfied with giving it your all.

The ultimate goal then is self-esteem or how you see yourself as a person. A positive self-image is one major part of this, but it is so much more than just how you look. Self-esteem can lead to huge bursts of confidence, which can lead to extreme outcomes and the all-important belief factor. How does Novak Djokovic overcome such huge occasions and obstacles of being down match points and win, as he did in the Wimbledon finals this year.

It is important to also note that many “successful” people may have achieved great things in their careers without healthy self-esteem, they are not fulfilled. As a result, they will not feel happy with their achievements. We see this a lot with former Olympic athletes and players who retire from the professional tour … it can take a very long time to acclimate back to normal life.

►Self-esteem is the feeling that your self-worth is strong and you value yourself for being who you are.

►Your feeling of self-development of skills and talents is high on your priority list.

►You respect yourself and others at all times.

►You value your own performances, activity, intelligence and contributions to your field.

Improving your self-esteem will always lead to the feeling of being more confident, resilient, motivated, happy and that you can always find your best levels in any situation.

We are and become what we believe we are and deserve

One of the key ways we influence our own feelings of self-esteem is through our self-talk. The all-important inner voice is something that can and must be deliberately trained. Each day, we should be training our players to keep a diary written by hand and to always find the points of improvement, but also to identify the things you did well!

Self-talk is the mental conversations we all have within our own minds and it reflects what we are thinking. Positive self-talk is one of the most powerful tools we can develop, in that it allows us to make positive constructive comments. It also allows us to problem-solve and feel like we are doing it in our own way as we are following the verbal instructions we are giving to ourselves. We often know that our self-talk is not actually true, but we still believe it in the end after repeating these messages to ourselves so many times.

Negative self-talk is the opposite of being constructive, and we often can be courtside and hear the player who is not performing well speak such comments as: “I’m hopeless,” “I’m not good enough to be here.” When you are in the habit of this negative self-talk, you are not receptive to experiencing a successful outcome. What’s worse is the reality that the more you do this, you begin to believe what you are saying–it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only do you begin to believe your comments, but so too does your opponent if they are smart enough to be picking up the cues. 

Listen to your self-talk and try to hear the things you say to yourself and be sure to be fair in your comments. Many people are highly critical of themselves, but undermine their achievements and accomplishments. It’s important to praise yourself, both internally and externally, when you do something well. If you stop to listen to players after matches in the press room, they protect themselves and their ego. They build walls around what they hear and open up when they are hearing positives that fuel self-belief and self-worth.

It is so important that tennis players understand that if much of your internal conversation is negative, then this may be the very thing blocking you from achieving your best and truly enjoying the entire process of tennis. We know that negative self-talk raises your expectations, increases stress levels and could lead to self-destructive behavior.

The final areas for focus and to become a player with high self-esteem and positive self-image, you will need to reprogram the negative into positive self-talk, and to learn the one skill hardest to achieve mentally: Blocking distractions and stopping personal negative thoughts as they enter your mind. In your own quiet time, practice asking yourself these questions, and write down your responses regularly by recording them in a diary …

1. Are the thoughts I am having actually true? Confide in a close team member if you need support.

2. How do I know what is true?

3. Will my current self-opinion, image and esteem improve, or will it hinder me from achieving my goals?

4. Would I say these types of things to a close friend or someone I really care about?

5. Am I looking at the whole story here or taking the negative parts from it?

We all know that those who are positive and exude good energy are people we want to be around. They are the ones who seem to attract good results and positive outcomes. These are the type of people that we need to surround ourselves with in tennis, and in time, we will certainly learn better behaviors.



Conrad Singh

Conrad Singh is the Chief Operating Officer of Tennis & Director of Coaching at Centercourt Club & Sports. He has held Head Coach and Director positions in Australia, England, Japan and China, and has been involved in professional tennis player development for well over two decades. Singh came to Centercourt from Shanghai, China, where he helped to develop a top high-performance player program, which saw more than 200 athletes train under his system.