Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology

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Subj:  The Zone - New Athletic Insight Issue
To:  [email protected]
Athletic Insight Staff-
       I'm a high school and middle school tennis coach who has become convinced that it is impossible to separate tennis school from sports psychology. I find myself spending more and more time talking to my young ladies about what is going on in their heads as with the tennis racquet. I'm finding your journal very valuable and reassuring. I coach young ladies at the middle school and high school age, but I also teach tennis students as young as seven. I make teaching mental toughness an important part of my teaching no matter what age the player. I have developed what I call my SEVEN TENNIS LESSONS. These seven lessons are the backbone to my program. I make it a point to stress one or all of them daily. I had two seven year old the other day running a little timed race, and I stressed that it was to keep getting faster, and that it was important not to compare themselves with others.
        The following are my SEVEN TENNIS LESSONS:
1. Set goals and targets and be prepared.
2. Keep getting better and don't compare yourself with others.
3. Stay in the present and watch the ball.
4. Play every point and have fun.
5. Be positive with yourself and make no excuses.
6. Uses images and visualize.
7. Success is giving your best effort.

        I hope, I have not bored you too much with these ramblings, but I'm very excited about teaching mental toughness.

Stephen Waymire
Tennis coach for Lady Herons

Dear Mr. Waymire:
       We appreciate the letter that you sent in reference to the zone issue published in the November, 1999 issue of Athletic Insight.  It is always good to see an individual who is so interested in the field and incorporates it into his coaching practices. You may want to look at Dr. Robin McConell's article in this issue for additional information on coaching the child athlete.

Miguel Humara

Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology: Line

Subj: Performance Anxiety in Team Sports
To: Insitemail
       Help! We need an immediate "fix," as we are midway into another volleyball season.
       This is the pattern that emerges. Our daughter plays both basketball and volleyball. She is a very good athlete, and usually starts the season off looking fantastic. Midway through both of these past few seasons, however, she'll have a bad game or two, which starts an immediate downward spiral for her. Though she is a talented athlete, she seems to tie up and muff passes, miss baskets, etc. (She also has a deathly fear of running the 400 meter in track, though I'm not sure that is related to the team sport scenario)
       Do you have any IMMEDIATE suggestions for self-help (pep talks from parents don't help--) that will help her to turn herself around and be able to help herself and her team? The only thing I know of that makes it even worse is if the coach chastises or scolds her--and I'm afraid that will be coming unless she can get a grip and move forward instead of backward. Thanks for any help you can suggest. Thanks for any suggestions. . .

Kay B

Dear Kay B,
       Although I can not provide an immediate fix, I do have a couple of ideas about what might be causing your obviously talented daughter to make these mistakes.
       First, as a behaviorist, I believe that there is always a benefit for any behavior that na individual displays (although this is not always obvious). For example, perhaps your daughter receives more attention when she plays badly then when she plays well. This is common among clinical populations. That is to say, the child who does not get attention from his parents for positive achievements will act out to get attention, even if it is negative attention.
       Second, as a cognitive therapist I would say that maybe her thinking style may be interfering with her performance. That is to say, maybe she gets down on herself and engages in what we call "all or none" thinking. More specifically, when she starts making mistakes she gets down on herself and feels that she is worthless and when she plays well she thinks that she is great. Many people do not see the fine shades that exist between extremes, particularly when they are talking about themselves. In this instance, assistance from a qualified therapist would be necessary to change her thinking styles and views of her performances.
       Finally, you mentioned that this tends to happen midway through the seasons. Perhaps its is fatigue that sets in and causes her to make these mistakes, almost like she is in cruise control or trying to take a rest. We all know the problems that can arise in athletics when proper form is lost. Perhaps increasing her rest periods or better cardiovascular training is the key.
       These answers are just off the top of my head with limited information and in order to more fully explore these issues meeting with a qualified sport psychologist would be necessary. Ifyou are interested in a referral feel free to write back. Hope these answers have been of some help.

Miguel Humara

We look forward to your comments and feedback.  Simply e-mail Athletic Insight.
Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology: Line Mental Health Net Award Winner
Copyright 2000 Athletic Insight, Inc.
ISSN 1536-0431