As in every sport at any level and at any age, there are peaks and valleys throughout the year. How we come out the other side victoriously largely depends on the determination to self improve and the perception we give it.
When performers are at their peak, everything seems to flow effortlessly. Smooth and easy. But in the face of mental challenges, everything touched goes to dust. The world looks gloomy. Optimism is out the window. Nothing is enjoyable. And often times, the mental barriers are self-induced.
Take pressure for example. We all know pressure is self-induced. It's a figment of one's imagination. The one pressure that I see often in juniors is when playing against a younger opponent. Somehow, somewhere, the older player goes into this sheer terror in their mind and ends up playing their worst tennis.
I recently had this conversation with a player. Despite having made great strides in her tennis development, she felt a lot of anxieties against her next younger opponent. So, I asked her this question: What is heavier, one pound of bricks or one pound of feathers? Looking at me like I just grew horns on my head, she replied with absolute confidence; bricks. Chuckling, I told her it was equal. It doesn't matter what you put on that scale, one pound is one pound. Her younger opponent has the same opportunity to create one pound of pressure just as she has the opportunity to create one pound of pressure. Therefore, the one pound of pressure is irrelevant. The pressure in itself is irrelevant to her tennis. So, I rephrased my question: who has more pressure now? The one pound of pressure from her younger opponent or the one pound of pressure from her, the older one? With renewed assurance, she played a solid match. Did what she had to do and moved on. Lesson learned.
What amazes me was that this child is super smart academically but the stress of competing against a younger opponent fogged her judgment and inflicted an imaginary problem. While the question I asked her was simple, some time simple is better.
The route to performing well encounters a lot of twists and turns. It is not a linear path. We must be able to personalize each situation as it comes with simplicity. The simpler, the better.