Now that our local tournament, the Fox Chapel Junior Open, is over I thought It would be a good time to discuss how a player should deal with losses. First, it is important to have a little dose of reality and realize that in a tournament no matter how you slice it eventually there is only one player who does not suffer a loss. In tennis you are going to lose a lot and it is important to develop the right attitude in dealing with losses.
The first step is in how you approach tournaments to begin with. Certainly a player should prepare and enter the tournament looking to do their absolute best. However, players at the junior level should focus on the process of improving over everything else. The moment a player starts worrying about wins, losses, and their ranking above consistently improving is the exact moment they stop improving. The approach absolutely has to be about the process versus the product. With that in mind the tournament can be thought of as an assessment. It is an opportunity to test out their skills. Wins are passing the test and should be used to build confidence. Losses on the other hand are a learning opportunity and should be used to discover where a player needs to focus their efforts to continue improving. Blowing off a loss and not learning from it is a big mistake. It is critical that once the emotion of the loss wears off a player revisits it, learns from it, and then takes that information back to the practice court. It is a necessary step to feed into the cycle of improvement.
A tournament can be looked at as an assessment. In school an assessment or test is used to see where a student is lacking understanding so the teacher knows where to best focus their efforts. The teacher then gives another assessment to see if their efforts paid off. A trainer assesses a client’s fitness level, designs programming to elicit adaptation, and then reassess to see if the program worked. I think you are getting my point here…
To wrap this all up, junior players should focus first and foremost on the process of improvement over the product of wins and losses. Wins should build confidence and confirm their efforts in training are paying off. Losses should be used to identify weaknesses and then training designed to improve in those areas. Areas of improvement can vary from conditioning, technical stroke work, shot-selection, routines between points, and so much more. One of the best ways to really dig into learning from a loss is by charting specific aspects of a match but that is for a whole other blog post.