Understanding and Managing the Delicate Balance of Trust and Performance on the Tennis Court

by Federico Coppini

Every tennis player, coach, or enthusiast knows that confidence is key. But there's an interesting phenomenon in this generation of players: After a gruelling 2-hour basket and rally training, the diabolical word is mentioned: POINTS.

Suddenly, every player on the court begins to play at stratospheric speed, a pace where making correct decisions becomes nearly impossible. Then, when the points are done, they say, "I have no confidence in my shots." So, what really is confidence in tennis? Is it possible to lose it? In a practical sense, yes, but from my point of view, losing confidence is more of a self-management and self-awareness problem than a reality in itself.

Discussing confidence in a simple way is quite a challenge, given the number of variables that influence it and the assumptions surrounding it. It's crucial to 'clean up' the concept of CONFIDENCE, redefine it, and start to understand it better.

Etymologically speaking, confidence is derived from the Latin word 'confidere', meaning 'with faith.' So, acting with confidence essentially means acting with faith. According to the dictionary, CONFIDENCE is a "firm hope that a person has that something will happen, be, or function in a certain way." There's another often-overlooked concept that needs consideration: RELIABILITY.

Even though it shares the same etymological roots, reliability is understood as a skill we handle almost to perfection. For example, we are reliable when we walk; we're almost 100% certain we won't collapse. Hence, RELIABILITY could also be referred to as CONSISTENCY.

With this knowledge, it's essential to distinguish: RELIABILITY presumes almost perfect mastery of the action, with minimal and manageable errors. CONFIDENCE, on the other hand, is an act of faith beyond the reliability zone, based on a SENSE OF POSSIBILITY, leading us into an area where we begin to lose 'total' control of the variables.

While RELIABILITY assumes a result with high certainty, CONFIDENCE anticipates the action's outcome. In a strange way, CONFIDENCE CONNECTS us to the future. In tennis, many times during training, we feel capable of hitting the ball very fast and think this is how we can play.

But quite often, tennis players try to play beyond their possibilities, resulting in a high risk of disconnecting from confidence, as it isn't within the reliability zone. The strength of this connection depends on many things, all manageable.

The challenging part of managing confidence is ACCEPTANCE, and to accept, we must first LISTEN to what our body, our shots are telling us. Emotions and sensations are the alarm systems our bodies have, which we often ignore.

We're not connected with our bodies; we only pay attention when it's already at its limit. I have no doubt that the next step in training is emotional training, the ability to listen to the body before emotions take control of the situation. The journey to improved confidence in tennis is one of introspection, practice, and self-awareness.