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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Tennis


Winning The Mental Game At The U.S. Open

Handle These Seven Peak Performance Myths To Improve
Your Performance -- In Sports, Business and Life

Bill Cole, MS, MA

I know we all watch the U.S. Open with great excitement. We wonder how these top tennis stars can hold up to the pressure week in and week out, and more so, how do they maintain mental toughness in the Grand Slams? I hope to provide you with some tips about how they live up to their reputations as peak performers, and how you can use these mental strategies to help your own game.

In September 2001 I was coaching at the U.S. Open as the Sport Psychology Advisor to the Israeli Davis Cup Team, and I want to share some insights I learned being around the world's best tennis players. The top player on our team was Harel Levy. When I went to Wimbledon with him in June, he entered that event with a world ranking of #30 and had the week before defeated Andy Roddick at Nottingham to get to the finals, only to lose to Johannsen in a tough match.

Top performers are so fine-tuned in their disciplines that they have seen all the traps, pitfalls and blind alleys about performing, and have devised methods to overcome them to be able to sustain high levels of performance under most adverse conditions. To improve your performance abilities, you need to recognize, understand, and be able to avoid these myths surrounding performance.

Why are these myths dangerous? If you don't handle them, they will creep into your performances and sabotage you. And you may not even know that's happening.

I've been helping people reach more of their potential for the past 30 years as a mental game peak performance coach. Here I teach you the very same mental success approaches I use with these top collegiate and professional athletes. The secret lies in having powerful, tested mental game peak performance strategies at your disposal. What your mind believes you will achieve.

Learn to avoid these seven peak performance myths and you will immediately see your performances soar.

1. MYTH -- An All-Out Performance And Total Effort Is Required. Some people think if 100% effort is good, then a 110% or a 150% effort must be far better. Peak performers know that there is an optimal level of effort for every activity in a given performance.

Mental Tip -- Through practice, find your optimal levels of effort and avoid trying too hard. Be efficient by targeting just the perfect level of effort and motivation in your performances.

2. MYTH -- You Can Make A Top Performance Happen On Command. In watching a top athlete or musician perform, does it look like they can force a good performance to occur, even if they are having an off day? Sometimes a bad day can be saved by extra focus, preparation or mental strategies, but rarely does forcing a performance work.

Mental Tip -- Allow your best performances to emerge from superior preparation, from focusing rituals built into your performances and from trusting yourself to do what you know how to do.

3. MYTH -- Only Many Years Of Training Will Lead To Peak Performances. Anyone can achieve a peak performance following the laws of performance psychology. But the more experience you have, the easier it is to bring forth your best efforts.

Mental Tip -- Have faith in yourself, while still preparing solidly, and you will be able to muster your best under pressure.

4. MYTH -- A Peak Performance Is Just A State Of Hypnosis. You enter a specific, non-ordinary mental state when you are performing. Call it self-hypnosis if you want, but there is nothing mysterious about it.

Mental Tip -- Get into the zone for your best performances. You are in the zone when you have a calm mental state, pure focus, relaxation, your mind is in the here and now and you are allowing your performance to happen.

5. MYTH -- Peak Performances Can Only Be Achieved By People With Special Mental Powers. Anyone can turn in a peak performance, and anyone can develop the mental powers needed to do so consistently. You can learn what you need to know to perform your best.

Mental Tip -- Study top performers in your field and see what makes them tick. Ask them what it was they did to develop those powers.

6. MYTH -- A Peak Performance In Sport Is Different Than One In Business. Once you achieve a peak performance in anything, you have experienced the zone. The zone is a state of mind and body that envelopes you when you perform to your potential. You can use your zone skills in any performance arena.

Mental Tip -- Learn from every discipline you can, to transfer those performance skills across all performance venues.

7. MYTH -- Once In The Zone, You Can Sustain A Peak Performance By Sheer Will Power. It seems like good performing is all about having strong will power, but it's not. That can be part of it, when you have solid mental discipline, but that's not all of it.

Mental Tip -- Use your will power for self-discipline in your training and for controlling your mind in a performance. Then learn to simultaneously let go once in the performance so you can attract the powers of the zone, and allow them to take over.

What is the US Open in your life? What are the Grand Slam events you face every day? You can now face these performance myths head on and reach more of your potential.

You can do this in your business, your sport or your life. Dash those nasty myths and forge ahead to greatness!

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2001, 2007 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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