What I Learned From Coaching
The Israeli Davis Cup Team
At The San Jose-Sybase ATP Pro Tennis
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Did you know that even top international tennis stars suffer
from lapses of confidence, moments of self-doubt and downright
frustration about their games? Even these pros are not immune
from the mental maladies we all face daily on the courts.
They have their mental gremlins too. They appear to be superhuman,
but they too need to work hard on ironing out the kinks in
their mental games.
At last month's San Jose Sybase ATP Tennis Tour® Championships,
I was asked to be the Sport Psychology Consultant to the Israeli
Davis Cup Team. I worked on their mental games and on their
stroke, footwork and physical technique also, as it related
to building a stronger mental game and performing closer to
their potential under the tremendous pressures of international
Let's see what lessons these world-ranked ATP® Tennis Pros
can give us about building and maintaining strong mental games.
First, let me introduce part of the team to you.
The National Coach of Israel and the Israeli Davis Cup Coach,
Oded Jacob conferred with me about the psychological
needs of each player and of the team as a whole. We determined
that mental training is an absolute daily necessity for players
of world-class caliber. Harel Levy, 20, who defeated
U.S. Open Finalist and #17 ATP-ranked Cedric Pioline
in three sets in this year's Davis Cup Tie with France in
Tel Aviv, is a hard-working member of the team. He is focusing
on staying aggressive when in the lead and in continually
going for strong shots by keeping his confidence high through
the entire match.
He lost in 3 sets to eventual quarter-finalist German Davis
Cupper Bernd Karbacher in 3 hard-fought sets.
Kobi Ziv, 19, who was recently ranked #6 in the World
ITF Juniors, took the finalist of the Sybase, Cecil Mamiit,
to 3 sets in the final round of qualifying. He is working
on staying relaxed and focused through an entire match.
Lior Mor, 22, who took South African Davis Cupper Grant
Stafford to 3 sets in the qualifying rounds, is working
on maintaining his ability to generate and maintain the killer
instinct and finish off a match.
Mental Toughness Factors
One would think that since each young person in Israel serves
an automatic three years in the Israeli Army, mental toughness
would be a given. Mental toughness is partly borne from superb
physical conditioning and discipline, but there is more that
makes a champion. Here are some of those factors:
- A deep desire to succeed.
- Disciplined thinking.
- Daily mental training habits.
- The ability to focus for long periods.
- The will to win under adversity.
- The ability to tolerate uncertainty of outcome.
- Deep faith in one's abilities.
- The ability to relax on command.
- A positive mental outlook.
- Viewing trouble as a challenge.
- The ability to be objective about oneself.
- The ability to learn and accept coaching.
- The ability to click onto autopilot.
- The ability to take the long view in training.
- Having high energy and enthusiasm.
- The will to make practice as rigorous as competition.
- The killer instinct with no guilt or hesitation.
- The ability to raise one's game when needed.
Mental Toughness Lessons Learned
What can we learn from The Israeli Davis Cup Team's journey
into the mental game?
1. Hard work breeds confidence and the feeling that you deserve
to win because you've paid your dues and it's time to collect.
2. There is no substitute for excellence in technique. A positive
attitude will not overcome technical deficits. With poor technique
you will only be a happy loser.
3. Maintaining a professional attitude in all phases of training,
practice and match play helps you sharpen focus, be a better
sportsperson and play to your potential.
4. Playing with passion and remembering to have fun in this
game will increase your enjoyment and your performance levels.
6. Thinking and acting like a team player helps each other
out, reduces personal pressure, and makes the game more meaningful.
7. They are playing tennis as their profession. We play it
for fun, recreation, exercise, sociability and other reasons.
We need to keep the reasons we play in mind.
This was a rewarding experience helping these young professional
athletes. It seems I bonded with the players and coach. They
asked me to travel to Israel sometime soon to further train
the Davis Cup Team, and to train the Israeli National Coaches
in my Mental Game System.
I hope your mental game benefits from the lessons they learned.
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2000, 2008 All rights
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
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 https://www.mentalgamecoach.com/Assessments/MentalGameOfSports.html.
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
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 www.MentalGameCoach.com.
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