Habits for Tennis Success: Connect with the Why

October 17, 2016 10:24 AM

By Dr. Larry Lauer, special to USTA.com

The best tennis players separate themselves from the rest not solely because of talent, but because they have habits that lead to their success. It seems that world-class tennis players have a number of habits they do in their own individual ways but are similar to the 10 habits that we will break down in this series. The first habit is to “Connect with the Why.”

Habit 1: Connect with the “Why”

Performance psychologist, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and author Dr. Jim Loehr talks about connecting with the “why” to create motivation to train and compete. Simply stated, before embarking on a journey for success or triumph in tennis, a player must understand and answer the following:

  • Why play tennis?
  • Why be great at tennis?
  • Why play pro tennis?
  • Why get up every day and train extremely hard and endure pain?
  • Why am I doing this? For myself, for my parents, for the money, glory, rankings, etc.

Research informs us that sustained high levels of motivation emanate from intrinsic reasons for playing.

Intrinsic reasons are internal to the person, such as love of the game, wanting to see how good you can be, and so forth. Players that succeed at the highest levels are usually driven by intrinsic motives. They are certainly driven to achieve outcomes or extrinsic rewards such as winning tournaments and higher rankings, but these things become secondary to the internal reasons for playing.

Understanding why you play tennis is a fundamental question, and the answer that creates the lens through which you see yourself and your tennis.

The Example

Andre Agassi, since retiring, has talked often about hating the game of tennis. However, he found sustained excellence later in his tennis career when he found his intrinsic reasons for playing.

Starting a charity and launching a series charter schools not only allowed Agassi to have other fulfilling important roles in his life, but it also gave him perspective when he was on the court. Life was more than tennis, and his tennis was benefitting children. Motivating, indeed!

The motivation to train every day and chase greatness is only going to last if the reasons for playing inspire the player.

Take Action

Think about why you play. List the reasons and rank them in weight of importance. If external reasons such as winning, rankings or playing for your parents to be happy carry the most importance, it is essential to address this.

The motives for playing are at the core of your mindset, goals and how you will deal with winning and losing. The motives determine if you can focus on getting better and the process, as well as being coachable when things are not going well or adjustments need to be made.