At a tennis lesson two weeks ago, the coach gave us a little talk about the importance of positive self talk while on the court. Even the best in the world are not immune to those moments when flubbing an easy shot sparks a spiral of verbal negativity. My critical self commentary has cost me games and, more importantly, ruined my enjoyment of a fun time.
“Write a list of positive, helpful comments to say out loud and get you back on your game,” the coach advised. “Choose a physical action to shake you out of it!”
Several days later, I was in the middle of the best games of my life when my serve started to fall apart.
Ball goes into the net: “Come on, Kristene.”
Ball goes long: “What’s wrong with you?”
Ball goes wide: “KRISTENE! Get it together!”
This is usually the point where I really fall apart, where my inner critic kicks me in the gut and destroys all hope of finishing with a smile.
But now I had the coach’s words of wisdom in my head.
Silently: You can bounce back from this!
I turned all of my focus to the ball in my hand.
I bounced the ball once, twice, three times, letting go of everything else. I watched the ball in motion the way a patient might stare at a hypnotist’s swinging watch. And each time, out loud, I said the word…
I tossed the ball high, bent back, cocked my racquet and then let it fly.
Ball goes perfectly where I wanted it to: “Bounce back!”
I finished strong and my partner and I won the match.
This is my new ritual. Sometimes if you say the words enough you can believe them.
I can bounce back.