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November 1, 2010
Is Positive Thinking Getting You Down?


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Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION.  Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics.  Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001

Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
Is Positive Thinking Getting You Down?

Do you have to think perfect, positive thoughts every moment you are on the tennis court? No, you do not! If a few negative thoughts penetrate your mind, don't panic! Negative thinking can be beneficial. Does this sound like the opposite of everything you have read or been taught? Let me explain.

Acknowledging a negative is not negative thinking. The problem begins when you allow that negative to affect your mental attitude. You must make a distinction between having a negative thought and letting that negative thought control you. There is a difference.

You are playing a tough, close match. Eventually you begin to think, "My opponents are too good." Once you recognize and acknowledge this thought, you have two choices. You can give up, or you can keep plugging, try different strategies and fight to the finish. If you choose to give up, then you are wallowing in negative thinking. But just to recognize the negative is not negative thinking.

You are human and you will have negative thoughts. Some of those thoughts will be objective, where you are just recognizing a negative situation. Other negative thoughts will be subjective, where every failure becomes an emotional event. Either way you cannot develop the habit of panicking every time you think something negative. Remind yourself that what you think next will determine if you have a negative mental attitude. Do NOT let the negative affect your overall mental attitude.

Do the top pros think negatives? You bet they do. I remember in an interview after one of Nadal's losses he said that he was playing terribly, hitting too many balls short (acknowledging the negatives), but he just kept plugging and performing the best he could (staying positive).

Do you recall the classic 2009 Wimbledon finals between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick? What a fantastic match, with both players firing on all cylinders for five tough sets. Federer won 16-14 in the fifth set. I watched that match and thought Roger and Andy both played outstanding tennis, but I did not realize Roger's concerns until the interview afterward.

Roger said that throughout the match he never felt in control (a negative), but he had to hang in there (staying positive). After I heard this interview I thought how odd it was that we could not see that Federer was concerned about not being in control. He kept his poise while facing the negative. And for Roger that must have been a challenging negative to overcome because for years Roger has always been the player in control. It was a new experience for him!

In other interviews you hear pros say they were too emotional (negative), and that they have to work on this area (staying positive). The pros think negatively and yet are the best in the world!

It is just not realistic and often can be detrimental to over-think staying positive. For instance, you read all the positive thinking tips on how to think and be positive on the court. So in your next match, you decide "no negative thinking." Sounds like a winner! You begin the match by picking on the player's backhand (often a good strategy), but you keep losing points. You tell yourself, "No negative thinking, just put blinders on and keep playing." You refuse to let any negative into your mind about that match. You end up losing the match, but finish happy as a lark because you did manage to stay positive. You sit down relaxed and content. Until the person next to you leans over and inquires, "Say, did you know that your opponent was left handed and you kept hitting to his forehand?" Oops! An objective evaluation of your negatives would have helped in this situation.

Stop thinking you always have to think perfect, positive thoughts. Acknowledging negatives is NOT negative thinking. It is when you let the negative affect your mental attitude that an attitude adjustment is highly recommended! Negatives in match play are inevitable but a poor mental attitude is always optional.

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano



Hello Tom,

Your articles are so inspiring, I loved the one "The Freedom to Go for Your Shots." I think it means that we must not worry about winning or losing, but we must only worry in playing our best. Even if we lose, the feeling is so much different. We think "I gave my best", is so different from thinking "I could have given my best." Yes, professional players have to go for their shots because they don't know how to play other way. They are strong psychologically in order to do it. That's the difference between professional and non-professional level, non-professional players accommodate many times because they don't have a strong psychological basis in order to go for their shots.

When I go to a match, I don't care if I'll win or lose, I want to play my best and have a good time on the court. I always like to learn something with each game I play, and I only learn something positive if I go for my shots and play without fear of failure. My favorite player is John McEnroe, I think he's such a good example of going for his shots having nothing to lose. Thank God he's like that, otherwise we wouldn't see some great shots he produced that made me so many times almost go into tears.

Thanks Tom for your articles and way of thinking, I think you take such an enormous pressure out of tennis player's shoulders.

Lisbon, Portugal


ADDENDUM:  I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email.  Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy.  These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips.  They all fit together into a system.  A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.

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