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The "Threat" vs. "Challenge" State of Mind to Help Match Performance

May 14, 2017

The book, "Top Dog" by Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson has shined some light on how we can compete in a better frame of mind. It can be summed up with a "threat" vs "challenge" perspective of the athletic event. Let's look at some intriguing soccer stats to put it in perspective.

According to the statistics from the professional soccer league, MLS, a player kicking a penalty kick has a 92% chance of kicking it in. This makes sense as the odds are stacked heavily in favor of the kicker. But get this. The same kick but a different situation makes the odds of kicking drop dramatically. If a soccer player who only stands to keep his side alive if he makes the kick - and will lose if he misses - does just that (misses) 62% of the time!

What Does This Mean?

a soccer player who can win the game if he makes a penalty kick (and not lose it) is in a challenge situation. But a soccer player who can only try to keep the team alive (and will lose if he misses it) is in a threat situation. Same kick, different mindset. The challenge perspective put the player in a state of mind where he/she has a situation that they feel they have the opportunity to succeed while a threat perspective makes the player think that they have nothing to gain but everything to lose. This can be disastrous for your tennis game!

When This Happens and What To Do

Matches that we are "expected to win" can allow for a threat perspective. Try to look at those matches in a different frame of mind where you are viewing that match as a challenge to play hard while having the right attitude throughout the competition. We tend to be hesitant and play to "not lose" when we feel we have nothing to gain so try to add a challenge in their for you to focus on. For example, instead of focusing on not losing (or hopefully, winning), challenge yourself to not make an error on your backhand side or getting 3 out 4 of your first serves in. This can help keep you from focusing too much on the score rather than your effort and what you can control. Remember, you're hitting the same ball with the same racquet on a court of the same dimensions every time you play :)

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