For those that have been playing tennis for a number of years, it's no surprise that the most help needed in improving one's game is between the ears. This blog is going to focus on the aspect of "learned helplessness." Instead of going into great details of the past psychological experiments and meaning in a broad sense, I want to relate it to tennis as I've seen it so many times as a coach.
Learned helplessness on the tennis court can be equated to using past negative results to perceive helplessness. For example, if someone double faults and then uses that result as a way to justify that there is no way they cannot get their serve in. Another example would be telling yourself it's just not your day when you are misfiring on your favorite shot, conceding defeat. It's meaning is rather simple but the consequences can go rather far and make it hard to undo. This has been seen in many sports. For example, the "Super Bowl hangover" where NFL teams rarely make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl has been a thought process many teams embrace to give them a reason to lose and not try hard. It can be very detriment to your game.
Here's an easy test to see if you have evidence of learned helplessness in your game. Do you go for Plan A and if it doesn't work, go for Plan B and if that doesn't work, you lose? This to me is learned helplessness. Instead of trying serve and volleying, moon balling, angled ground strokes, drop shots and lobs, etc, a player tries only one or two strategies and then throws up their hands to say "too good!" Another test is to see how well you're feeling the day of your practice of match. If you're tired, what are you doing to get yourself in the best attitude before you step on the tennis court? Or are you going to blame your tiredness for your lack of effort? As you can see, this learned helplessness attitude can be seen in every aspect of one's game. Make sure you try to do your best to make the most out of your situation so that you can automate a much more appropriate response to tough situations.
If this subject interests you, here's a scholarly article on this subject that is related directly to tennis.
Want to tame that wild forehand of yours? Check out this video!