On a regular basis, athletes are required to study, practice, compete, and train with great effort and concentration to fulfill their potential. Rarely do we take time to think about how developing and understanding our character traits influence performances on the court.
Parents, teachers, coaches, and the player’s environment shape these traits.
Motivation – The “fire in one’s belly” is the most important characteristic at the start of any endeavor. When players say they are “burned out” – my reply is always that they were never really “on fire.”
Commitment – Few will argue that being a successful tennis player requires a player to commit to hard work and intense concentration. At times the journey towards excellence requires sacrifices and difficult choices. A player of high commitment and discipline often “takes the road less traveled” understanding that it will ultimately lead to personal success.
Responsibility – Great athletes understand that their successes and failures on the playing field are their own doing. While coaches, other players, and family all play a valuable role in training and competition, the successful player takes personal responsibility for development. This could be something as simple as making sure enough rackets are well-strung and re-gripped for matches, to something as challenging as admitting when one falls short of a goal.
Discipline – The ability to do something even though we don’t want to is a massively important character trait. The big D is undoubtedly one of the most important characteristics in the age of immediate self-gratification.
Truthfulness – Honest self-evaluation will give you the opportunity to improve your skills and not just fool yourself in believing you are training hard. Furthermore, a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to prepare the best game plan possible. Honesty is also important in competition. The stress of competition and a strong motivation to win often tempts a player to behave without sportsmanship. Restraining from such behavior will give you strength and confidence in your skills to succeed in future matches.
Delayed Gratification – In today’s quick fix/quick result mentality this has probably to be one of the most important character traits of our time. The ability to grow and make changes and take the losses early on for the good of the end result is enormous.
Self-Confidence – Deep seated self-confidence in one’s abilities is crucial at the critical moments in an athletes career. Without this, the athlete may come close but never quite breakthrough. “Underdogs come close, but they never win” is a very true statement as they do not yet have the self-belief to break through the pecking order.
Self-Reliance – In sports and especially in tennis the ability to dig deep and have the belief in one’s capabilities. You are your own coach on the court the ability to make good decisions and rely on your own good judgment is critical.
Self-Control – Tennis is the most difficult game in the world – requiring strong physical, mental and emotional skills. Without the emotional skills to deal with the tremendous amount of stress tennis places on players, top performance is not achievable.
Courage – The quote – “For the brave nothing is too difficult” is highly relevant for tennis. At times players have to take risks and be aggressive and without this trait, it cannot happen.
How many of these traits do you possess? It is important to your success that you work on those traits that you might not display as often as you should.
The connection between character and performance is often forgotten. In a time of trash-talking, the foundation of excellence is sometimes overlooked.