Serena Williams almost had a tennis season for the ages. In September, she came within two matches of winning the calendar grand slam for 2015. Williams won the first three majors, but lost in the semi-finals at the U.S. Open. Although disappointing, Williams has had a fabulous year, as well as an amazing career.
When you look at Serena Williams, you see an amazing-looking athlete. She is extremely fit and muscular. She regularly out-powers her opponents, and according to most experts, Williams has the greatest serve of all time.
Underappreciated, however, is her supreme mental toughness. And one of her key mental toughness weapons is her positive self-talk. A wonderful example of her self-talk process happened when Williams was playing doubles with her sister Venus Williams. They have won 21 titles together, but on this afternoon, they were losing decisively. They needed to grind it out to win this match, but Venus was not particularly focused and looked despondent about their chances of winning.
Usually during a changeover, the sisters talked about anything from movies to shopping, but during this changeover, Serena gave her older sister an earful. She said, “Listen, I don’t care what you do on your side of the court, but I’m not going to miss on my side. We will not lose this match.”
Then Serena went on to say, “Look, Venus, no matter how you feel about your game, you have to show up at the court, right? You have a choice about whether you want to compete well or compete badly. I’m going to make the choice to compete well. Why don’t you do that, too!”
All champions use positive self-talk. All successful golfers use self-talk. They routinely pump themselves up with the right words at the right time. Serena Williams talks herself and everyone around her into a winning mentality. Here are two key methods to help your students talk themselves into becoming a champion on the course:
1. Develop a Best Friend’s Journal. Get a small notebook and call it your best friend’s journal. At the start of every day, write one positive self-statement like:
- I will have great confidence today.
- I will have great energy today.
- I will focus well today.
- I will have a great attitude today.
But do more than just write one positive statement. Reread them over and over again. Then, when the pressure hits, your habit will be to talk yourself into greatness — just like Serena.
2. Snap out of it. Get a rubber band and wrap it around your wrist. Every time you say something negative, snap it. Then replace the negative thought with a positive self-statement. Over time, you will find your negativity diminishes while your positivity increases. You can keep wearing the rubber band for a fashion statement, if you wish.
There is a reason why greatness happens. And it all starts with positive self-talk.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. He is the sports psychologist for the USGTF. He is the author of the golf psychology book MentalRules for Golf, as well as the Washington Post bestselling business book Full Throttle. Steinberg speaks about emotional toughness to Fortune 500 companies, as well as coaching business executives to develop greater confidence and creativity. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and visit www.drgreggsteinberg.com.
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