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10 Commandments of the Mentally Tough Player

by Dr. Robert Heller

  1. Thou Shall Not Overthink Between Points.

    Keep your mind clear and body relaxed. The 25 seconds between points is when "less is more." Avoid "paralysis by analysis." Develop a simple post-point routine and stick to it.

  2. Thou Shall Be Aware of the Score Without Caring About It.

    Notice the score without judging it or judging yourself. Your awareness of the score is useful in determining your strategy. Once you decide, forget about it! Only focus on the things you can control.

  3. Thou Shall Respect All Opponents But Fear None.

    Reputation and ranking are relative. On any given day there are many factors that can result in an unexpected outcome. Don't put your opponent or yourself on a pedestal. Do your best. Play your hardest. Good things will usually follow.

  4. Thou Shall Care Less What Others Think.

    Compete for and with yourself, not for your approval, attention or respect of others. In the final analysis it's what you think and not what your parents, couches, or peers think that really matter.

  5. Thou Shall Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative.

    Your thoughts create and maintain your mood, emotions and behaviors. Choose positive, motivating and encouraging self-talk and avoid being overly critical, negative or pessimistic.

  6. Thou Shall Learn From Mistakes.

    You are not perfect and mistakes are inevitable. Errors can point out what you need to work on and improve upon to get better. Those who "fear" mistakes are destined for mediocrity. Those with the courage to risk mistakes will likely succeeed the most in the long run.

  7. Thou Shall Move Swiftly.

    Always be alert, anticipate and be ready to move. Your first step is your opportunity to control a point or save one. Be agile. Stay loose. Move quickly toward the ball.

  8. Thou Shall Swing Freely.

    A soft hand and relaxed arm permits a free and accelerated swing that combines power with control. Be aware of tension in your muscles and release it between points.

  9. Thou Shall Be Tenacious and Persistent.

    Play your hardest on every point from the first until the last, regardless of the score or how well or poorly you are playing in the moment. Never give up. Never give in. The one thing you can control is your effort. Go for it!

  10. Thou Shall Play With Honor.

    There is no true victory in playing unfairly. True competition requires respecting and playing by the rules. Compete fairly, play honestly, and always do your best to experience the true meaning of winning.

Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist, sports psychology consultant and tennis teaching professional based in Boca Raton, Fla. He is the author, of the mental conditioning CD-Rom program, Tennis Mind. Send your comments and questions to him at and visit for free information on tennis psychology.

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