Unfortunately, it is rare that anyone goes into a tournament and plays their absolute best. Something is almost always off, and the road to winning is never easy. Playing poorly can be incredibly taxing mentally, and it is all too easy to throw in the towel and give up. It is in these situations that your child’s mental toughness will be tested and how they handle this pressure is what will determine how well they do in tournaments. Weak players will blame the fact that a shot is off and just let the chips fall where they may, good players try to find a way to play with what’s not working, but great players find a way to play around it. It is incredibly important that your child knows how to play through a match even when they are not at their best. Here are a few things your child can do to try and overcome these mentally tough situations.
Hit The Ball
When a shot stops working a lot of players will just push the ball back into play. Pushing is rarely the answer and will almost never work against a strong opponent. When your child pushes a shot (such as a forehand or backhand) it gives an opponent a target to hit to. The opponent can use this target to bail themselves out of tight spots and gain an advantage in a point. On top of that, if your kid keeps on just trying to get the ball in they might not be able to hit it harder when they need to, and this strategy will often lead to missing in big moments. While playing poorly a strategy like this should be an absolute last resort since it more often than not will lead to more frustration.
Your child should instead try to swing out on the ball. Despite how counter intuitive this might sound, it is the best strategy to get a shot to start working properly again. A lot of times a stroke is off because kids are tight and that tightness is what stops the shot from working. By swinging out, they can overcome the tightness and gain better use of the stroke throughout the match. Now swinging out does not mean trying to hit the ball as hard as they can. It means swinging freely and accepting the fact that they might miss a few balls before the stroke comes back. Swinging out will almost always bring a stroke back to its former glory. However, it can lead to mistakes, so it is not always the best or easiest strategy to use. If your child can’t seem to get the shot working and has missed a few too many shots, then they might just need to work around it.
Working Around a shot that’s not working
Sometimes the best course of action when playing poorly in a match is just not to hit a stroke that isn’t working. So if your kids backhand is off, then they should try to run around their backhand, avoid cross court rallies to their backhand, and do their best to hit as few backhands as possible. If their feet aren’t moving, they should do their best to shorten points by going for more when they have the opportunity and coming up to the net. If their volleys aren’t working, then they should put more on their approach shots (if they have to come to the net at all) so that they get an easier volley or none at all. If their serve is off, then they should hit second serves (with a little bit more power on them) as first serves to avoid double faults.
Each opponent will be different, and they might have to use different strategies to work around a shot for each one. Using different strategies means your child will have to experiment during a match. For instance, if running around their backhand to hit a forehand isn’t working well because their opponent is hitting winners down the line, then maybe they need to try hitting a slice approach and then come to net. Trying to figure out what strategy works best can be a daunting task, but if your child can do it, then they will be able to come out on top in any match.
Add Margin for Error
Sometimes a stroke is just a tiny bit off, and because of it, your child is missing a few more shots than they normally do. If this is the case, then they should try to add more margin for error into their shots. That means they should try to add more spin, hit the ball higher over the net, try to aim a little more inside the lines, and go for a little less on put away balls. By doing this, your child will make more balls giving them more chances to gain the advantage in a point and capitalize.
Figuring out how to overcome a shot that is not working to its full potential is a daunting task for anyone. What your child should do will be heavily dependent on the situation, but it will be much easier for them to handle if they have a few things they can try in their back pocket.