How to Control Your Anger on the Court

He was a brilliant young man. His father had gotten a Ph.D. from Berkeley in philosophy (I believe), was a very successful businessman in Paris, and his mother was classy and bright too.

Charles had inherited all this and was scary smart. He could hardly speak English when he arrived (at least I could barely understand him), but he had somehow managed to pass the language and entrance exams. He never slept; he never studied; and he got A's in most of his classes. I was mystified as to how he did it.

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But on the tennis court he had a very short fuse. Despite his extraordinary physical abilities, he was prone to become wildly agitated if he was playing worse than he thought he should.

I could never seem to convince him that he was human, not a machine, and that his game was subject to variability.

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I remember him coming off the court after what he considered a terrible performance and muttering things like, "I could not hit ze ball in ze court!" "I cannot play zis game!" "I only miss, miss, miss!" "I must quit and play ozer game!"

He was sputtering around with his broken English and funny accent, and it was hard to take it seriously. (Some players get dark and ugly when they lose, and there is nothing funny about being around them.

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Charles, on the other hand, was a lovely guy and a good soul. Everyone liked him, and his frustrated grousing was vaguely comical.)

I couldn't resist. So I said to him, "Charles, I have the solution to your problem of making too many mistakes. It's simple. The next time you play a match, go out there and don't miss anymore!"

For a moment he just stared at me quizzically, thinking I was crazy. Then he understood.

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I said, "That's right, Charles. You can't possibly do that. You make mistakes because you can't help it! Accept the fact that no matter what you do, you will always make mistakes. And the sooner you stop getting upset about something that you can't help, the better off you will be."

I don't know if it was this little talk or whether Charles simply figured it out for himself, but he got better control of himself and ended up as the No. 1 player on the Pepperdine team and one of the best college players in the country.

The last I heard, he was running a huge tennis academy in France, one of the largest in Europe.

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About the Author

Allen Fox, Ph.D.

Allen Fox, Ph.D., is a former NCAA champion, Wimbledon quarterfinalist and a three-time member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Dr. Fox currently lectures on sports psychology and is the author of several books, including?Tennis: Winning the Mental Match?and?The Winner's Mind.
Allen Fox, Ph.D., is a former NCAA champion, Wimbledon quarterfinalist and a three-time member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Dr. Fox currently lectures on sports psychology and is the author of several books, including?Tennis: Winning the Mental Match?and?The Winner's Mind.

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