Sports Parenting

Don’t Let the Bogeyman Win

With his permission, below is a reprint of a recent article written by professional tennis coach and mindset expert, David Sammel. We will be reprinting additional articles from David over the coming months. Please be sure to visit his website, Mindset College, for more information on David and his offerings. You can also download David’s FREE 4-Step Reset Guide at

A young tennis player is preparing to go head-to-head with an opponent. 

They’ve performed well in training the past few weeks. And they feel good about their chances of winning. But then they start looking up their opponent’s record and they see some impressive wins. They also notice they’re higher up in the rankings and have maybe even bagged a recent tournament win. Suddenly, there’s a shift in how they feel about the match.  

Because they start to envision an opponent who’s fitter, stronger, faster. Close to unbeatable. A veritable “bogeyman” that’s invented in their own mind. And they do all this before a ball has even been struck on-court.  

Does this sound familiar to you? 

Of course it does. Because this overestimation of opponents based on their rankings and results is something I’ve observed many times in my years of coaching. And it’s something I endeavour to prevent players from ever doing.  

Because there are two big problems with overestimating your opponent. Firstly, it creates a self-defeating mindset. Because by turning the opponent into a virtually unbeatable bogeyman, players place themselves in the underdog position before the game even begins. And they believe they’ll have to pull out all the stops. Maybe even perform a tennis miracle. Just to stay in the game. 

Secondly, it assumes that players perform at a consistent level every day, which simply isn’t true. Everyone, from amateurs to top professionals, have off days and on days. Tennis isn’t about consistent performance. It’s about coping with and exploiting the fluctuations in form your opponent has.

Now, I’m sure you’re already aware of how counterproductive this type of thinking is. But the question is, how can we combat it?  

Here’s four things that your children should know to put them back on the right track: 

1) Stop Making Assumptions: Don’t allow rankings and past results to dictate your mindset going into a match. 

2) Stop Projecting a Result: Let go of preconceived notions about the outcome and be ready to give it everything. 

3) Focus on Your Game: Concentrate on the skills, tactics, and strategies you’re bringing to the court. 

4) Be Curious: See each match as a unique opportunity to gauge your game against any player on any given day. 

Now of course, teaching these steps are easier said than done. But they’re the keys to a strong mindset that can handle any opponent. No matter how many tournaments they might have won or how high their ranking is. 

And what this means for your children is that they can get closer to their potential, have better performances, and above all, enjoy their tennis.

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