Tennis Mental Training (With Jelena Dokic)Jul 06, 2020
Unbreakable - Have you read the book? The tennis journey of Jelena Dokic.
What an amazing read.
We had the privilege of interviewing Jelena recently for our blog series
“In the Mind of a Tennis Champion”
The insight Jelena gave us into her tennis journey was both inspiring and unsettling.
After listening back to the interview and having read her book, we realized how much she had endured and how resilient she had become. Jelena copped years of physical and emotional abuse from her father, centered around her tennis and her success on the court.
Imagine playing a match and knowing if you lost it you would cop a flogging when you walked into your hotel room, by the person who should be actually stopping someone from flogging you.
Putting up with this for years on end and on top of it dealing with the pressures and demands of being a top tennis pro. Reaching number 4 in the world whilst all this was going, it was a herculean effort, seriously.
Tennis Mental Training with Jelena Dokic
Jelena's story unfortunately is not uncommon in the world we live in, but hopefully players in the game these days are spared from this level of personal abuse. All we can do is hope that by people like Jelena speaking out and becoming advocates against domestic violence that it creates change and helps develop courage for those who need to get help.
Jelena showed true courage to step up and write the book, absolute vulnerability. We discuss this in the podcast and as she mentions, it was extremely conflicting, knowing she was going to help others by speaking out but also scared about exposing her personal pain.
Having the ability to absorb pain whether that be physical or emotional and get on with things day to day, is really what it takes to get through hardships, but also keep moving forward. It is bloody tough as most of us can also agree with.
Every pro player and most players globally at some stage of their careers (some on multiple occasions) have to endure lengthy periods of pain and suffering, this is called “life” whether it be a personal setback an injury, or mental health, most of the time it feels like it is not fair and most of the time it isn’t.
But I am sure you have heard it before, it is how we react in these moments that determines how quickly we turn things around. I believe resilience is a skill. It can be developed and fortified over time and the more of it we get, the more it sticks around.
Here is the catch. To get it, we need to be willing to get “Comfortable being uncomfortable” and most of us, we don’t like going there often. Truth be told, I get my biggest gains in life when I really challenge myself, I love being uncomfortable, whether it be doing something I am fearful of doing, but I know I need to do (I try not to procrastinate, cannot stand it) or physically pushing myself.
I tell myself this is where the magic is and I often feel I have nothing to lose. Whether I succeed or not, it is often life-changing in some positive way.
Another key point on building resilience is having the capacity to “absorb” I often tell young players when they are hurting after a drill “absorb it and learn to appreciate the feeling, you earnt it” I find having that relationship with physical pain from training (not an injury) is super important to achieve big breakthroughs in a player’s career, once again this is a skill that needs to be practiced.
Imagine turning your physical pain during your tennis training and after it into a positive sense of respect for what you have achieved. The gains that come with it later often reinforce the fact that the pain is temporary but how we utilize the gains could be for life.
I have lots of strategies I use to build a player’s resilience and ability to absorb pain. I highly recommend treating each player as an individual in this space though, some players you can go at hard, others are slow burners, too much too quickly, you will lose them.
A key point to always remember when you are hurting, doing it tough, stuck in a rut, etc.
Is “focus on where you are going, what you want, what is important to you”.
If you don’t have the focus or you lose it, you may well be stuck for a while or someone will have to step in and bail you out, which is ok at times but we don’t want to be relying on people (parents, tennis coaches, tennis trainers and friends) all of our lives especially dealing with situations we have taken on ourselves, not a great character-building practice.
Our focus will often get us out of hardship, no matter what it is. Focus allows us to have a target, it creates motivation to change or keep going to get through tough situations. When we are focused on what we want our self-talk is often positive and clear.
Using self-talk like “Let's go, this won’t last, I know where I’m going, I ain't staying here, this is temporary” always helps us to deal with and push through challenges. Having the capacity to focus through hardship is a skill that really can only be honed through placing ourselves in or having to deal with challenging situations.
This is what Jelena had to do for a large part of her life, she dealt with challenges at a young age outside of her control. Every day she got up and stayed focused on her goal of being the best player should. That should be a lesson for us all.
When we think we have it bad, there is always someone doing it worse than us. Look ahead and work out a plan to get yourself there. No matter where you are now, you can always get where you want to go. Most of the time we need people to help us chart the course. Chose them wisely and look for people that have your wellness and happiness at the forefront of their thoughts.
Let’s commit to working on our resilience and focus – Forever
Please get your hands on Jelena’s book and check out her podcast interview with us.
Listen to Tennis Podcast Here
Honestly, we should all be inspired by her tennis career and courage to remain focused and build resilience through the most challenging adversity.
If you yourself are subject to abuse or you know of anyone being abused, take courage from Jelena and reach out to the appropriate people for help and support.
Here is support link within Australia