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How To Manage and Enjoy The Stress of Competition

Published: 2022-02-02
How To Manage and Enjoy The Stress of Competition
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SportsEdTV’s Senior Contributor Brian Lomax is an expert mental performance coach and USPTA Professional who helps tennis players realize their performance potential by focusing on mental skills and frameworks for success.


He is also the author of The Mentally Tough Competitor: Mindsets and Perspectives to Achieve Excellence.


In-depth discussion between Brian Lomax and Josh Burger during the popular Tennis IQ podcast.  Below is an edited for readability transcript.


Josh Burger: Hello and welcome to the Tennis IQ podcast, I'm Josh Burger


Brian Lomax: And I'm Brian Lomax, and our topic today is going to be how to enjoy the stress of competition. And the reason that we thought of this is that one of the questions that were one of the items that are posted on an assessment that I use whenever I work with a new player is to have them rate themselves on a scale of one to seven. And one of the items that said is enjoying the stress of competition.


And it's always interesting to see how people answer that question, because tennis, of course, can be a very stressful sport. A lot is going on out there. It's a combat sport. You have a direct opponent. Every sport has its mental challenges, but tennis is, of course, very unique in the way that you have that direct opponent, you have a very interesting scoring system. It takes a long time to win a match.


And so we wanted to talk about this topic because I think even as I was reflecting on this, Josh, just the way that item enjoys the stress of competition is phrased. May be leading people down a certain path, and where I'm going with that is stress, at least in the United States. Maybe other places are different but have a negative connotation. We often talk about avoiding stress and so forth. Managing stress.


And, maybe we need to figure out how to talk about that particular topic differently. But I think when a tennis player looks at an item like that that enjoys the stress of competition, they may automatically think of some of the negative aspects of things. And so I thought, Yeah, let's get into this because I think. If one can learn to enjoy that process, it could help just overall enjoyment, period of the sport, but also performance. So I'd like to get some of your perspectives here, Josh, when you hear about enjoying the stress of competition and how you conceptualize this.


Josh Burger: Yeah, I think it all starts with that mentality that you want to have of enjoying the stress and loving that battle of competition, knowing that it's not always going to be easy. There are going to be ups and downs. You may not win every time. You won't win every time, frankly, but you want to be enjoying the stress and sort of loving that battle. Looking forward to that battle, looking forward to that chance to compete against your rivals, competing against challenging opponents. And that's really where I would start trying to dig into that mentality with an individual or team so that would be that starting point. And then I think it comes down to a little bit in terms of your strategy and sort of that mindset that you're going to have as you play. Are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose or are you going to go for your shots or more? Ok, let's wait and see what the opponent does. So it all starts to me with that mentality, that overarching mentality of loving that battle, of embracing it. And then it's OK, how do we want to play and think about some strategies there? And then, OK, what are some practical, practical things that we can get into this that we can do to reinforce that maybe it's certain reminders that we can use to remind us of that sort of mentality that we want to have maybe certain tools that we can, tools or mental skills that we can practice leading up to a competition to reinforce that sort of mindset that we want to have. But as a starting point, I think it is honing in on that mindset in that philosophy of loving competition. Looking forward to it and loving that battle and those tense moments, those clutch moments that are essential for really being a great competitor.


Brian Lomax: In his book Winning the Mental Match, Alan Fox talks about this concept of enjoying the competitive process. So it's probably a better way of phrasing it, and I think it can help open up a person's mind and not think maybe go right to stress and anxiety as what we're experiencing. And I think this is something we discussed with David Sammel, but it's also something that Alan Fox talks about. It's a very existential way of looking at competition, but seeing your tennis not as intertwined with who you are, but more as a life project. And I bring that up because let's say you're listening to this and you think of yourself as someone who doesn't enjoy the battle, who doesn't enjoy the stress of competition. So how are you experiencing it? What are the thoughts? What are the feelings that you're having when you're presented with having to play a match today or you have a tournament coming up or a league match or whatever that is? What are those feelings that are coming up? Are they more about what you might experience or is it more you know about your identity as a player or, you know, more like kind of thinking of yourself a little bit too much as a tennis player and less as if it as this is just something that I do? And for certain players, they have this record in their mind of everybody they've played. What the result was the last time they played, and they may be looking to protect that and they might even be something like, Well, you know, I played her a couple of months ago and I won, and I don't want to, you know, I don't want to risk like losing to her now. You know, I want to make sure I still have the last win, and some of the sounds like crazy, but people have these thoughts in mind as if somebody is keeping track of all of this and knows, like when you won, when you lost. And so I really, I guess I would ask for people who don't necessarily enjoy the battle. How are you experiencing? Yes. What kinds of thoughts are going through the mind that are making you think about some of the negative aspects of what could happen? Lisa Feldman Barrett talks about in the theory of constructed emotions, how a brain is a prediction machine, so it's constantly running little simulations of what could happen. And very often when we look at something like competition and we feel like we might not enjoy it, we're feeling maybe excessive anxiety, more neurotic anxiety. The brain is predicting badly. It's looking only at a set of negative things that could happen, or it's predicting that you're not going to play well. And so part of the process is having you understand that, understand how you're experiencing competition that could involve writing some things down, journaling around that. Why aren't you enjoying it? And so I think those are some important considerations,


Brian Lomax: Josh. So if we can begin to detach tennis from your identity to a certain extent and look at it more as simply as a project in your life and that, hey, this is just part of the project. This is, you know, and the goal of the project is to become as good as I can. Or it could be to just enjoy it as much as I can, right? That project should have, I would say, sort of altruistic or benevolent goals toward you. You know, the goal of the project isn't to feel awful all the time to hate yourself, etcetera. And so if you can think about tennis as a life project, OK, what are the goals of that life project? What do I how do I want to express myself through tennis in this project? And I think that's a good place to begin to start to change how one views the battle because the battle is a big part of it. And you mention, you know, clutch moments, pressure. These are all very normal things. In a tennis match.


Josh Burger: Absolutely, they're normal in their inevitable right there. They're going to be those ups and downs that are going to be those deuce points with no ad at times or deuce points or tiebreakers or third sets. And ultimately, those are often the difference-maker for who comes out on top and who wins the match and loses the match. I wanted to go back to something that you said, Brian, about viewing tennis as a project rather than viewing it as your identity that I am a tennis player. This is who I am. And I think, you know, it's a good idea to caution against that, because then what happens if you retire or you get injured and you can't play the sport anymore or you decide you don't want to play for some reason, then what is left of that identity? You need a solid foundation, but also viewing tennis as a project, and this is a project to continue to be as best as good as I can be and to continue pushing that boundary. I think that really fits into that growth mindset mentality that we want players to embody, and that ultimately is going to lead players to further, further developing their games. Viewing that I'm not fixed in terms of this is where I'm at and I am at this level. I am a certain UTR. I'm a certain NTRP rating level and this is me as a tennis player. No, this is something that I'm working on. This is a life project, this is a sport that I enjoy and I am trying to be, you know, to play this sport to the best of my capabilities and take it as far as I can, take it and view it in that growth mindset way. It also reminds me of the conversation that we just had with David Sammel where we talked about the ladder analogy and how viewing development as a part of this ladder, where with each step you only have upwards to go, you know, you can move upwards and get to that next level in terms of your development, but you ultimately have nothing to lose. So remember that and ultimately it's you only have things to gain in terms of really getting to that next level. So I think trying to view it in those terms can help athletes to try to start embracing competition and understanding that competition is a necessary part of improvement as well. That there's only so far that you can take your game on the practice court. You can play at your club or your park or your academy or whatever it may be and play against friends. But you know, playing practice matches is taking it to that next level in a way. But competing can certainly be viewed as a skill and is a necessary part of increasing your level as a whole, it's you know, if you can't test out how your game compares to the best players in your region or your state or your country, then you're sort of stuck with your current level. But if you can continue to push the level and see, you know, really test your capabilities against your rivals and your competitors, then that's going to continue to push you to that next level.

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Brian Lomax: And I think even though we would like everybody to pursue becoming the best that they could become, that's a little bit of us perhaps placing our values on everybody, you know because not everybody's motive is going to be that. So when you think of tennis as your life project or as a life project, yes, it might be about becoming the best player it could become. But I know I play tennis with a guy who that's not his thing. His thing is he sees his tennis as a way of developing social relationships, like maintaining social relationships, friendships. He likes getting together and hitting balls, and we'll play occasionally, we'll play some, some games and so forth. But for him, that's what it's about and so and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that, he enjoys that. So now I would say he doesn't necessarily enjoy the stress of competition, and maybe that's why he's gone to the more kind of affiliation route with things. But that's OK. I think it's, you know, everybody has to figure out why they play tennis. Maybe it's not so much asking yourself, Well, why do I do this? You might get a little defensive with yourself on that question, but think about when you have had enjoyed it the most. What have been the factors that have helped with that when you've enjoyed your tennis the most because that's maybe there are elements of that that are related to competition, enjoying the battle and so forth, as you said, Josh. There is a lot of inevitability that happens in a tennis match that to enjoy the battle, I think one has to normalize and understand these things. You are going to win points and you're going to lose points. You're going to sometimes play well and sometimes not play well. And in both those situations, you're also going to win and lose points, something David Sammel emphasized with us. In some matches, you'll get lucky and in sum, you'll get unlucky. It takes a long time. To win a single set now, it's sometimes it doesn't. You might win, O and 0, and that feels good, but sometimes it's also very satisfactory to get yourself to say five all in a first-set tiebreaker, as we talked about in our clutch moments episode, hey, can you take it? Can you step up and do that? But of course, if you don't, it's kind of crushing that you played, an hour, an hour and 15 minutes and you lost the set and now you get to start over. And so these are the normal way of things in tennis, these are inevitable situations that you'll face, and it's all just testing you. The more that you can embrace these things as normal so that you can get through them and understand them and learn from them, the more that you can start to enjoy it, like, as you said, embrace the fact that these things are going to happen. How do I want to be? If I know these things are going to happen. You're one of the things that David Sammel talked to us about was, you know, you will win and you will lose even when you play well or you play badly, you will win or you will lose. Why not go out and just do it in a way you enjoy doing it? That will help with the enjoyment factor if you can play to your strengths if you can play a style of tennis that is authentic. For you, so let's say you're somebody who likes to be aggressive or likes to be the first strike. Well, go out and play that way. That's what you enjoy. All these inevitabilities we just talked about, they're going to happen no matter what you do, and wouldn't it be better to just do it the way you want to, to do it more authentically, the way that caters to your strengths? So I think the more people can get very comfortable with how the sport works, what to expect then, it's not so much about trying to wish those things away or avoid them. They're going to happen. Their reality.


Josh Burger: Yeah, I think starting at that point of you're going to win points, you're going to lose points, win matches, lose matches. I know we've talked about in previous episodes how there's a lot of research out there, something by Craig O'Shannessy where he talks about how the ATP and WTA tours. Even the best players in the world are winning right around fifty-five percentage points, which emphasizes how important it is to be able to come back from losing points and still come to each point with a good mindset and be able to put things behind you and reset. But it also emphasizes that no matter how good you get, you're going to be losing a lot of points, right? So the understanding that most matches aren't going to be 6-0 unless you're playing with people that are you're much higher level then and understanding that to win tournaments to be a better and better player, you're going to fight through a lot of these types of situations, that is that's the reality that's necessary to get to where you want to be as a tennis player and as you said, Bryan, everybody plays for different reasons. Some people, it's that mastery piece, right? Trying to be as best as they can be viewing tennis really as this life project. Some people, it's more than relatedness piece and trying in terms of their friends, their social community. I mean, I see it at different places. I've worked, it's the tennis club or your tennis buddies can be your community, your team, whatever it may be, people play for all different types of reasons, but regardless, trying to view trying to embrace the competitive aspect of things is going to put you in that best possible position, and when you're in that high-pressure moment and there's one player who is, you know, I've been thinking about this moment, maybe you visualized some of these tiebreaker moments or these tense moments at one player is eager to get into this situation, the other player is, Oh, I shouldn't. I shouldn't even be here in the first place. I can't believe I'm in a tie break right now. The other players may be backing away from it. Which one is going to have the better chance at that moment? It actually reminds me of our first interview that we did with Bryant Barker, and he talked about that situation of two individuals, and one is just going to try to do the best that they can and the other player needs to win. It reminds me of that same situation where one of them, embraces that moment and embraces that challenge of that high-pressure moment, of that competition, of playing in a close match, and the other one is, oh, I'd rather win 6-0 6-0 six. The top players in the world aren't winning 6-0 / 6-0 rarely. To be a great competitor, you need to be able to be a great competitor in those biggest moments, not just when your opponent is outmatched. Those are the make-or-break moments, and those are what defines you as a performer ultimately.


Josh Burger: I think there's a lot of great there's a lot of satisfaction to winning a close match. There's a lot of satisfaction, maybe even playing a close match and coming up short. Because you would have done a lot of good things to get yourself say to a third set or to just maybe the 10 point tiebreaker for the third set, so you want to set. That's something I think to embrace Josh because with all this adversity that we're talking about. You mentioned it, you got to have a good mindset going into the next point, and that's not easy. But the more that we can understand the nature of the battle, hopefully, the more that we can maintain that good mindset because whenever you're playing a match, you never really haven't lost until it's over. I think we've mentioned this before. The only thing that's changing from point to point and game to game is probability. It never goes to zero for you, and it never goes to one hundred for you or the other player is always some level of probability that you could win. And the more that you understand that, the more that you can keep yourself in the match. It's not necessarily about playing well, you can play badly, but if you compete well and get through it and maintain a more productive mindset and you can maintain a certain level of even-keeled or equanimity throughout the match, you may find yourself in a position where you have a chance to win. That's the piece that I think can be hard for players to grasp is, playing poorly and still trying to compete and get to a place where you can win. Jack Nicklaus called this the art of playing badly well. What he is talking about there is that there are days when your physical game won't be where you want it to be, but if you can stay in control of your mental and emotional faculties, you can get yourself in good positions. Tennis because it's a fighting sport as opposed to golf if you're not playing well in golf, you probably, chances of you having a poor round are high and other people may have great rounds, but we're playing a combat sport, so it's not necessarily a prerequisite that you play great. But I would say it is a prerequisite that you compete great, that you stay in control right of your mental and emotional faculties out there. To me, the opposite of the art of playing badly well is playing badly, letting you know your performance, physical performance drives your mental and emotional performance, and I think that's probably the case for most players. But if you can learn to not let that happen, to hang in there, to compete, to embrace that battle because you Josh you probably played some matches where your tennis was suboptimal. Maybe playing some ugly stuff, but you got yourself deep into a match and you had a chance. I know I've done that. I think that's even part of the winner's creed from coach Bill Tim. Sometimes you need to go-to strategies that are not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but they may be what's necessary because other parts of your game just aren't working. It's that piece is that problem-solving piece that's so important that is part of that battle. I think the more that we can learn to embrace that, learn to embrace the actual like. As Alan Fox says, the competitive process isn't all about playing well, but it's all about competing.


Josh Burger: Yeah, I think you made a lot of good points there. I would compare that playing badly, as you said, to tanking it, too, OK, I'm not feeling well today, I'm just going to mail it in. I'm not going to give it everything I can. I'm not going to try different strategies. I'm not going to try to implement my mental skills. I'm going to tank right. I'm just going to give in. Maybe I'll look for an excuse or the other side of that is, let's be a problem solver out there. Let's make things difficult for my opponent. Let's try some new tactics. I think we've referred to him a little bit on this podcast but can revise who he did a lot of his early work. He's a he was a sports psychologist who worked with a lot of different sports, including professional baseball and softball. He did a lot of his early work in flow and peak performance states in terms of how to best put athletes in those states and then sort of had a change of heart and change of philosophy really and determined that oftentimes athletes aren't able to get into those states, so let's equip athletes with the mental skills needed for regardless of how they're feeling on a given day so that they can still perform well. Similar to what you were saying with Jack Nicklaus. He would say, "if you are having a crappy day, let's have a good, crappy day." Or if you have 60 percent in the gas tank on a given day, let's make sure you're giving one hundred percent of that 60 percent. So doing the best that you can do on any given day. And to me, that's really where the mental skills are most important, where they're most needed on that day, where you're feeling great, you wake up, you're feeling confident, you're starting strong, everything is going well. Might you need to implement some of the things you're working on? Yeah, you might. But where you needed is, OK, I'm not feeling great on a given day or OK. The match is tight right now. I'm feeling nervous or I'm struggling with my focus at this moment. This is really where I need to implement those mental skills. Dedicating time to practicing them and getting ahead of it can pay dividends. When you're in those types of situations which are inevitable, nobody gets out on the court and feels great every time they're out there. So when you're feeling suboptimal, do you have a skill set that gives you a chance so that you have some other options so that you can make things difficult for your opponent so you can try Plan B, Plan C, Plan D so you can buy yourself a little bit of time so that you may be able to start to find your game a little bit more. I mean, I've certainly been in situations where maybe I didn't start off the match well, I wasn't feeling it. I didn't play well. Maybe I lost the first set. As the match went along, I started to find my game a lot more. Sometimes it just takes time. If you tank and if you don't give it your all and don't try new things you know by yourself, that time to be able to turn the match around. And as you said, Brian, I've certainly, I think for anyone who's listening to this podcast who's played with me, they know that I'm famous or notorious, depending on who you ask for doing things like that. Certainly been matches where I've, you know, hit lobs or moon balls or gone to the slice quite often. It often is, Hey, this isn't working. My normal aggressive play isn't working. Maybe I would change it up here. Or maybe I mix that in and you look, hey, how can I throw off the opponent a little bit? How can I start to find my rhythm? And it's also, hey, I'm going to try something right? If I do the same thing I'm trying over and over again isn't working, I'm not just going to stick with that and hope that something changes. I'm going to try changing something up here.


Brian Lomax: Yeah, and. That's what we all want to do right, is have that ability to problem solve and stay in it and know it's not over. I think you're right to say playing badly basically equals tanking, right? Because you probably aren't going to end up going through the motions on that. I think that's an excellent way of conceptualizing that. I think another thing that we can do as we start to help people think about how to enjoy this more, is understanding when we're looking at an upcoming match, think about what are some things that are in this for me. That can simply be enjoyment, having fun, seeing friends, but it could also be some of the other benefits of competition learning, improvement are big ones. It's an opportunity to improve, and so much of this is coming from the work of David Fletcher, Mustafa Sarkar on embracing the challenge, having that challenge mindset.


We did do an episode on that. That's a useful way of looking at things when we are initially seeing something as a threat or not looking forward to a match. Part of turning that around is thinking, well, hey, you know, what could I get out of this? And I think there are a lot of things you can get out of the experience. It's just, I think, most players don't go through the process of appraising the situation in that way. I find that to be a useful tool with a lot of players because some will often talk about an upcoming tournament and I'll let them talk about the tournament, sort of a free-flowing, unfiltered way. With a lot of these players, there's some apprehension, there's some sort of some level of anxiety about what's going to happen and that's all normal, right, because it takes a lot of courage to play tennis. I think because you're putting yourself out there and it's just you or you and your partner and you could fail, you could lose, and there aren't too many people to blame. Aside from you, initially, it takes some courage to go out there and do this, and I think the one thing that when players look at the competition and they struggle with is they don't know if they'll win or lose. Don't know what's going to happen, and uncertainty can lead to some uncomfortable feelings. The courage I think that it takes to be a tennis player is being OK with that. You could even equate this, Josh. I think the basketball player at the end of the game wants to take the last shot versus the one who doesn't. Would prefer to pass the ball. From a tennis perspective, we have to be more like the player who wants to take that last shot. And there's a great probability that that player will miss. The last shot. But the more one takes those shots, the more one inevitably begins to succeed a little bit more in those situations. What do you become remembered for? You become remembered for somebody who is more clutch, who comes through in those moments because you practice them.


Josh Burger: I think competition, along with thinking about what's in it for me it's a really good opportunity to practice a virtue like being courageous, being brave, or at least recognizing that in yourself, it takes courage and bravery to do it and praising yourself to a certain extent. It does take a lot of guts to play the sport. I think that's especially true now at the junior level, where there's the pressure of rankings and points and UTR and and college coaches. There's so much going on there, it really takes a lot of guts to go out there and maybe play a backdrop match against somebody where your UTR could be affected negatively yet you still do it. That takes a lot of courage, and that's something that should be applauded by players. Many players, unfortunately, don't play the back draw as much as they should, because of different things like that, like tennis recruiting like UTR, et cetera. But I think the more we could put in competition, as I would say, an expression of your courage and bravery and recognizing that in yourself, perhaps that helps you to enjoy it and understand the benefits of it even more.


Josh Burger: Yeah, I think going back to something that you said about taking that last shot in basketball, I mean, there's that famous Michael Jordan quote that we've referenced about, you know, missing over and over again or not missing over and over again, but missing, you know, countless times in that situation been counted on to make that last game-winning shot and missed. And ultimately, those situations make you stronger when you can learn from them when you can grow from that situation. Maybe you're in a situation where you've been in a third set or you've been in a third set tiebreaker and you lost and you didn't handle that situation the way you wanted to. Now is the right approach to, OK, I don't want to think about that. I don't want that ever happen again, but I don't even want to acknowledge that. No, it's hey, let's try to learn from that experience. Let's I'm going to be in that situation again. I look forward to that time where I can be in it, have it be in a similar spot and what am I going to do differently next time around? So learning and growing from those moments, I think, is huge, and wanting to be the one taking that shot, I think is a good way to think about it because, in tennis, it's just you out there. Oftentimes by the time you're in that 10 point tie break for the third set, often by the time you're in that high-pressure situation, you've been out there for maybe two or three hours and you might be probably exhausted, but be mentally drained and OK. Are you able to during that moment to focus on those things that you can control that are going to give you the best possible chance to perform well?


Brian Lomax: You enjoy that part of it too, right, Josh? Like you enjoy being in that moment?


Josh Burger: Absolutely. And that's the main point of what we're talking about. So I think that's a great point. And, you know, by controlling those things you can control? Number one, you have a better chance to perform well, but you're going to enjoy it more where if you're focused on that outcome, number one, you're going to feel more anxiety about that moment, in a negative way, and you're not going to be able to enjoy that moment. It's going to pass right by you. Or if you can stay more in the moment, be more mindful of it, then you can start to enjoy what you're going through and appreciate being in that moment in the first place. I mean, I think trying for athletes to understand the privilege of being in that spot, of being in a high-pressure scenario. I mean, we've talked about the Billie Jean King quote of pressure as a privilege. So appreciating that moment and enjoying it. I live for these moments, you know, let's go. These are the moments that champions are made out of, you know, reminding yourself of some of these things. And I know, Brian, you've talked about, you know, helping players come up with note cards that they can bring to the court. Maybe there's something like that on their right, like I. I live for these high-pressure moments or those are the moments where I shine or I excel and trying to embody that mindset of these are the moments where I do best. These are the moments where winners are made ultimately, and I enjoy them and I look forward to them


Brian Lomax: We can certainly use visualization or imagery around that, whether that's on the court or probably even really beforehand. You know, as you're thinking about an upcoming match or competition, can you be thinking about how you want to play? But adding in because the imagery is not just seeing, it's also about the emotions that you want to experience out there. And can you try to intentionally add some level of enjoying the struggle and joining the battle to that imagery so that you can see yourself doing it? You can feel it a little bit more. And the more that you do that, the easier this becomes to go out there. And I think visualizing the struggle is OK. Because it's going to happen, we don't I mean, there are times where when we talk about imagery, where we want you to visualize complete mastery, doing everything exactly as it should. But there are also times and you know, this is, I think part of the visualization that Novak Djokovic does is seeing yourself in a variety of difficult situations. Understanding what your emotional state needs to be there and then seeing yourself being successful and enjoying that. That is a great way to prepare for some of the struggles that will inevitably occur in these challenging matches. Because, as you said, Josh, you know, you might screw up, say, the first time you play a tiebreaker in the third set, but the hope is that you'll be there again.


The good thing is, if you got that far, you're on the cusp of success, it's just going to take a little bit extra of something, perhaps or maybe a little luck or whatever. But you got to that close. I mean, you didn't lose. Oh, no. Right, you battled through you got there, just maybe you're one step away and you want to get back there again. And so we've got to understand that process so that when you go there, you're in a better position to have learned from the past time so that you can figure out how to grab it this time as much as possible. I think we talked a little bit about that in the clutch episode and how we can approach that. But yeah, to me, pressure is a privilege because you're getting yourself into really good positions. If. You were losing. You wouldn't feel the same sort of pressure, necessarily, you might feel under pressure like, Oh, I don't want to lose, oh no, I need to win a game or something else. But it's not. It's not the same pressure as the pressure to succeed. There's I would say that times there's a fear of failure aspect of things and then sometimes there's a fear of success. The type of dynamic that goes on, and everybody may experience those things differently. So it's good as individuals to understand how you experience those things.


Josh Burger: Absolutely. One thing I would add is, I think when whether it's my own experiences or a lot of athletes, I think when you think back to your, you're most fond victories, it's not usually that match that you won. 0-0 At least, at least in my experience, it's not usually that much you want. It's that match where you battled that match, where it was tough, where there were those ups and downs and ultimately maybe you came out on top, but not always, at least from my experiences. I mean, I think about a doubles match, a college doubles match that I won when we were down. It's an eight-game process. I believe we were down 7-3 and weren't starting well. And you know that that match clinched it for the team. And you know, we came back and we fought and locked in at a certain point. But it's OK. I'm enjoying that, that ups and downs, and I'm enjoying putting it to the test to see where I match up and OK. Am I able to produce my highest level when it matters? And, you know, down match point with my back to the wall? So I think I think that's an important point that a lot of players if they think about it, a lot of their fonder memories from matches or those matches where they had to fight, where they really had to bring out their competitive skills and ultimately were able to to get the win.


I also think there's something to Hey, I didn't play. I didn't play great today, right? I didn't play great, but I was able to get the W and how did I do that? I fought. I use my mental skills. I changed up my game plan. I analyzed the situation of the match and I think there is certainly something rewarding there. So we're not always expecting to play our best tennis, but do we have the mental skills, do have the capabilities to figure it out and be a problem solver. So I would say in both of those situations, whether it's being able to still play well when you're not playing your best or be able to win in those tight situations, I think both of those situations, when viewed in the right way, can be looked at quite fondly and can be, you know, bring people a lot of enjoyment, both in the moment and as you look back at them.


Brian Lomax: And I think that's another thing you could add to your imagery is let's think about some of those difficult matches that I've won, the ones that you enjoyed that battle. So I would agree, you know, I think a lot of some of the matches that come to mind for me were real battles. I can remember one in Canada or I was playing one of the top forty-five and over Canadian players lost the first set six one. I was awful. He was playing well and I just then made it a really ugly match and by the end, he was the one breaking down mentally. And I remember, you know, going to dinner that night and some of the guys who were there for our team, they had left my match after I lost the first set and they were all ready to console me and I came back in three hours, you know, and ended up winning the match. And so it just tells you how you are never out of it. 6/1 first set 6/0 first set all how you look at it. And so yeah, I gain a lot of, you know, even confidence from that. Looking back on that, I was able to do something like that. I think that's a way for everybody to try to do that now. Not everyone will have such a match in their memory bank. Maybe that match is yet to be created. Maybe, someone's never actually won the third set, you know? So can you bring it down to maybe more micro-moments in which you won a tough game, maybe just won a tough set? You've likely come back from, say, Love-40 in a game, I've been down 40-love. So there are probably some micro-moments that you could also look at to try and enjoy this and add that to your visualization so that again, we know what we're trying to build here is that we learn to enjoy the competitive process. We learn to understand how it benefits us as tennis players. How it benefits us as people. Keeping it all in perspective that our tennis is is simply one of our life projects and that we should have, you know, really good positive goals for that life project, and learning to enjoy that competitive process is certainly a big part of that.


Josh Burger: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, we talk about how, you know, sports can be an arena where a lot can be learned and a lot can be implemented in the rest of your life. I mean, I know athletes who talk about, you know, they learn certain things, whether it's mental skills, whether it's on the court and they're able to apply that other area of life and competing is certainly a skill that you'll be using in other areas. So to be able to enjoy that. To me, it takes some of the stress off. It takes some of the of you're enjoying competing, you're looking forward to it, you're you know that you will lose at times. You know you'll be in that situation. Sometimes you lose and I'm going to try to do everything I can to perform well, and I'm going to try to not focus on that outcome. To me, that mentality takes a lot of that pressure off you and allows you to play your best. So I think, you know, you could certainly use that same skill set anywhere in business and your relationships. And hey, I'm going to do the best I can do. I'm going to, you know, there are high-pressure moments these I'm simply going to try to focus on those things I can control. I'm going to enjoy that moment and believe the outcome, you know, to do whatever ends up. But I ultimately can't control that. But I can control my mentality, and I think a big part of that mentality is enjoying that process.


Brian Lomax: One hundred percent, and that's a great way to, I think, wrap it up. So thanks for the conversation, Josh. That was great, and thank you for listening to this episode. For more on today's episode, please check out the show notes. If you have any feedback or questions for me and Josh, please email us at Tennis IQ Podcast at You can also use the Twitter hashtag Tennis IQ. Additionally, please subscribe to the show on your podcast platform of choice, including YouTube, so you can be notified of new episodes. You can also check us out on Instagram. Thanks again, and we'll talk to you soon in our next episode.