How do long, back-and-forth games mentally impact your performance?
More than physical factors, mental factors affect the outcome of close games. Back-and-forth games are often a game of attrition or who can wear down their opponent.
Some athletes feel more comfortable during close competitions than other athletes.
For example, some basketball players are better able to focus when the lead changes hands several times.
Some golfers remain confident when they rise or fall on the leaderboard.
You can battle until the end of a competition when mentally prepared for tough competitions.
We recently received an email from an experienced tennis player who asked:
“How can I stay confident, calm, and focused during a close, long tennis match? The longer the match goes, the more I become nervous, which throws off my game.”
For many athletes, as highly-contested competitions go on, the fear of mistakes and losing becomes the focal point.
Instead of trying to score, you try not to mess up.
You play it safe at critical moments in the competition, but the stress causes your body to tighten, increasing errors and bad decisions.
The player with a mentally tougher mindset during competitive contests often wins by physically and mentally wearing down their opponent.
How to win the game of attrition?
- Fully Prepare — When you are prepared for battle, you will feel comfortable even as competitions drag on.
- Work on your Confidence — Confidence doesn’t appear out of the clear blue sky. It is a skill that demands attention and effort.
- Be Determined — Playing each point with resolve wears down opponents and helps you grind out the victory.
- Remain Patient — One play doesn’t determine the outcome of a contest. If you lose a point, reset, refocus, maintain your poise, and battle for the next point.
For example, Daniil Medvedev saved two match points and beat Alexander Zverev 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(7) at the 2023 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters for a third-round victory. The match was back-and-forth in both the second and third sets.
However, Medvedev continued to battle, outlasted Zverev, and won the deciding set tie-break.
MEDVEDEV: “That was a crazy match. He served two times for the match…I tried to watch a lot of tennis before playing in this tournament, and one thing that I saw is you can come back at any moment…That’s what I managed to do.”
In all sports, victory doesn’t always go to the most skilled, the more talented athlete or the team with a better record. The player that often wins is the one who has strong mental skills and is mentally tough enough to wear their opponent down.
Adding Mental Toughness Training into your regimen increases your chances of winning the battle of attrition during close competitions.
In other words, mental training gives you a distinct advantage over your opponent, especially in the closing minutes of a competition.
It is essential to remind yourself that the player or team who wins a competition is the one who is better able to battle under pressure.
Winning the war of attrition is a matter of winning the small battles. When you win the majority of the small battles, you guarantee yourself a victory.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- The Mindset to Perform at a Higher Level
- Having Fun While Performing at Your Best
- The Importance of Mental Toughness
Download a free sports psychology report to improve your mental game!
The Relaxed Athlete
You can possess all the physical talent in the world, the best equipment money can buy, and train harder or longer than anyone else in your sport or on your team, but if self-doubt enters your mind prior to competition, you simply will not realize your true potential in sports.
The Relaxed Athlete” audio and workbook program teaches you mental strategies to develop a focused and confident pregame routine for a poised and relaxed mindset. Learn how to get your mind right by overcoming pregame anxiety and worry.