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Building Confidence

Jan 05, 2022

Building Confidence out of a Bad Backhand

At the beginning of high school, my backhand was bad. I tried to hide my weak side by running around just about anything. Good players figured my tactic out pretty darn fast and then I suffered under paralyzing fear of “Oh no, here comes another backhand”. Often, I would freeze up before the ball even bounced, so scared of missing yet another backhand.


Fortunately, I had an amazing tennis coach, Joyce Yee (daughter of Amy Yee). She was both an amazing player and a wonderful teacher. So, to deal with my bad backhand, she MADE ME hit it all the time.


I would hit drills and games with my doubles partner Bob Suddeth or my singles nemesis Mike Pace. And for the first month of practice, Coach Yee would tell me (and worse, them) that I could not win a point unless I used a backhand to win.


Neither Bob nor Mike took any pity. At first, I lost a lot. But after a couple weeks, my overall game improved—yes, my backhand got stronger, but more importantly, I knew what I could and could not do on that side. I began to look for a backhand as the way to win. Coach Yee taught me that confidence is not being able to hit every shot but know what you can hit and when.


Confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances.” Before Coach Yee’s lesson, I was not conscious (aware) of what I could do with my backhand. I only feared it. Without any confidence, I choked countless backhands, not out of a lack of good strokes, but because of my lack of confidence. 


What gave me the confidence was just attacking what I feared.


All of us, on and off the court, can give this a try. Pick a shot in your game (or aspect of your biking (hill climbing), lifting (bench) or life (being on time)) that gives you troubles. And then strive to just do whatever that is as much as you can. No question, that aspect will get better. But more importantly, your confidence in what you can do will improve.


Often, we only lack confidence because we have not taken the time (or avoided) to learn more about that aspect of our tennis/lifting/biking/life.


So, give it a shot—just hit backhands for a month and see what happens.