The Must-Win Battle

In 2015, I was just like any ordinary junior tennis player: I was selfish, close-minded, I would blame people for most of my mistakes, and would more than likely have a negative attitude when competing in tournaments. I remember that throughout that whole year, I didn’t move ahead with my tennis game, I didn’t improve a single bit. When it was time for me to play tournaments, I would lose in the first round due to my mediocre and weak mental toughness that couldn’t get me past the whole match. Finishing that year, I started my pre-season training and that is when I wanted to flip that switch to a whole new path. I knew that I was going to have a tough month ahead; therefore, the only way I was going to get through it was by taking responsibility for my mistakes and moving on from them.


In individual sports, players with poor mental toughness tend to have a “Must-Win Battle” whenever they compete in tournaments that are either international, national or even club games. This means that in the middle of a match, the player turns against themselves when things aren’t going their way. It is a mismatch between their performer self and real self: on one side there’s you, helpless performer, and on the other side is a know-it-all criticizer.

When the real self-activates, you usually start to call yourself things like:

“Why are you even playing?”

“You’re so bad at the game.”

“You can’t seem to do anything right.”

“You’re so dumb.”

Once you start to act like that, you are an “open book” for your opponent to read. Not only that, but you generate two battles in one: the first is against your opponent in the match and the other is against yourself internally. If the critiques keep on going, you start to chew yourself down little by little. Soon after, the possibility of winning the match becomes even more difficult than it already was.

This is one of the main reasons why, we, as athletes, can’t move past a defeat, and reach goals in the sport we play. Once you start to insult yourself and bring your self-esteem down, nobody is doing it for you, it is all about the decisions that you make to bring yourself down.

There are times that you are all you got. When you commit a mistake, you need to know that you are responsible and that no one else causes those mistakes. Also, you are the one who can control those mistakes and use them as learning experiences for the future.

So be prepared because, when the tough times will hit you, you’ll need to treat yourself like your own best friend.

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