Be Your Own Spin Doctor! - Develop a Winning Mentality!

by Adrian Coles, Tennis Canada Coach 3

December 2023

The more you lose the more you need to become your own Spin Doctor and stop letting negative thoughts and emotions hold you back!?

Are you one of the growing number of players wanting to get more competitive with your tennis? Do you want to move on from pick-up games to playing league or team matches, or even entering local or provincial events?

'The Competitive Edge' by lifelong player and coach Adrian Coles, features easy to digest tips and strategies to help keen recreational competitors play smarter. Improving stroke technique certainly helps but that requires a great deal of deliberate practice. A quicker way is to sharpen tactical skills whilst still using the strokes you've already got! He will cover topics often overlooked or even glossed over in on court instruction when hitting lots of balls is what is appreciated most.

This ONTENNIS exclusive series is a must-read for anyone who plays tennis at the recreational level and is interested in optimizing their match-play competitive experience. To access the other stories in the series, visit

The ONTENNIS Competitive Edge Series, Part 8:

Be Your Own Spin Doctor! - Develop a Winning Mentality!

In a Grand Slam tournament draw of 128 singles players, there will be 1 winner, and 127 losers! Success can be very motivating, but losing can sap your energy, your enthusiasm, and your confidence. Even Djokovic, arguably the greatest player ever, does not win every match. So, taking positives from a loss is a skill all players need! The more you lose the more you need to become your own Spin Doctor and stop letting negative thoughts and emotions hold you back!

Tell yourself you enjoy the process of practicing.

When you are keen to improve it can be very disheartening to get beaten. In extreme cases 'perfectionism' is a curse that can stop you in your tracks. It is how you look at your losses, how you view your errors, that makes the difference.

In fact, errors and mistakes are your signposts to progress! According to Dr. Anders Ericsson, leading researcher on human expertise and performance, it is 'deliberate practice' that offers the best route to improvement. So, as irritating as errors are, realize they are highlighting what you need to work on. They are your 'teacher' - they are on your side. Embrace them, let them show you the way to get better!

One way to reduce your sense of frustration over errors is to expect you will make some, and budget for them. For example, if double faulting is a problem for you, then set a number of how many points you might lose in your set, or match, through service errors. If you are way over that number then the need to work on your serve is more important than you realize, which should focus your effort and attention. If you serve fewer double faults than you budgeted for then that is a positive and should encourage you! Expect to make a few silly mistakes, some easy putaways that you should have made. Even great players make these kinds of blunders! If you don't then 'well done!'

Set aside extra time for deliberate practice and enjoy the process!

Becoming more aware of your problem areas will help you create more productive practice sessions. And it requires more than just being thoughtful when playing in your regular games, you need to set aside extra time to work on those areas. Tell yourself you enjoy the process of practicing, which of course involves working on things you cannot do well! Embrace the errors! Don't fall into the trap of only working on things you can do, just to make yourself feel good!

As you progress it may well be worthwhile to develop an understanding of your best and worst play patterns, and your shot selection thought process. Recording video of your matches on your phone is becoming more and more popular and can show you what works and what does not. Again, realizing that mistakes are your friends will help you to focus on the positives!

So, in conclusion, realize that losing can help you focus on what you need to work on. The biggest mistake is not learning from your mistakes! Reduce your stress level by budgeting for errors and be encouraged if you make less! Focus on what did work for you in a lost match. What were your best points? How did they happen? Set aside extra time for deliberate practice and enjoy the process!

Of course, it hurts to lose a match. If it didn't then maybe it's because you don't care, which shows a lack of motivation or interest. Maybe that is the time to revisit your long-term reasons for playing the sport, and think about all the great mental, physical, and social benefits that this sport has to offer. Beat your negative thoughts, be your own Spin Doctor and develop your own winning mentality!

Adrian Coles, Tennis Canada Coach 3 and Tennis Analytics Certified Technical Analyst, brings a wide variety of perspectives to his new series 'The Competitive Edge' based on his decades of involvement in playing, coaching and managing. His success as a top British junior player, plus his time as the touring coach for his world ranked daughter, enable him to offer useful insights to players aspiring to compete in local, provincial or national events. Having witnessed the evolution of the game from the beginnings of Open Tennis to its current iteration, Adrian is familiar with many different styles of play giving options to players of different ages, interest levels and abilities. His passion is to help as many players as possible get the most out of this wonderful sport of a lifetime.

Please let us know what topics are of interest for our instruction content. Share any tips or tricks you have to give players the competitive edge, and let us know your thoughts via email at: