ETI 031 | Building Self Confidence

One of Northern California’s legendary teachers, as well as a dear friend and mentor to me, Fred Earle penned the following 5 keys – that he expected his players to answer with a resounding yes, each and every day at the end of practice or a game.

And over the years at our club, I have seen that these 5 keys, when observed, are most often associated with players who improve more quickly than others.

Unfortunately, as often as not, players who get stuck along the way seem to struggle with these 5 keys.

Take them to heart – perhaps even copy them print them and post them on your refrigerator, or even your racquet bag!!

Building Self Confidence – as written by Fred Earle

One of the most difficult things for tennis players to acquire is confidence in themselves and their game. It’s difficult because confidence is something that can’t be taught. You have to risk and take chances in order to gain a better feeling about your game. Confidence is something that is built from success. So the key is how to define success. If your definition stems only from your wins when you play, your successes may be few and far between.

I try to have all my players learn a simple formula which will not only help them with their success and confidence in tennis, but in everything they do, from school to their jobs, and their relationships with their family and other people. I first heard this formula from Jim Loehr, a noted psychologist from Denver, CO., about five years ago and I have used it ever since. If you can answer “yes” to each of the following five statements at the end of a match, lesson, or practice session, you have been successful and your confidence will grow.

I put out 100 per cent effort today. I gave it all I had.

No matter what your sport t or activity, there is a basic law with which everyone is familiar; “You get back what you gave out.” If you give out 50%, you will get back 50% worth of results. It’s the law. Sometimes, we don’t give 100% to protect our ego. It’s so important to remember, “all out every time.”

I maintained and sustained a positive mental attitude.

It’s been said over and over again, that success in every endeavor is based on attitude rather than technical expertise. A positive mental attitude is one key ingredient for becoming a success and building confidence. Feeling good about yourself and your progress is based on a positive attitude. Smile and enjoy what you are doing. Avoid frustration as it builds negative emotion and feelings. Remember, your thoughts control your feelings, so keep your thoughts positive.

Be Patient

There is a tendency in all of us to want instant skill. (Un)Fortunately, anything that’s good in life takes time and effort to learn. Be patient; avoid anger and negativism that occurs from being angry. Remember, easy does it. A little at a time. As you become a better player, improvement comes slower. Be patient.

I allowed myself to make mistakes.

Throughout our whole life, we learn more from our mistakes than from most any form of learning, making corrections from our mistakes and forgetting the mistakes quickly. You will always move towards that which you think about the most. If we dwell on our mistakes, we actually move toward that which we don’t want. Learn from your mistakes, and then forget them

I accept full responsibility for me today.

What I did and did not do is a result of me and me alone.

Let me know what you think about the 5 Keys and how they would, or do, affect your game…


  • Kevin

    Reply Reply August 2, 2014

    Hi Coach McLennan-

    I was wondering if you had some advice about at what age should children start hitting from the baseline in tennis? My 7 year old is now hitting better from the service line but I am trying to figure out when and how to progress.

    Thanks in advance

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply August 2, 2014

      Kevin – taking a page from little league baseball, there was always a coach about 5 feet away from the batter, tossing whiffle balls to the hitter, the tosser to the side so they would not be hit by the ball or bat – I think the same should be done in tennis, for it grooves the stroke and eliminates the hand eye judgment of the ball – interestingly I do drop hits (the same style) for all kinds of players – so in my mind there is little need yet to move your child to the baseline until they can master accuracy and control when doing forehand and backhand drop hits

    • Lee

      Reply Reply January 21, 2023

      Coach Earle had one of the greatest College teams.1952, De Witts, Reed, F. Earle, Freund, Peterson, Canter, Team best Stanford, Cal, USF, and San Jose St. Also at MJC, Women’s team had Anita Canter, she was number 10 in the world at one time..

      • Jim McLennan

        Reply Reply January 21, 2023

        Fred was oh so special a man, a teacher a mentor and a friend

  • gilgonzales

    Reply Reply July 17, 2014

    Great one, Jim! Thanks for sharing.

  • kwok

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    I am sure the 5 keys that you listed above would help us in every aspect of our lives, but I think they are especially important in tennis and other performance arts. Tennis and performance arts are motor skills, it is not like reading and memorizing a book. I personally know people who are scholars and did really well in the academic fields, but they do poorly in tennis and have a hard time to improve. And how could it be ? I keep asking myself. But I found a common thread that put them into a group – they have no patience ! It might have something to do with their ego…because they did so well in the academic fields and they translate that into “everything should be easy” because they are so smart. But the truth is – tennis is not an easy sport, for the most of us at least ( sorry guys, I have to tell the truth). Take the serve, for example, there are so many components that comes into play that we have to put them into a perfect sequence to get a good outcome. We have this well – educated gentleman in our club who changes his racket so often ( sometimes, within 15 minutes ? It is a true story! ) that it interrupst our game – believing the racket is totally responsible for his strokes. And I am also a student of music – learning the jazz guitar. And I have come to learn that one has to go step by step, yes, most of the time slowly to get any improvement at all. Tennis is no different. If you don’t enjoy the process and the practice, guaranteed you will get frustrated. Unless you are as talented as John Mc Enroe.


  • Dr Barry Parker

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    Hi Jim,

    This latest email on the 5 keys was excellent. I have been a teaching professional for the past 11 years and find your instructional videos to be, in a word, superior.

    Keep up the great work,


    Barry Parker
    USPTA Elite Professional

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 16, 2014

      Barry – this is a much appreciated note – thank you!

  • Bernard Mckey

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    Dear Jim

    This is Excellent-when I go on court I play like Connors mentally and Physically-“play every point as if my hand is in a fire-if I am 4-1 up I play as if I am 4-1 down-you havent beaten anyone unless you beaten them 6-0 6-0-

    I knocked up with Mcenroe-Fleming in Dublin 1982 before Davis cup he said -Think that you are in a jungle starven for food-I am the tiger and the opponent is my Meat its time to Steak the opponent.I am excellent at Psycology like you Jim its all mental-

    I have an attitude which is from the time you pick up a racket till you stop you are learning every day-improve your strengths learn how to improve your weaknesses-I have learnt alot in last month but I also know where I need to improve

    My answers

    1 Yes I always give 110% mentally and physically I must feel the pain and have plenty of endurance.-I have the Connors attitude -Mr Tennis is my name with full passion.

    2 If I loose 6-0 6-0 I still stay positive because next time I may loose 6-1 6-2 but gradually I progress and beat him.

    3 Patience is very important in shot making

    4 This is my biggest quality learning from my mistakes

    5 except responsbility as you improve more

    this is brilliant Jim

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    I had a really great tennis morning today. I have gotten an idea into my head very clearly that I am not “consistent” in an absolute sense, but that early on in the warmup and in a match, I have to establish (fresh, every time) consistent play with every opponent and situation.

    Of course, in doubles this is a bit more complex as supposedly “our goals are shared” by my partner – sort of a very dicey issue for soc/rec doubles.

    That until I establish consistent play, it is a bit unreliable to attempt to encourage errors from my opponents, take advantage of advertisements, and run plays. Of course, if I played that person before, it can be a quicker process.

    How I do this becomes my “Art.”

  • Peter Dollinger

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    Hi Jim!

    This was fun to watch! Thank you!

  • Teresa

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    Fabulous. I am passing this on to my employees, most of who are 18-25 year old males. When you build your confidence you build it on evidence. Thank you for the great video!

  • MBB

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    Very Good!
    This goes in my tennis bag.

  • Ohiojack

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    That was a great post , & oh so true somehow we think that it will magically appear in a tournament or league play when our mind & body are saying you can not be serious Lol

  • Scott Harper

    Reply Reply July 16, 2014

    As always, thanks Jim, for your concise and insightful presentation of important and useful.

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