Confidence Crises


On Sunday, Rafael Nadal finally won his first clay court title of the year–in fact, his first title on any surface this year.

And–finally–we have a new blog post! I have been remiss. Inexcusably so, but let me offer some excuses anyway. First, I was taking a novel-writing class, so I was spending my creative juices elsewhere.

And two, I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t sure I had the bloggerly chops to tackle some bigger topics. I wasn’t sure the blog even mattered–to me or to anyone else. Out of nowhere, I was having a mini-crisis in confidence.

Which brings us back to Rafa. (You know everything eventually goes back to Rafa.)

Here’s a guy who has been playing tennis for 30 years. He’s won Olympic gold, both in singles and doubles. He’s won 17 majors, second only to Federer for the all-time record. He has his own tennis academy and charitable foundation. He even has his own logo.

Most relevantly, he has won the French Open eleven friggin’ times.

Yet following his third loss on clay this year, Rafa had this to say about his mental state:

“I knew what I had to do…but I just wasn’t capable of doing it. I didn’t have a good feeling to do the things I wanted to do.”

Seriously, Rafa? You didn’t have a good feeling? If you don’t have the feeling, what hope is there for the rest of us?!

But here’s what’s so admirable about him. Despite his very public crises in confidence, he just keeps plugging away.

Which is how he gradually gets his confidence back. Not by sitting out tournaments and waiting for the “feeling” to find its way home again like a lost puppy. He goes out and looks for it. He puts himself–his ranking, his pride, his legacy–on the line, accepting the losses and trusting, but never knowing, that he’ll find his form again.

He finally found it in Rome, with a decisive win over Djokovic.

So I figure I should take a page from Rafa’s book and plug away at my blog. I’ll make that the monthly challenge for May. (That’s a pretty low bar, given that it’s already the 20th.)

Meanwhile, will Rafa maintain his form and his confidence at this year’s French Open? And chime in in the comments section if you have any tips about maintaining/recovering confidence–in tennis or any other endeavor. I’m sure Rafa and I aren’t the only ones who struggle with it…


11 thoughts on “Confidence Crises

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  1. What a wonderful post. I’ve been on court with you, and can testify that you truly have no reason to doubt your game (kind of like Rafa, but I honestly DO see some distinction between the two of you). Still it is always about what we feel, and not whether we should feel it. Speaking for myself, I am so glad the blog is back, and btw, I think we all fight the battle from time to time (or for some more often than that) to believe in ourselves. That is what makes us human, and that you articulated this so well, is what makes the blog (and you) great.

  2. Thank you for your post, your usual humor, inspiration, and great writing. And, yes, confidence and belief is so key. Working on it!!!!

  3. As a struggling writer and tennis player, I have always admired your success in both areas. Your humility is endearing. I am so glad the “little yellow ball” found its way back over the fence and onto the blog court.

    1. That is so beautifully and economically said. You cannot be a struggling writer!

  4. So glad Little Yellow Ball is back; I’ve missed it! From what I see you’ve got plenty of reasons to be confident as both a tennis player and a writer, so please keep it up!

  5. I am so happy to see Little Yellow Ball is back. When I was out of the country, I checked it few times and was so frustrated that I can’t get the new blogs, not knowing that you had taken some times off. I Do enjoy reading it a LOT! Keep it up. Loved this blog’s content and humor as always.

  6. Woo hoo! It’s back! Thanks for the new post. We all get busy. We all have slumps in confidence. But I echo the others who say that I read enjoy reading your posts and am happy you’re back.

  7. Thanks for the support and pep talk, everyone. I guess we all struggle with doubt sometimes…

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