Mentally Tough for Tennis: Take the Sportsmind Test

Choose one response per question, and answer every question even though the situation may never have happened to you. Read each description and imagine it happening to you; then choose the response that is closest to how you would think.


1. Situation: You are asked to join the state squad :

A: I am good enough to play at state level.

B: It was lucky break to be chosen for the team.

2. Situation: You win an important match :

A: I was feeling unbeatable that day.

B: I always put a lot of effort into my training.

3. Situation: You do exceptionally well in an interview for a coaching position :

A: I always perform well in interviews.

B: I felt very relaxed and confident in the interview.

4. Situation: You play a match without a single double fault :

A: I was concentrating well that day.

B: I am a consistent server.

5. Situation: You organise a social tennis day, and everyone enjoys it :

A: I’m a good organiser.

B: I was really switched on that day.

P –

6. Situation: You forget an important appointment after a week’s break :

A: My mind was still on holiday that day.

B: I always forget when my routine is disrupted.

7. Situation: You get angry with the umpire during a game :

A: That umpire is biased against me.

B: He / She didn’t umpire fairly in the game.

8. Situation: You put on a lot of weight over Christmas and have trouble getting back

to your peak weight and fitness :

A: The diet I tried didn’t work.

B: It’s always hard to get back into training after a break.

9. Situation: Your coach says something that hurts your feelings :

A: He / She is always very cutting with criticism.

B: He / She was in a grumpy mood and took it out on me.

10. Situation: You repeatedly double fault throughout an important match :

A: I wasn’t concentrating enough on my serving that day.

B: I always get tense in important matches.

V +

11. Situation: You save a stranger from drowning in the surf:

A: I stay calm in a crisis.

B: I’m trained in surf rescue.

12. Situation: The coach asks your advice on a new training program :

A: I know some innovative training techniques.

B: I have a good understanding of tennis training..

13. Situation: You contest for club president, and win :

A: I always give everything my best shot.

B: I put a lot of effort into speaking to all the club members.

14. Situation: Your coach tells you you are at peak fitness level :

A: I stuck to my training program.

B: I’m very fitness conscious.

15. Situation: A friend comments on your confidence :

A: I am a confident person.

B: I’ve been playing well lately.

V –

16. Situation: You play poorly in a mixed doubles competition :

A: The competition was fierce that day, and we got a couple of rough calls.

B: We don’t always play well together as a team.

17. Situation: The coach says you’re not concentrating :

A: I’m not as focused as everyone else.

B: I have been slacking off a bit lately.

18. Situation: You fail to make the state squad :

A: I haven’t been playing well for the past few weeks.

B: I’m not as good as the other players.

19. Situation: You are in charge of a training session while your coach is sick, and

no one enjoys the training :

A: I’m not very good at coaching.

B: I didn’t put much thought into the coaching session.

20. Situation: You miss a ‘sitter’ at a vital stage in a match.

A: I took my eyes off the ball.

B: I always miss easy shots when I have too much time to think.

The Sportsmind Test

Researchers have found that for sporting success – particularly in tennis – it’s important to have an unshakeable positive mental attitude. An attitude of optimism – of expecting to do well, and a thinking process that continually strives for solutions, rather than dwelling on problems or difficulties.

Optimism has been found to be significant in business, educational and sporting success. People who are the most optimistic are usually the most successful – so one way of describing mental toughness is through a measure of your optimism.

The questionnaire you completed offers a simple measure of your mental toughness by measuring your personal optimism.


Evaluate your answers using the following system:

1. Start by looking at every odd numbered question, and mark an ‘A’ choice with 1 point and a ‘B’ choice with 0 points. (Eg, if in question 1 you chose response ‘A’, you would get 1 point for that question)

2. Now look at every even numbered question, and mark an ‘A’ choice with 0 points and a ‘B’ choice with 1 point. (Eg. if in question 2 you chose response ‘A’, you would get no points for that question)

3. Next, look at the subheadings : P+, P-, V+ and V- and add your individual question scores to get a total for each of these categories. There are five questions for each category.

4. Finally, add up your total ‘+’ and total ‘-‘ scores.


Your scores mean the following:

If your total ‘-‘ score is

* 3 or below, is optimistic;

* 4 – 6, is average;

* 7 or above, is pessimistic.

This is your response to ‘negative’ events.

If your total ‘+’ score is

* 8 – 10 is optimistic;

* 6 – 7, is average;

* 5 or below, is pessimistic.

This is your response to ‘positive’ events.

Optimism and Mental Toughness

Optimism is understood by evaluating what is known as your ‘explanatory style’ – or how you explain to yourself ‘why’ events happen to you. All of us ask this question about the events that happen in our lives – but often this questioning process is not overtly conscious. We are all making ‘attributions’ about events, good and bad, and attribution theory suggests that the specific ‘explanations’ which you make significantly affect our behaviour and performance.

Pessimistic explanations lead to feelings of helplessness, while optimistic explanations provide feelings of self empowerment. In essence, how you explain to yourself ‘why’ events happen, (and particularly how you explain why negative events happen), determines how you face up to those events and how helpless, or empowered, you feel in the situation.

Which is essentially measuring how mentally tough you are – what we are measuring here is your quitting response, how much of a fighter you are; how likely you are to give up when the going gets tough. How persistentyou are.

Naturally when something negative happens to us, (for example, losing an important match; or a relationship break-up; or making a costly mistake; whatever), all or us – no matter how positive we are – feel momentarily ‘helpless’.

However, after that momentary helplessness, how you respond to the situation from then on is determined by the explanations you make to yourself .

If you tend to explain the negative event in an optimistic way, you’ll be more likely to pick yourself up and do what needs to be done, than if you explain the event in a pessimistic way.

Persistence is really important to tennis success, isn’t it? There will inevitably be numerous trials, setbacks and obstacles along the way – no truly great player had an ‘easy’ road, did they?

So your personal explanatory style affects how you deal with those trials and setbacks, and identifies how persistent you are – how much of a fighter you are.

The questionnaire you completed provides an indication of your explanatory style about both negative and positive events, and while the most significant is your response to negative events (it’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well), still your responses to positive events are also significant. Do realise that the questionnaire is NOT meant to be an accurate diagnostic tool, but rather to provide a very rough guide to, and a personal appreciation of, your personal explanatory style.

Researchers have discovered that an individual’s level of optimism significantly influences their performance in all areas of life. Optimism has been shown to be of significance in career performance, school and college results, sports performances, political fortunes, and even personal health and longevity.

Optimists are more likely to win when running for public office; generally have better health and immune function; achieve higher grades at school and college; succeed more often on the sporting field; and even live longer.

Pessimists are more frequently depressed; fail more frequently, even when success is attainable; exhibit more and more protracted periods of illness and injury; generally don’t achieve their potential in their careers or sport that their talents warrant; and die younger.

Your personal performance in all areas of life is profoundly influenced by your explanatory style – by the explanations you’re making about ‘why’ things happen to you. The more optimistic your explanations, the more likely you are to succeed .

We have always known of the importance of being positive and having a positive mental attitude – now modern psychological research has given us a greater understanding as to how and why this is so.

It’s also useful to recognise that optimism is a learned behaviour – and everyone can improve their level of optimism and positivity, and through this improve their tennis!

Find out more about optimism, and other mental training techniques for tennis online at

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email :
website :



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