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Finding Motivation Within Yourself- an inside look of what it takes to be a professional athlete

By Dasha Ivanova (professional tennis player)

Being an athlete of high level in any sport, especially tennis, is not all that it may seem on TV. There are many people involved behind the scenes for just one individual athlete. During those moments of fame we sometimes forget all the long days and hours that are spent on the court and in the gym. I know for myself that during those long days and weeks of practice (that seem never ending), it takes a toll on the mind to keep going for more. Yet, there are many habits and routines I found to help me to stay on track.


I was never the type of person to grab a book and just read, but then I asked myself; "How else can I learn from the best to be the best?" I only started doing so about a year or two ago (late I know). I am 23 years old. I was and still am determined to learn all I can about helping my nerves before/during matches, dealing with stress outside the court and how to not bring those bad thoughts with you on court. Most importantly, I want to know how the greatest champions stay laser focused on their goals while doing the same thing day after day, and sometimes having the feeling of being burnt out? What I discovered was that they treat every day like a new opportunity to get 1% better than the day before. One of the things I read over and over, that I found to be important, is to breathe and let go of any negativity that may cloud the mind. Personally, I hold on to many bad thoughts or practices/matches I had the day or even weeks before. This taught me that it's okay to let go and start fresh!


Oooh now this is a big one, at least for me personally. If I knew how important it is for the mind of a tennis player to be positive at the age of 12, I would be the calmest person on court. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case but you live and you learn! In my teenage years, I had a phase of bad attitude in matches, as well as practice. I was trying so hard to hit every ball perfect, that it would drive me crazy when it didn't go my way. If I was losing, I would dig

myself into a deeper and bigger hole instead of pumping myself up and changing something. It wasn't until I saw myself playing in a video that I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I knew I needed to change to be the player I dreamed of being. I realized that if I want to make a name for myself this type of attitude is not acceptable and is not helping anybody, especially not myself. I started out with writing into a journal every evening. I would list some positive things that I did in practice that day, as well as some things I need to work on. This made me stay accountable on my efforts each day. I learned that even if I lose a match, there is always something positive that can come out of it because unless you are having the worst day of your life, most likely you can find at least 1 positive! Staying positive is the only way your mind can take any new information in because when you are negative your mind is closed and everything just goes in one ear and out the other!


Growing up as an only child, I had all of the pressure to be the best. We are Russian. In our culture it is very normal to be pushed to be the best with no excuses. It can either be a good thing or a bad thing...for me, it was both. I always wanted to make my parents proud, my friends happy for me, and my coaches motivated to work even harder. Since tennis is an individual sport it's easy to get down on yourself and discouraged. Which is where your family/ friends/ coach/ boyfriend/ girlfriend step in to keep you motivated and keep hustling to get to the top. It's important to keep your circle small, and only with people who truly care about your success. For example, my boyfriend who is 170 ATP has been there for me through thick and thin. He has so much more experience than me with bigger stage matches, and he knows exactly what I'm feeling at any time. It's not easy waking up before 7 for practices for weeks and weeks, but when you have the right team around you pushing you towards your ultimate goal, it makes you motivated even more. Having the right coach, who is ready to grind and make you the best you can be, pushing you past your own limits is an amazing feeling. Seeing the big names play in the largest stadiums in the world would make anybody want to be there too.


In conclusion to everything above, if you want something bad enough you will do everything in your power to get it. If one day you wake up without desire to do something, read your goals and remember where you see yourself in the near or far future. Nobody gets to the top by chance, it takes many hours, days, years of hard work with repetition upon repetition. If you need rest, you take a small rest but then you get right back to it. I hope anyone reading this can take some of what I wrote to heart as it can be applied to not only sports or tennis but to daily life as well! Never give up!


Dasha Ivanova

is a professional tennis player currently ranked 465 in the world. She has 12 titles under her belt and is seeking the next level in professional tennis.

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