Tennis matches can bring out a variety of emotions that all players will have to face. The top players have trained their mind for years to be ready for all the ups and downs tennis matches give them. This way they can play their best no matter what the situation is. Mental toughness doesn’t come quickly but with the correct training, you can enjoy your matches without having your emotions take control over you. Let’s begin your training!
Part I: Level Up Your Mental Strength
Below you will see the ways a player will respond to the stress a match can bring. Where do you fall?
1. The lowest level of responding to stress in a match is through tanking. Tanking gives the player a way out. When a player identifies as a winner, the player will avoid anything that threatens it. By tanking, the player can protect their status as a “winner” since they did not try and fail.
2. The next level of response to stress is anger. Players avoid nervousness through anger. Anger can keep their attention away from the nerves they feel. The problem with anger is that it negatively effects problem solving and motor skills. This does get the player closer to mental toughness as it does show the players care.
3. Choking is the next level of response. Players care so much that they try too hard. This is a common mistake that many of us have been in. Although it’s a determinant to our play it does show we want to play well and it’s a step in the right direction.
4. The ultimate level of response is feeling nervousness and handling it with 100% effort and positive energy. The player is fully engaged and playing to their potential. Most importantly they are enjoying their experience!
Now that you can see the different levels of response to a tennis match, let’s take a look at how you can get to 100% effort and stay positive for the entirety of your tennis matches. All the thinking that can make or break your matches comes between points and games. Let’s focus our efforts on what you can do during this time to improve your mental strength. Try these 4 steps between points in your next match.
Part II: Training Your Brain Between Points
Step 1. Positive Physical Response: Instantly when the point is over, place racquet in the opposite hand. Keep your head up and walk with high energy and confidence. Body language is huge as soon as the point is over!
Step 2: Relaxation: Focus on your strings and keep shoulders relaxed with calm breathing. Breathing is crucial to stay relaxed. Deep breath through your nose and out of your mouth will keep your heart rate down and allow you to think clearly.
Step 3: Preparation and Positive Energy: It’s important to show your opponent that you’re ready for anything they can throw at you. It gives the message that you’re in the moment and fully engaged. Players that look deflated gives their opponent motivation that they have already defeated their opponent. Avoid this with keeping your feet moving and giving your opponent the message you’re going to be tough to beat.
Step 4: Rituals: Just like a basketball or baseball player has rituals before they shoot a free throw or stand in the batters box, players need a routine for the serve and return. Keeping your mind on the task at hand allows your body to do the motion you are asking it to do through any stressful situation you face. Keep it consistent for consistent results!
Take home message: As players improve they realize that mental training is just as important as hitting the ball. Work on your mental game through the steps shown below and you should feel more calm and in control of the situations that are presented to you in your matches. Happy training!
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