The 2nd part of my mental tennis session with Filippo and Andrea from Mental Tennis is out on YouTube. It’s called “Tennis drives me crazy”.
Tennis is a wonderful sport and I have great love and respect for it. But sometimes tennis drives me crazy. It can be extremely frustrating when things don’t go to plan and you play (what you perceive is) way beyond your level. So much so that some players don’t even want to play competitive tennis due to this aspect. Because competitive tennis and tennis practice are two different things.
When we are hitting with a tennis partner, we can find flow, rhythm, there is no tension and we can feel the ball well and hit freely. In a competition or a match with some (real or imagined) stakes, your arm can feel like lead, your feet can stop moving and gone is the flow and enjoyment you experienced while practising perhaps just an hour or a day before. When tension sets in, strange things can happen to the body.
I’ve experienced this more than once and that’s one reason I was curious about doing some training with Mental tennis. I wanted to come to grips with how different I felt and played on the practice court versus a competitive setting.
You play your best tennis when you are relaxed, but not too relaxed. You need to have intensity without being too nervous, agitated or fearful of missing. That’s the balanced, relaxed aggression that pros do so well.
This might come naturally to you or it might require some hard work. For me, hitting a ball feels pretty natural, but hitting a ball in a competitive match, can feel quite different. I often put too much pressure on myself to perform and end up running around without a plan, without finding my game and losing before the match has started (in my mind).
I don’t always do this. But it has happened enough times for me to really want to combat the feeling of chaos and being rushed on a tennis court. You need to control your nerves, not let them control you.
For most people, this might be related to the fact that they HATE losing and that winning is important. I don’t care so much about winning or losing, I just don’t want to let myself down. I am fine with it if I lose when I play decent tennis. If I lose when I play bad tennis, I feel like I want to smash the racquet.
Can you relate?
Is this something you have experienced? How has it affected your enjoyment from tennis? Have you tried to do anything about it? I felt like my zoom sessions and now also tennis training session with Mental Tennis has helped me understand my own fears and given me some tools for how to process them. Yes, I need more work, but at least I know the issue and have some ideas on how to battle it.
You can check out the mental tennis checklist for some ideas.
Here are some quick tips that I have started using.
- Take time in between points to empty your mind. Kind of like meditation.
- When your mind is empty – try to visualize the next point. What do you want to happen?
- If you’re feeling stressed, breathe and jog in place to relax some of that tension.
- Try to give yourself an honest assessment – what is happening in the match? Are you rushing? Then try to slow things down. Are you playing at your opponent’s tempo – try to increase the intensity? What is your opponent doing to your game that you can counteract?
- Stop and take in the moment. Have gratitude, even if you’re playing badly, that you can enjoy such a great sport as tennis. Winning or losing is not life or death.
- If you’re talking negatively to yourself, stop it. You don’t need to pretend that everything is going well, but rather react neutrally than negatively or positively.
- Create a routine that helps to focus your mind. Count the strings, wipe your face with your towel, bounce the ball ten times. A small ritual that helps you focus. Pros do it all the time. Just watch them.
Are you using any of these tips? How is it going? What do you struggle with when you compete?