View Full Version : Mental Tips
03-13-2004, 02:50 PM
Hi i'm a freshman tennis player at my high shcool and I had beaten 2 varsity players in tryouts but the coach still wouldn't let me in to varsity so now I have to work my way up I'm currently about to finish a close match for #1 in JV and everytime I play in a tourny or something else I always choke. I'm good in practice but thats when there is no pressure. I need to work more so I'm not nervous but I also need some mental preperation. What do you guys do when your about to play a pressure filled game?
03-13-2004, 06:46 PM
Don't let choking worry you too much. Everybody chokes, from the weekend player serving out a set to the highest level choke (think Navotna against Graf in Wimby final). Just accept this as part of the game and don't be too worried about losing. The reason why you feel nervous is because you feel that you can't afford to lose a match. If you keep having such thoughts you will definitely choke at important points in a match. Just tell yourself to concentrate on every point and not let small things bother you. Also never get angry at yourself if you do make errors. Just remain calm and play your normal game. Reading some books on the mental aspects of the game may help. (Eg Gilbert's book Winning Ugly is a rich source of information for those looking for mental keys and approach to winning using percentage play.........) Good luck and mostly-> Have Fun!!
Make sure that you a following through on your shots and that your split stepping.
Give yourself more time than usual to get into the match. Play at 70 or even 50 percent of your normal power early in the match to get your rhythm established.
And, for this situation in particular, you win either way. If you lose the match and play on JV, you'll be getting match experience in a lower pressure situation. If you lost the match due to choking, then it's the best thing that can happen to you.
03-14-2004, 04:54 AM
I feel for you. We all choke at times, it's actually a good sign, it shows that you care, and it is a good first step to becoming a better player.
Here's some things that have helped me.
Focus on keeping your butt down after you hit every stroke.
Focus on using your legs to hit the ball.
You can't control alot of things in a tennis match and getting into thinking about stoke technique or even fancy strategy, leads many people (myself included) into being paralized.
By focusing on simple, little boring things like keeping your butt down you will have a positive way to expend your nervous energy that will have a good effect on you.
Go get em! Your gonna be a good player!
03-15-2004, 07:55 AM
I think it is the pressure you put on your own self that causes you to choke. This happens when we try real hard to "move up the ladder" but when it comes time to put out when it counts - fear sets in. False expectation creeps into our minds and we sort of get a nervous panic. Lots of little demons enter you mind such as "gee, maybe I am not this good" or "maybe I should be on JV and I would win easier", or what will the coach or other players think if I lose".
I dont know what bad thoughts enter your mind before match play but it certainly comes from a lack of inner confidence in your ability. You have to believe in yourself as a person that no matter what happens "win or lose" you are a good man capable of doing well in this life. Tennis is not a game of just strokes. There is an emotional and mental part of this game that needs to be developed and wants to mature. Most athletes stop here.
Instead of focuing on outcomes of matches (which is what causes mental paralysis and fears) focus on what you want to accomplish during the match. Set some performance goals such as "I only want to make two double faults per set".
Nerves will always be there before and sometimes during you match, this is normal, it is energy wanting to be released. Be sure to release the energy in a positive direction for yourself even though you feel crummy at first.
Here are some tips at prematch:
1. Mental toughenss is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR: Mental toughness may appear to be an "inborn" talent, only reserved for the gifted champions. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is a learned behavior. So always, practice with pressure. Simulate points so you become comfortable. Always try to build pressure in your practices. Have your coach help you or your teammate.
2. The Success Formula: top level tennis is 1/3 physical, 1/3 mental & 1/3 emotional. Most players spend 100% of their energy, time and money only on the physical.
3. PRe-match relaxation ritual: Take 10 minutes before each match to calm yourself - deep breathes. Controlling your heart rate is a critical factor in playing in the Zone. (a) turn off all outside stimuli (B) Close your eyes, breath deep & sit still (c) As hard as you can, tighten (for 5 seconds) then relax all muscle groups. Notice the different feelings between tense and relaxed. (d) After relaxing each muscle, repeat "I have the answers to all his/her shots". (e) Before matches, Pros can often be found in a quiet corner of the locker room doing just that!
4. Pre-match visualization ritual: Take the next 10 minutes before the match to rehearse each stroke & favorite patterns. This way you have already been there, in your mind's eye.
5. Proactive ways to relieve anxiety: (a) Exercise: A quicj hit or run is a great short-term solution. (b) Assertive action: conquering your demons is the real long-term goal.
There is more but in a study down by the USTA & David Hemery's Sports Excellence Book, tennis champoins contributed these above rituals as key in helping them overcome their demons and seperating themselves from the average athelete.
Remember nerves will always be there, now that your aware of them, you need a game plan on how to deal with them so you can play.
When I start to get nervous or lose my confidence, I begin to remind myself of the disgust I feel when I lose a match due to being tentative.
I also remind myself why I play the sport. For me, winning tentatively is just barely more satisfying than losing while playing well. However, sticking with aggressive play during pressure will do much more for your game than a tentative win will in my opinion.
Also check out 'The Inner Game of Tennis'. It's a good book about blocking out irrelevant and negative thoughts. I'm surprised no one mentioned it yet.
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