In the individual sport as tennis is it is important to strive for improvement in all areas of development. In other sports like soccer or basketball your weaknesses can be easily masked by your partner’s strength. If you make a mistake it won’t count when your partner will correct it. Unfortunately it never happens in tennis so it is crucial to take responsibility for your own actions and learn how to deal with different obstacles.
Tennis players are hard-workers. They put a lot of effort every day to get better results during tournaments. Technical adjustments are incorporated into practice session. Tactical awareness is built while watching tennis matches. Systematic visits in the gym are scheduled to take care of physical preparation. Add mental routines, recovery methods and nutritional focus and you have the full picture of an ambitious tennis player.
Then we go to the tournament, make some easy mistakes and … it starts. We tend to get angry. We start to use bad words. We are negative. We throw the racquet. We lose the match.
That’s the scenario that happens to many players during any competition. It is important to understand that it doesn’t have to happen anymore. The ability to control own emotions and calm down while playing tennis is possible to train so it depends on how badly you want to improve this area to win all the matches that you should win. Too many times athletes mistakenly think that because they train hard and play well during practice sessions it is guaranteed that they show the same performance while competing in tournaments. The reality is that during training session you play without pressure so there are not so many situations that you can get angry at. Completely different story happens when you go to different place and try to beat your rival to advance to the next round and collect additional ranking points. The pressure is everywhere. That is why you need to possess ability to calm down and control your emotions to not let them ruin your all training work.
- Understand what happens
To make any change successful it has to be based on conscious effort. At the beginning players have to understand why being nervous doesn’t help their tennis. Negative emotions make your body tense. Your strokes lose fluidity and quality. You start to be impatient and make wrong decisions based on emotions (not on strategy). If you understand how much you lose every time you get nervous you will quickly decide to work on this negative habit and transform it into skills that will help you on the court.
- Have routines
Routine is a proven method to keep us focused on right things. When we get angry we need routine to quickly calm down and play our best tennis. Looking at the best players in the world they all have trained routines that they use between the points to let them stay calm and focused on one point at the time. Adjusting racquet’s string, using towel, going to the specific area on the court or shadowing strokes are examples of what you can do to control your emotions and maintain high level of performance.
- Learn to breath like an athlete
Breathing is an important aspect of any activity. Specific breathing techniques are known to calm down as also to perform up to own potential. It is used in different sports but the goal is always the same. If you want to incorporate this technique to help you deal with negative emotions you should use this simple pattern: breathe in through the nose while counting to 3 and breath out through the mouth while counting to 5-6. At the beginning you can find it difficult because your „nervous” body will want to rush things but your goal is opposite: to slow things down and let you play without any obstacles.
Now armed with new knowledge about how to deal with negative emotions you can step on the court and work on this ability. With consecutive conscious effort you will quickly see positive changes both in your behaviour and your on-court performance. And don’t forget that you can work on this skill in your personal life too. Stucked in a traffic? Understand your situations, apply breathing technique and use this time effectively!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 50 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.