Are you a tennis player who has difficulty controlling stress, managing motivation and maintaining concentration during a match? Your mind can negatively affect performance and ultimately determine the result of a contest. To counter this problem, you can learn to manage your mind with some simple techniques.
Superstitious habits are the little gestures that don’t have any obvious, tangible effect, that you nevertheless repeat every day, even unconsciously. Do these habits have any value?
From a purely mental point of view, the brain must experience ideal conditions to fully focus on certain goals. Having certain habits can be important for creating a safe environment in which you are mentally at peace.
How must you organize your habits?
During a match or during training, you will often experience moments which require great concentration. The goal is to have certain habits that you can call on to calm and focus you during these moments.
As professional players do, you can choose discreet gestures that will not give away what you are doing. For example, you can adjust the racket’s strings in a certain way or touch the side of the racket. More exaggerated gestures are also fine as long as you are comfortable with them. The most important thing is to identify such habits that will help you on the court.
For example, during the serve:
- Bounce the ball three times.
- Focus on what you want to do with the ball.
Rest, relax and breathe
Tennis is a sport that keeps the body and mind in a constant state of tension. Consequently, it is essential to be able to relax both your mind and body when the opportunity arises. This is a major contributing factors to improving performance.
Mental relaxation increases self-esteem and allows you to face every situation with serenity. In this way, you will avoid entering the so-called “red zone,” a state of mind where lucidity is lost.
Muscle relaxation has a positive effect on body movements. The more relaxed the service, the faster and more powerful the shot. Relaxation is essential, at the same time, in order to hit the ball at the right time. Relaxation does not only concern the upper part of the body, but also involves the legs. Toned and light legs, in fact, ensure casual movements.
Have clear goals and tactics
Entering the court without any goal or idea about the match is not the best mental way of approaching any contest. Having clear goals and tactics helps to focus the mind and, ultimately, assists with successful completion of the goals themselves.
How to identify your goals and tactics
- Create personal tactics: What are your strengths? Forehand? Backhand? Try to implement these strengths from the very start of the match to gain an upper hand on your opponent. Consciously remind yourself to use these strengths, and do not fall into a rhythm dictated by the other player. Be careful, though: if the opponent responds well to your shots, you will need to modify and rethink the game strategy. That said, it’s important to have a plan even if you have to change it at some point.
- Think about the next point: The next point is a new point. Thinking about the point you just lost has no value. You cannot change the past, and will need to focus immediately on the next task.
Why are you here?
It may seem a trivial question, but your concentration depends on the answer. The answer is crucial to understanding to what extent you are focused on the match and on training in general.
How to answer this question?
The only person who can answer the question is you. Passion, competitive drive, well-being, competitiveness, desire for challenge, desire to have fun: whatever the answer, you can only find it yourself.
The answer will allow you to apply the concept of relativism. “I know why I'm there.” Once you have a clear idea of why you are here and what you are doing, it is easier to keep distracting thoughts out of your mind while playing. This will greatly assist you in keeping your concentration.
Concentration is incredibly important in tennis, and maintaining it always a challenge. To keep your concentration at a high level, there are some exercises you can do.
How to train concentration
- During training, say the name of the shot you are performing.
Example: If you are preparing for a forehand, when the opponent hits their serve, say “forehand” loud and clearly.
- Always watch the ball! More precisely, look at the ball’s trajectory as well as the ball itself.
- Play with balls of different colors (multicolored balls are widely available). The exercise is simple: each color corresponds to a type of shot or to a position on the court the ball should be hit to.
Manage important moments
You have prepared mentally for the game, but what do you have to do when the most important moment in the match arrives?
Here are some tips that can help you deal with big moments:
- Stick to the plan: Always keep your tactics and goals in mind. Don’t start messing around just because it’s a big point.
- Each point is different: Stay focused and play each point on its own merits. Whether it's 0-0 or 0-40, it's always a new point.
- Challenge fate: Don't be afraid and take necessary risks (though this doesn’t mean to forget your goals and tactics!) Even if you sometimes fail, in most cases you will gain confidence in yourself and, above all, you can win the match.
Now you know all the secrets related to mental conditioning and concentration in tennis matches. Therefore, stay focused, fight for every point and, as always, have fun!