There are many kinds of tennis players in the world, from incredibly talented savants to those who can barely hang on to their racket when swinging. But no matter what level of player you are, the tennis world is divided into two groups: those who have ambitions to learn and get better, and those who do not. If you are a part of the latter group, you had better stop reading right now because what follows is not for you. These pages are for people who are wiling and eager to improve their games and themselves, regardless of talent level.
Indeed, talent is not something we are going to be overly concerned with. Too many people get caught up in the concept of talent, thinking that it’s the only thing that matters in sports. They figure that if you have enough talent everything will work itself out, and success and accolades will follow automatically. This could not be farther from the truth. Even the most talented players on Earth still have to work incredibly hard to achieve their goals, and talent only makes things slightly easier in the long run.
RELATED: How To Train Your Mind
Our main goal will be to improve your tennis, regardless of how good you may currently be. But be warned, what you are about to read is not some sort of magical elixir that will instantly guide to you the top of the tennis world! It is simply a guide that will give you the tools to improve yourself as a player and a person. We will show you how your mindset can have a very real impact on the quality of your play. We will give you insight on the mental skills required to master things like nerves and pre-game anxiety, and how you can build real mental toughness.
Above all, we will show you how the psychological component in tennis is just as important as the physical one.
Motivation is one of the most important, but least-discussed, factors when it comes to becoming a better tennis player. It really all starts with motivation: wanting to get better. If it’s a cold Saturday morning and you are tired and snug in your bed, will you get up to train or stay in bed? Many people will opt to stay in bed. “Just this once,” they will tell themselves. There is nothing wrong with taking a break every now and again, of course, but the problem is these events too easily become habits. And once these habits become entrenched, they can be very hard indeed to get rid of.
The key to avoiding such issues, of course, is motivation. Motivation is simply the thing that drives you to do something. There are two kinds of motivation:
* Intrinsic motivation: Internal motivation that comes from within you.
* Extrinsic motivation: External motivation that comes from outside sources.
Extrinsic motivation is the easiest to use to get yourself going in the short term. For example, you can tell yourself that if you train on the cold Saturday morning, you will buy yourself pancakes for breakfast. Intrinsic motivation is more substantive and comes from a desire to do something for its own sake. For example, if you are intrinsically motivated, you will get up to train on the cold Saturday morning because you have a passion for tennis and want to get better. You don’t necessarily need potential prizes or pancakes to motivate you to train hard.
To maintain long-term motivation, it is essential to be intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation will keep you going for a while, but even with success it is easy to “burn out” when only using this form of motivation.
To “burn out” is to become demotivated and tired of tennis. In terms of extrinsic motivation, it is usually because either you are not receiving enough external rewards to keep you motivated, or the external rewards you are receiving no longer interest you. Think about it…if you have already own $100 million, would you really be motivated to win another $10000? Would you be motivated enough to keep training at the level required to play at an elite level? The answer, for most people, is simply “no.” Extrinsic motivation has its limits, and very rarely leads to long careers.
The inspiration you can get from intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is essentially limitless. If you have a true passion for the game and are willing to train hard just for the sake of getting better at your favorite sport, you are much less likely to burn out because you won’t be measuring yourself in physical rewards, but internal satisfaction. Long careers, regardless of their overall success, are almost exclusively fueled by intrinsic motivation.
Few young players understand the importance of goals. Without goals, it is ears to get discouraged with your game and progress, even if you are getting better. Goals give you purpose and direction, and they go a long way to re-enforcing your confidence as well.
A goal, of course, if the end-result of something you are trying to accomplish. Goals can be separated into two different categories:
* Long-term goals
* Short-term goals
Long-term goals are destinations in the distant future that will take some time and effort to reach. Short-term goals are milestones or checkpoints along the way to long-term goals. They can serve as more immediate motivators as you work towards your larger goals.
An example of a long-term goal would be that you want to be able to serve at 100 km/h. Of course, you can’t go from serving 60 km/h to 100 km/h in a single day! So, you need to break up the long-term goal of 100 km/h into short-term ones. Your first short-term goal would be serving at 70 km/h, then 80 and then 90 and so on.
Short-term goals are more digestible and less intimidating than long-term goals and can guide you to greatness one step at a time.
It’s important when setting goals to be realistic. Do not set your goals to be too difficult, as you will get discouraged and demotivated when it takes you very long to reach the goal. Also, be careful not to make your goals too easy. While it is nice to reach a goal quickly, it can also render these milestones meaningless if you didn’t get measurably better in reaching them. As you progress as a player, you will learn to gauge the kind of goal that is attainable for you, but still challenging and rewarding.
When formulating these goals, it also helps to think SMART:
- Specific: Your goal must be clear and easy to understand.
- Measurable: You must be able to tell if you are making progress towards your goal.
- Action-oriented: Goals must get you to perform mental or physical tasks.
- Realistic: As we discussed, don’t make goals too difficult!
- Timely: Goals need a realistic timeframe, else they won’t serve their purpose.
Goals are important, and the more you work at setting and reaching goals, the better you will become.
Next week we will discuss about
- Mental Imagery
- Thought Suppression
- Competitive Anxiety
- Zones Of Optimal Performance
- Coming Back From Injury
RELATED: Tennis: Taming Tantrums