THE MENTAL SIDE OF TENNIS.
It is a fact that many people who play tennis do not consider training on the mental
aspects of the game.
This does not mean that they do not aquire these skills as many people will
naturally have some aspects to cope with the pressure of life and therefore the
playing of tennis.
It is part of the tennis coaches duty to ensure that they include mental training as
an integral part of their overall coaching. Without putting too much emphasis on
the teaching of this side of the game, but incorporating it in their daily tennis, they
will be giving their students a tremendous benefit both in their tennis outlook and
their life skills.
There are fundamental moral values that need to be considered such as:
Passion – which represents explosive mental strength and these include:
Discipline – constituting endurance and strength of mind
Willingness – consisting of mental strength/resistance
The Mental Skills required by Tennis player included
Clarity of thought
AREAS TO BE DEVELOPED IN MENTAL SKILLS.
To be Self-Motivated Positive Self-talk
Set Goals for each lesson Rituals & Routines
Use targets for hitting to. Positive analysis of mistakes
Rewards (i.e. verbal rewards) Look forward not back
Praise for good behaviour/performance Good body language
as well as results. Confidence log book
Have fun in each training session Positive feedback
Get player input
Re-assess goals regularly
Interesting and changing lessons
Target practice Train in different environments
Work to maintain concentration every session Match play with unusual rules
Change drill & play regularly Match play against different opponents
Buddy coaching Play with different racquets
Silent games Conditioned game scenarios
Clarity of thought Calmness
Umpiring matches Sense of humour
Guided observation of live matches Breathing techniques and routines
Self-analysis Eliminating stress
Written tactical plan for matches
Observing and commenting on other players
Body language (demeanor, pumping fist) Proactivity
Matchplay with handicap scoring Self analysis
Conditioned games No limits
Two vs one practice Taste for effort
targets to achieve Self responsibility
Free flowing tennis
Hungry for playing
Desire to achieve in practice & play
BUILDING YOUR SELF – CONFIDENCE..
Always practice positive encouragement (especially at times when you have moments of doubt) As an example, choose a positive statement
to say to yourself:
“My serve is my strongest shot”
“ My forehand is my major weapon”
This positive thinking will influence the way I react on court and the way I play.
Always be well prepared, physically. technically, tactically and mentally. Imperative for a professional and necessary for other players.
A player who ensures this is confident and knows they can rely on this in a match.
The importance of being fit in every way cannot be over emphasised.
Emphasis your success. Every shot you play well in practice should be remembered. This is probably the first link in your confidence chain.
Every point you win in matches should also be remembered, especially if it was a difficult shot or in difficult or porr conditions.
Here are four things to help you:
1/. Link a success to a positive word (either out loud or in your head) such as ‘YES!’
2/. Link a success to a positive action, perhaps a punch in the air (but no gloating)
3/. Take a mental photo of successful moments
4/. Get a note book and get into the habit of writing down these successes.
At times when you are in doubt, read your note book for re-affirmation of your successes.
The learning of Moral Values and Mental Skills, should, where ever possible be started at an early age and these are not confined to the
It would be hoped that Moral values are taught in the home and the school and of course the tennis coach should be a partner in the learning
Mental skills should also be taught in the above environment but too often these are not taught specifically, but it is the duty of the sports
coach to feature these in the learning process.
The teaching and learning of moral values and mental skills should be an on going part of the overall training programme.
Attached at Appendix 1 – I am providing a chart to indicate the methods of developing mental skills, this was published by the L.T.A. And
was based on the experiences and ideas of National Coaches, County Performance Officers and coaches in France and Great Britain.
Working day – to – day on mental skils.
You should practice your mental skills during training periods and then take them onto the court with you when you play matches.
Never ever be negative – always practice positive encouragement. Build up your own list of positive statements and then use them
consistently, such as ‘ My forehand is my best weapon’ My serve is my strength’ ‘ This positive thinking will influence the way I am on
court and the way I play these shots’.
Always be fully prepared. Make sure you are in the best physical shape and fit, be prepared to continually work on your technique so that
it is the best it can be. Work on your tactical game, learn all about patterns of play.
Each shot you play well in practice and in matches and every point you win should be remembered.This will add to your confidence/ Here
are some points to assist you:
Link a success to a positive word (either aloud or to yourself) ‘Come on’ ‘YES’
Link a success to a positive action, punching the air etc
Take a mental picture of moments of success.
Keep a diary or note book and include your successes
One tennis play I know, keeps his positive statements and successes on the side of his water bottle which accompanies him to all his practices
and matches. At a time of need he takes stock by looking for the appropriate statement.
Get into the habit of imagining success rather than defeat in your mind. See yourself playing well and hitting winners.
Whilst you are playing focus on the ball, allow it to fill your gaze so that other thoughts are eliminated. Try to watch the wording or seams of
Concentrate on the sounds of the rally, the ball bouncing, the racket hitting the ball, feel the rhythm of the hitting. Even the pro’s say
bounce – hit to themselves if things are no going too well with their concentration.
As you hit the ball exhale sharply – concentrate on your breathing.
Whilst rallying, repeat in your mind the following words before each hit ‘Hit’, ‘Attack’ etc., Pick your own words.
You should try to practice under as many different conditions as possible, go to different venues for practice with different court surfaces.
If it is very sunny or windy, so out and practice, you will have to play in these conditions.
Use different pressure drills to make it tough for you to beat your partner. Use old and new tennis balls.
We must first of all recognise when we or our players are anxious and this may take various forms, displaying nerves and appearing anxious,
some people may seem quiet, some yawn whilst others become boisterous.
Try keeping a log or a diary to record feelings of anxiety before and during each training session and whilst competing. Once you recognise
the signs of anxiety you can begin to work on it.
Recognition is only part of the equation, it is then necessary to manage it. One of the most commonly used relaxation techniques is Progressive
Muscular Relaxation (PMR). this is a body-to-mind technique which encourages you to alternate tensing and relaxing the muscles, moving
around the body from head and neck to lower legs and feet. Also using correct breathing techniques. These exercises should initially be
performed before training only.
Try the following before a training session.
First name some of the major muscle groups (using simple names such as calves, forearm etc) then use this sequence for each group:
Tense the muscles for about 5 seconds (ensure there is no pain associated with this)
Notice the sensation of the tension
Completely relax the muscles.
Notice the difference between relaxed and tense muscles.
Repeat two or three times.
Abdominal breathing. Close your mouth, exhale then inhale through your nose intil your lungs are full. The the area below the ribcage
should expand when breathing in.
The sequence is:
* deep inhalation
* tensing of muscles for five seconds
* exhalation and relaxation of muscles.
Meditation allows you to relax while simultaneously focusing the mind.
It require four main elements.
* A quiet, warm environment (e.g. changing room, car )
* A comfortable position.
* An object/word on which to focus attention (a mantra)
* A passive attitude, allowing thoughts to pass through the mind, passively returning to the object of focus.
Imagery can also be used as a mind-to-body technique in order to practice relaxation.
Obviously the above techniques take time and can only be performed during training sessions, therefore you will a quick fix technique to help
the feeling of relaxation during competitive play (eg between points, during change overs) and this is where the technique of centering comes
in to play.
Centering require you to change the centre of consciousness from the head to the cebtre of gravity (normally a point just below the navel) this
allows you to feel more balanced and stable, and so in control of the situation.
Practice the following so that you can use it during competition.
* imagine your consciousness is slipping down from the head, down the neck, through the chest and into the stomach, coming to rest just
below the navel.
* take a deep breath (using the diaphragm) and as you exhale, focus for a moment on this part of the body.
The above is often all that is need to to relax and refocus and back into the match.
You should identify the rules of acceptability first and I list a number below.
Inmany of these the person who makes the deccission is you, however you can discuss and arrange these through your coach and they
should be scrupulously adhered to. An agreed penalty should be set for any breach of the rules.
Some rules for discipline:
# To be on time
# Not to complain
# To be on good behaviour
# No drugs
# No smoking
# No swearing
# No drinking
# No racquet throwing
# Respect for umpires and officials
# Involvement in goal setting
# Humility about tennis ability
# Consistency in the programme