TENNIS – THE MENTAL GAME
Tennis is a competitive sport, commonly played between 2 individuals. It is an excellent example of a game that isn’t just about your physical skill level, but also your mental capacity. Thus, practising skills which boost your ability to think quickly, focus and stay calm is paramount to success. Sometimes your mental toughness can be the difference between winning and losing.
All sport can help build mental confidence in your life. It can help you with your physical fitness by building muscle strength, improve hand eye coordination and improving reaction time, but sport can also help develop these other important skills.
LEARN THE TERMINOLOGY
Maybe you don’t know everything about the game? Can you hit a volley, or would you be intimidated by your opposition spinning the ball on a slice? Or do you make a lot of faults?
It’s important to learn from the best, so when you watch tennis players perform at Wimbledon you should pay attention to the skills that they use to improve your own playing. You may notice the attention they pay to foot placement and accuracy on an opening serve, ensuring they recover quickly to respond to the opponents’ next move.
When the umpire says, “Quiet Please”, they are trying to calm down the crowd so that the players can focus and not be distracted. But mental toughness can allow a professional player to quieten their mind and focus on only what matters. They tune out the noise of the crowd regardless of how noisy they are.
Visualising yourself playing like the great players can help with learning these key skills too. The more you visualise copying these movements, the better you will get at replicating them.
GET PROFESSIONAL COACHING
Going to a tennis school is a great way to develop both the mental and physical skills needed to improve your game.
You want to play on a court which you can become familiar with because your court should remain consistent in order to focus on the rest of your game.
Most courts in Australia use hard courts, made of synthetic or acrylic layers, because they are easy to maintain and don’t spoil due to weather or soil variation. Soft soil may also slow the bounce of the ball, making it less predictable.
If you’re familiar with your court, you can then work on your serve. If you’re taking first serve, pay attention to the smooth movement of your serving hand and make sure you know where the ball will land in the service box. Try visualising the balls movement before moving your racket, it will help your racket and your arm follow through correctly.
Having your own tennis court can allow you to practice 365 days a year. This gives you a huge advantage over other players who might only make it down to their local court once a week.
Try to practice with another player so you can adapt to the speed of their serve too. When you have this type of constant feedback, you will quickly learn what returning strokes you need to improve on. Get your partner to challenge you with return shots like a volley, a slice or shots with topspin or backspin. Again, it helps to mentally record your mistakes as well as your successes.
By playing more regularly, you will improve your concentration, memory and your natural ability when connecting your intended plans with your real performance.
IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL STATE
Mastering concentration while you play should come naturally, although there are some other tips that you can practice in order to focus more while you play.
Visualise by talking yourself through each step before you make a move. If you can remember the steps you need to make in advance, and practice them, you will avoid having to shift your mental focus in the middle of a point.
Meditate in between matches. Listening to calming music or the sounds of nature, is an ideal way to help tune out the noise of the outside world.
Multitask doing other activities – Practice doing multiple activities at the same time. An example of this could be listening to a tennis skills audio book while you’re preparing dinner or typing information on a laptop while also watching a tennis match on YouTube. The key here is to notice if you can shift your mind between each activity. As this skill set improves, so too will your ability to concentrate and multitask during a tennis match.
Lastly get used to the real thing – The more you get used to the live experience of a tennis match, the easier it will be for you tune out that noise and concentrate on your game.