15 June 2018

Winning the mind games

A huge percentage of the success in sport is what is happening inside your head. But how do you control it?

Whether you are taking a penalty at the World Cup or serving for the match in your local league, much of the outcome comes down to what you are thinking.  But how do you play your best shot when it matters most? Here at Tennis HQ, we were lucky enough to be given some mental skills training by a graduate student working on a Master’s degree and it is still the best way we know to approach a match.
It's a three part strategy.

1: Emotions

First, remembering your best tennis performance, which 5 words best described your emotional experience:
Efficient, confident, calm, motivated, engaged, skilled, experienced, supported controlled, committed, competent, comfortable, optimistic, organised, focused, empowered, secure, involved, patient, energised, encouraged, reactive, determined, energetic, happy, serene, secure, active, tranquil, charged, secure, rested, focused satisfied. 

And from your worst tennis performance, which 5 words best sum up your mental state: 
Frustrated, hostile, irritated, angry, impotent, powerless, inadequate, incompetent, failure, apathetic, alienated, lonely, isolated, bored, depressed, discouraged, disappointed,  discontented, despair, defeated, overwhelmed, useless, insignificant, worthless, indifferent, unmotivated, hurt, withdrawn, stagnated, locked-in, rejected, embarrassed, hopeless, negative, anxious, tense, nervous, fearful, confused, rushed, hyper, agitated, uneasy, insecure, uncertain, disorientated, bewildered, distracted, unsure, impatient, upset, self-pity, guilt.

Now you know the positive emotions to glue to your game and the right mental state to get into before and during a match. 

2: Critical Aspects of Tennis Performance 

What do you need to do to play well? Make a list of the top 5 things that, for you, make all the difference to a match.

Play a few practice games with a friend and score yourself on each. Refine the list.

3: The pre-match interventions

The first of these is ‘self-talk’.  In the days before the match, think of each of the critical aspects of tennis performance. Recalling a time when you  performed them successfully, what was going on in your head? Use this to develop a clear and simple motivational phrase for each action. Keep the words or phrases simple and memorise them so you can say them to yourself during the match.

The other pre-match element is ‘imagery’.  Recreate in your mind an image of yourself performing the skill you want to improve. You have to see, feel and hear exactly what it will be like when you do this on court. Visualise yourself doing it successfully.

The more you can do all of the above, the better your game will be and the calmer and more focussed you will feel. Good luck! 

If you have your own tips for how to perform best in a match, do let us know and we will pass them on in a future edition of the Roundup. Email info@localtennisleagues.com