Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Keeping Cool on Court: Staying Cool on the Inside

On-court tantrums…we’ve all seen ‘em. While throwing fits seems to be part of the genetic makeup of some tennis players, for most…it just doesn’t seem to help. Case in point – Andy Roddick - it seems that the more visibly upset Andy gets, the worse he plays and the worse he plays the more upset he gets – a vicious spiral! Keeping cool on court – both mentally and physically - is crucial to a successful tennis match. Check out these tips!

Part One: Staying Cool and Calm on the Inside
King of the racquet-throwing tantrum, John McEnroe,
reacts to an umpire's call at Wimbledon in 1980.

BUILD A SOLID BASE. Energy drain can affect the mind. Therefore, it is important to boost cardiovascular fitness for good mental stamina. Also, focus on core strength – which can be built with sit-ups, planks crunches, lunges and swimming. Core strength enhances the serve, improves balance and puts extra “pop” into ground strokes!

KEEP YOUR MIND IN THE PRESENT. From the beginning to the end of the match - focus on the current point. Concentrate on the return of each and every ball. Sometimes counting your returns - from the serve onward - can help. Many players try to adopt this mindset only after they start making errors, which may be too late. Players who start out with this strategy are much more consistent.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Emotional reactions on court are HABITS. Whether you are aware of it or not, they are learned and practiced! Players who practice being negative get really good at being negative – sound familiar? On the flipside, a positive attitude on court also takes practice. With each error, make a conscious decision to let negative feelings pass and move on to the next point with a level head.

PACE YOURSELF. If you are ahead, try to maintain the pace. Attempting to speed up the match can cause errors and affect momentum. However, if you are losing, it may help to slow down just a bit to regain your focus. Remember, 25 seconds is allowed between each point. If you need to, turn away between points - straighten strings, towel off and engage in self-talk. Tell yourself to calm down or pump yourself up – whatever it takes, but keep it positive!

NEVER LET ‘EM SEE YOU SWEAT. Visible irritation with your own performance does two things. 1. It makes YOU feel bad – not only did you just make an error, but your opponent knows your upset about it. Your chances of making another error: pretty good. 2. It makes YOUR OPPONENT feel empowered! They’ve got you right where they want you. Chances for your opponent to hit a winner in the next point: pretty decent!

All in all, having a good mental strategy for going into a match is important. Channel your inner “Rafa Nadal” (with his “Tigger-like” bounce prior to every match) to boost energy, and evoke “Roger Federer” to keep calm, collected and cool throughout the match!

Stay Tuned for Part Two: Staying Cool on the Outside

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