Getting Calmer

calmThere are many factors that go into being “successful” on the tennis court… your shot making ability, your power, your conditioning, and (maybe most important) your mental ability. Being able to stay calm on the tennis court (between and during points) can play a big role in how you play.

A while back, after losing to World #1 Fred Drilling for the second year in a row at one of the January Florida Super Senior Grand Prix tournaments in virtually the identical lopsided score, I said to him, “Fred, I am disappointed that I could not get a better measurement of my improvement over the last year; because YOU got better too!”

He replied, “No, I don’t think I got better. I got CALMER.” He learned how to stay relaxed on the court and during the point.

How To Get Calmer

Jeff Greenwald, in his “Fearless Tennis” books and CDs talks about learning to “center yourself” on the tennis court by focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention INTO your body.

He points out that to get good at this skill, like everything else, you need to practice it. He recommends taking at least five minutes each day to just relax, breath, and learn to focus inwardly.

I have been using Jeff’s concepts for a couple of years now; and have just enhanced the activity with a simple, free iPhone application called It is basically an introduction into meditation, which is really what relaxed breathing and mental cleansing is all about.

If you haven’t tried any of these concepts, you should… it can help both on and off the tennis court.

What have you tried?

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6 thoughts on “Getting Calmer

  1. George,
    This is excellent.
    Do Bikram Yoga, which emphasizes breathing and meditation. Also, try to remember the things in Tim Galway’s book (The Inner Game of Tennis) like playing detached and quietly watching yourself play and kindly making adjustments, as opposed to angry self criticism, etc.
    All good, if you can actually do these things in the heat of battle. You don’t want to become so calm you lose some fire! Need a good balance.
    Keep up ther good work!

    Phil – Thanks for the added info. george

  2. Perhaps twelve years of Yoga training and teaching in my early adult life plus competing for the last 20 years in national adult open age group tennis provides some insight into this subject to share with you.
    Example – playing Les Buck last week in 65 national grass. I played my game reasonably well and still lost first set 6-1. If I was going to have a chance to win the match, the 2nd set had to start well. I served an important 2nd serve with ad out using the following “calming” techniques in preparation for that serve.
    1) took several smooth deep abdominal breathes 2) actively relaxed my hands, shoulders, and facial muscles 3) rejected a low percentage all or nothing serve 4) chose an aggressive but within my ability to make 80+% down the T serve (as he was really handling the backhand returns well) and 5) reiterated to myself that this is not stress, pressure but why we play; it is fun and the result will be fine whatever it is as long as I know I gave it my full effort.
    Although I lost the 2nd set 6-2, the “calm” remained throughout to compete as best I can and enjoy it. The fact that his tennis talent was much better than mine is OK – if you never lose, you are not playing good enough people.

    Winder – good stuff! Another Jeff Greenwald technique is to smile on the court. Having fun is what it is all about. Thanks. George

  3. While it is certainly a great thing to train your mind with a structured breathing practice/meditation/yoga, etc…(it will make it more accessible in the moment), you can also practice getting focused and calm on the go. In fact, when you bring the deep breath into your day when you are walking to the car, driving, showering, reading emails, etc…you will have “generalized” this skill and it will become automatic. In other words, as soon as you start tightenting up or thinking too much you will begin to take a deep breath automatically and as a result bring your attention back into the present–into your body! Bring it into your life, just a breath here and there and this skill and a greater calm will descend upon you more and more.

    Jeff – without even thinking about it, i have been doing just that! thanks, george

  4. Brent Abel talks about having a favorite song refrain to run through your head between points as a calming and focusing influence. He recommends something smooth and relaxing, but I suppose any piece of music that you like would be ok. I have tried this and I think it works. Sometimes I even find myself humming music under my breath, very softly. I am sure my opponents wonder what is going on.

    Marty – another friend of mine whistles. tks (and for the succinct comment!) george

  5. Good stuff, I’ve used a few of the above, plus this one, which is good to use at any time, but especially if you find yourself feeling down. I’ll call up a feeling of gratitude that my opponent is playing so well and thus challenging me. I also try and feel gratitude for the fact that here I am on a (usually) beautiful day, healthy enough to be out here competing (even though there’s always a few aches and pains, of course!).
    I find that when I can feel genuine gratitude, it not only helps me relax, but also focus on the moment and enjoy it, no matter what. I may still lose, but I’ll know I gave it my best both physically and emotionally.

    Mike – if i remember correctly, that is in the first chapter of Jeff Greenwald’s book on Mental Tennis! thanks. george

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