It’s a BIG moment in a BIG match … you tense up and bury the ball into the net. Why does this happen and what can you do about it?
The overwhelming power of the human brain can cut both ways in athletics … it can help you visualize the desired outcome; but it can also inhibit smooth muscle flow. When you are on the court hitting a shot, you don’t want to THINK … you just want to DO.
But, how can you train your brain (and you can) to let you relax rather than tense up? There are actually many things you can do.
Playing vs. World #1
Several years ago, I lost to Fred Drilling in a tournament singles match 6-2, 6-1. In the intervening 12 months, I practiced, played, and improved my game; while Fred was off winning the World’s singles championship (I think in Australia).
I ended up playing him again – and losing by the exact same score! After the match, I said to Fred, “I thought my game had really improved over the last 12 months; but you got better too.”
He replied, “I don’t think I got better … I got calmer.”
How To Get Calmer
For the last 10-12 years, I have been practicing my own amateurish form of meditation. For 5-10 minutes a day, I sit quietly and try to clear my mind of all extraneous thoughts. It starts with deep breathing, focusing on the air coming in and going out, and then just relaxing your whole body.
Then on the court when a “tense situation” comes up, I can usually trigger that same sense of calmness by focusing on my deep breathing.
Another physical technique to relax the mind is to just SMILE. Try it. You will be amazed at the reaction you get – to both your own state of mind and how your opponents think you are nuts!
But the real bottom-line to relaxing is the simple realization that … THIS IS ONLY A TENNIS MATCH. Nobody lives or dies based on whether you make or miss the next shot. If you can put your ego aside, playing this game gets a lot easier (and a lot more enjoyable).
What do YOU do to relax on the court?
This week’s USTA tournament is at the Lakewood National Club (Bradenton, FL), where Hank Irvine is seeded #1 in 75 singles and dubs (I get to be his partner this week and next). For the full draw and results so far, click HERE.
Next week’s tournament is at the beautiful Meadows Country Club in Sarasota. Details for that one are HERE.
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