Showing Emotion on the Court

There are players who show a lot of emotion (both positive and negative) on the tennis court.  Is this a good or bad thing to do?

Pro Players Performing

Picture Andy Murray missing a shot and then turning and yelling at his “team” in the player’s box.  Or Djokovic (or any number of other players) smashing their racquets again and again on the tennis court in disgust.  Or, John McEnroe throwing one of his regular temper tantrums after losing on a close line call.

Then, compare that to Leyton Hewitt doing his famous “lawn mower” after winning a big point.  Or Rafa Nadal fist pumping after a great two-handed passing shot.

Or, the third option … Roger Federer showing very little emotion (one way or the other) after winning/losing a point.  And “the King of Calm,” Bjorn Borg showing absolutely no emotion on the court.

Which way is best?

For me, when I blow a shot, I will typically yell out a one-word expletive (or, maybe yell, “George!!”) … but then I am done with it.  That minor release is good enough to let me move on to the next point and generally be free of the negative emotion.

And when I make a “great shot,” in doubles, I will clink racquets with my partner or just turn and walk back to the baseline (trying to imprint the image of that good stroke in my mind for later use).

According to “Psychology Today”, “Negative emotions can hurt performance both physically and mentally. They first cause you to lose your prime intensity. With frustration and anger, your intensity goes up and leads to muscle tension, breathing difficulties, and a loss of coordination. These emotions also sap your energy and cause you to tire quickly. When you experience despair and helplessness, your intensity drops sharply and you no longer have the physical capabilities to perform well.

How about you… you show emotion on the court or know players who do?

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10 thoughts on “Showing Emotion on the Court

  1. My favorite term to blurt out upon unexpectedly missing a shot is “Beans and Rice!”
    It is a sufficient release of emotion without offending anyone. Used to use “Baby Ducks!” but that can get misinterpreted.
    My opponent(s) exclamations do not concern me if not offensive to bystanders as long as it is self directed. Not a fan of displeasure at my “lucky, hitting lines” or negative comments about my successful shot selection (drop shot, angle vs more “manly” shot.
    I do take real pleasure when an opponent makes a really good shot and will let him (her) know I am impressed. I do not do it as gamesmanship and hope it is received in the spirit it is offered.

    Winder (our Sunday First Responder!), i remember when Agassi first came up and was criticized for complimenting his opponent’s good shots! thanks, george

  2. I feel that emotions are very personal just like game style. Each player has to find out what works best for them. In our ‘friendly” games, I am much less emotional (at least as I’ve grown older). However, in competition, when I play emotionless, I play with less intensity and more robotic usually with less than desired results. Growing up, was often not in control of my on court emotions, but still believe I need to be emotional to play my best. I just need to find the right balance
    To each his own!!

    Steve, i agree that emotion will generate adrenaline, which can be good or, in excess, bad. thanks, george

  3. Honestly George, I find a nice cleansing F-Bomb from time to time to vent my frustration actually helps me! It’s important to move on after dropping that bomb with positive thinking as you say!

    Jim, i have been officially warned for just such a choice of word on the tournament court! thanks, george

  4. Great stuff George. Inner Game is all about this. Claims our emotions should be that of the Umpire, neither up or down. I know we can agree that this is much easier said than done! Keep it going!

    Howard, good to hear from you! thanks, george

  5. When I hit a good shot, I tell myself to do it again and will sometimes do a fist pump to myself. With a bad shot, I tell myself what I did wrong and correct it for the next shot without showing negative emotion.

    Dear Iron Man, one of the things the pros tell us: after you hit a bad shot, is to NOT “mirror” the wrong stroke, but to think/swing the correct stroke (without the ball). thanks, george

  6. I find that I need to watch my emotions and attitude not just between points and games but also between matches. I play an evenly matched player, Scott, every Monday morning and when I win I figure I have this tennis stuff figured out, only to come back the following Monday and get hammered by the very same player.

    Dave, that is one of the things about tennis that i love … THINKING about changing a losing game. thanks, george

  7. George, the”Psychology Today” article has great similarities with tennis. Self-destructive emotions make players lose. Your performance tends to follow your emotions. Sometimes I start out in command of my emotions, but after an hour of heated competition and missed opportunities, destructive emotions arise along with choice expletives. Not good for your game. I think it’s wise to make a concerned effort to ensure your attitude is a good one. During a match, it will affect your thoughts, judgement, emotions and game. I just tell myself to take one point at a time and not let the previous error throw me off emotionally. For me, that positive self-talk builds my confidence. You have to keep your emotions positive, stay hopeful, and have a plan to help stay focused.
    When I react emotionally after playing poor points, it sometimes throws me off balance trying to reset and gather myself before the start of the next point. I try not to have any emotional reaction, good or bad, to the outcome of points. It does help keep my emotions in check. I believe by keeping yourself calm and emotionally level and not become mentally tired, lose control and over react to bad calls, errors, or whatever comes your way, you know you are not beating yourself, win or lose. So, every time you practice or play a match, work hard on the mental skills, staying relaxed, calm, positive and energized.

    Glenn, and as i have aged/matured, i have learned where to place the “importance” of winning a tennis match in my overall life (not very high up). thanks, george

  8. Like Steve D above, I’m still searching for that elusive “balance.” Though I’m 68 years old, I still love winning a little bit too much, and that causes me to lose emotional control from time to time, and getting angry usually does NOT work for me….still working on it!

    Scoot, most of us are still “works in progress” for some facet of our personalities! thanks, george

  9. Interesting issue. People deal with emotions in different ways – but I do love it when an opponent shouts, scorns or castigates himself.
    There is a connection between emotion and body language also. Always look for a head down from an opponent… usually a sign they are feeling beaten… or looking for their dampner!

    Allan, and even better in doubles, when one partner gets upset with the other! thanks, george

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