Strengthen Yourself Mentally = Strengthen Your Game

September 14, 2017

We all been there
I’m confident that every athlete would agree at my statement that to be a great athlete you need mental strength along with physical talent. As a tennis player I can relate to the statement that mental toughness is a huge aspect when playing. However, we have all had moments of anger where we want to act like this:

So, how can we prevent racket smashing and go from having a  Nick Kygrios meltdown to the present day cool, calm and collected Roger Federer? We have some tips on staying mentally strong during your matches.

Rallies can seem to go on for hours.  I been in points before where in some super human nature I return ball after ball. It takes me 5 balls back and forth from end to end of the court to finally make my approach. I think I have this point in the bag, but my opponent also has some freak capabilities and manages to get back volley after volley. Finally, I think I hit a put away but my opponent returns it with a lob, which becomes my perfect overhead opportunity. With all the adrenaline pumping I load up an overhead and hit the ball with all my might. Then I hear my opponent say “Out!” As you can imagine I feel myself become angry and upset and look something like this:

 tennis edition rafa nadal us tennis open results dictionary GIF

How do I recover from this unfortunate point? Of course I want to be angry with myself, but being angry at yourself will only negatively affect the upcoming points. What does help is moving on. The point is over, so now the only thing you can do is focus on the future. You need to plan meaning,  think about your last point and decide on what you did wrong. Think through the point and decide how you want to approach this next point. Another helpful trick is to rehearse. In this case I would go through the motion of my overhead again. Rehearsal swings help to correct my form as well as take ownership and acceptance of my mistake.  Next time, instead of getting angry after a mistake, take a deep breath and get ready for the next point.

Growing up I worked as a coach at a tennis camp for four years. During this time I experienced the wrath of children tempers, but we always took the opportunity to teach them about mental strength in tennis. A coach once asked a student what he was thinking about as he stood at the service line with slouched shoulders and head down. The student responded he was thinking about the last point.  The coach turned to me and said what do you think about, I said I usually have some song stuck in my head throughout a match that I think about. He laughed and moved on to respond to his own question with “I think of nothing.” The point of this story is not to share my weird habit about singing in my head, but to emphasize the importance of calming rituals.  Our student was still so bent up about the last point that he was not mentally ready for the next point. However, the coaches were able to push that point into the past and remain calm. Of course you need to evaluate points and can plan and rehearse to calm yourself. However, right before the new point begins you need to empty your mind in some way to get ready to focus. Think about how all the pros have calming habits. For example, Sharapova fixes her hair, and Andy Roddick tugs at his shirt. If you are looking for some entertaining tennis routines, just watch Nadal.


Lastly, we need to talk about body language. Your body language does not only affect your opponent, it affects yourself.  In my Psychology class this past year I learned about a thing called power posing. Power posing consist of certain poses that you should do before an interview. Later that week I tried out some power posing before a job interview. I must admit, I looked silly trying to stand in a position that only Clark Kent could pull off. However, it did give me more confidence when I walked into my job interview. The concept of body language affecting your performance is applicable to tennis. Try to avoid negative body language between points. Keep your shoulders and head up in between points. Also avoid dragging your feet or shaking your head. Not only will poor body language make you play worse, but it will make your opponent play better. If your opponent sees your poor body language it may gave them the drive and confidence to beat you.

So we covered mental toughness after and between points, but what about during? During a point be sure to focus. I am guilty of having my mind wander at times. A great tactic to remain focused is finding rhythm. You can say “bounce” every time the ball bounces and “hit” when contact is made. Or, you can say “One” when the ball bounces, “Two” when you hit the ball, and “Three” when your opponent makes contact. Finding a beat will help your mind concentrate on the point, rather than thinking about the food you want to eat after the match.

Are you mentally strong now? Want to play some more and try out these new techniques? Lucky for you our Free Play option with Plan2Play allows you to propose and find matches around you so that you have someone to play with!

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