Antisocial Tennis Player or Focused Tennis Player?

Walking into the tennis facility you are always greeted with hoards of fellow players and competitors.  Conversations abound about whose game is on, whom meets whom in the draw, last weeks matches, everywhere you turn it’s more tennis talk.  “How’s your game, how’s the arm feel, that was a tough loss last week, I can’t believe you play the one seed in the second round.”  You know the scene it has played a hundred times, it’s the mecca of tennis social hour.  Looking beyond the crowd you see the lonely player in the corner leaning against the wall “plugged in” to his/her iPod.  You feel bad and wonder why he/she isn’t socializing.  Take a second look and ask yourself; are they antisocial or are they focused?

What should you be doing before a match?  Focusing on the match! Some people like to visualize the match before it begins, some like to reinforce positive thoughts, others like to build up their confidence, and some like to completely clear their mind.  Now ask yourself, is the above scene conducive to preparing yourself mentally for the match?

The last thing you should be thinking about before your match is a bad match you had the week before, or how difficult a future match may be.  Your focus needs to be on the upcoming match and you should be filling your head with positive thoughts.  Even the well-meaning parent or coach can accidentally place a negative thought into the player’s head by reminding them to be careful not to double-fault.  Suddenly they are thinking about double faulting instead of thinking about increasing their first serve percentage.  It may seem like a small difference but if you read the article by Maximus Fitness  titled The Power of Negative Thinking you will see how it may prevent the player from being successful.

Back to the player sitting in the corner with his headphones on listening to his music, it is my son.   He may not even have any music playing but he is sending a signal to those around him not to talk to him.  We began this several years ago when he noticed how on the ride to the match he was focused and ready to go, but while he waited and socialized with his tennis buddies he found he lost some of his focus and often his nerves would start to get the better of him.  That is when we decided to bring out the iPod.  He made himself several playlists.  Some of the playlists are calming while others are motivating and yet another is his “pump up” music.  He chooses what he thinks he needs according to his mood.  As I said he has been doing this for a couple of years and now when he puts the headphones on it signals his brain to get into a “tennis state of mind.”  It has been the best tool we have found in all the years of playing to keep him focused and keep him calm.

So next time you pack the tennis bag to head out for a match, think about grabbing your MP3 player or iPod and instead of checking into the tournament try checking out.  There will be plenty of time to socialize after the match.

I’ll list some of his songs but he is seventeen so they aren’t always the most appropriate songs

  • Stronger
  • Know My Name
  • All I Do is Win
  • Good Feeling

Maybe you could think of some songs to share with the group, or let me know what works for you when you are trying to get match ready.


2 comments on “Antisocial Tennis Player or Focused Tennis Player?

  1. Great article, and thanks for referencing mine! 🙂 It’s great for athletes to have a pre-game ritual that works for them. When I was a competitive swimmer, one friend read comic books to “check out” from all the action surrounding him. As a track athlete, I always built in “quiet time” into my warm up ritual. It think that by the time the competition rolls around, you have either done the work necessary to be successful, or you haven’t . . . . so, the best thing to do is quiet your mind and allow your training to take over rather than allowing negative thoughts to stand in the way of what you already know how to do.

    This is important in academic circles as well. In high school and University I found that while waiting to go into an exam, there would always be talk like “did you study such and such . . . ” or perhaps someone might declare certain facts about (physics, history, anatomy . . . whatever the exam is on) that you didn’t study, or maybe some people clearly did not study and are looking to you for advice . . . . in any case, this all adds up to a lot of panic. Minutes before an exam (or competition), there is little (perhaps nothing) that can be done to make you more prepared, smarter, faster etc. So, I developed a pre-exam ritual where I made myself scarce before an exam. I would find some solitary place to hang out on campus, perhaps review my notes, then arrive to my exam as they were opening the doors.

    Competition and academics are similar in that there is often a lot riding on the outcome. In high stress situations such as these, a ritual that serves to calm your mind can act as a great force field against negative thoughts.

    • I did the same thing in college. The last thing I needed was for someone to ask me a question I didn’t know the answer to. That was it my confidence was shot.
      So much of what you learn from your sport can help prepare you for your academics and vice versa. Our journey through tennis has been more about the life lessons our children can learn than tennis itself. I have no doubt my children’s academic sucess has come in part from their “lessons” on the court. Hardwork, focus, performing under pressure are all skills that have come from tennis but have led them to sucess in the classroom.

      I absolutely loved your article on negative thoughts. The pink elephant is perfect.

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