Clearly, junior tennis players (and most recreational adult players) are exposed to just as much high-level mental and physical stress as touring pros – perhaps even more so due to a lack of proper conditioning. Poor range of motion, weak physical structure and inexperience are just a few problems that make it difficult (at best) to stay focused during a match.
In addition, many players (especially competitive juniors) are being told to “concentrate” or “focus” all the time, without regard to the player’s current state of physical fitness. Put simply, it’s hard to have a strong mind without a strong body. Although genetics are a factor, most players can develop great tennis success with the proper knowledge and training discipline.
Being out-of-balance, tired or unable to maintain concentration are strong signals that one’s routine must change. Doing the same thing repetitively and expecting different results is merely Einstein’s theory of insanity. To become a successful tennis player, one must incorporate the mind and body into every facet of training.
Avoid one of the most common mistakes I’ve ever witnessed while traveling with my daughter, Sarah Landsman (currently, on a full tennis scholarship at The University of Arizona) to the major USTA National-level junior tournaments. After months or perhaps years, of training, most players would prepare, just minutes away from a “big” match, by watching TV, talking to friends or maybe stretching their legs on the stairs. This lack of understanding on how to prepare oneself for victory is what many players fall victim to. Fortunately, there is a way to replace poor habits.
It all begins with a proper understanding of your own body and its capabilities. There’s no better place to discover this than in a well-developed “warm-up” routine that prepares you for the rigors of this fantastic game. Activating the core, leg and upper body muscles (in a systematic way) with careful consideration of breathing, body posture and technique, can go a long way toward preventing injuries and maximizing performance from the very first moment of a match or training session.
Obviously, as mentioned earlier, juniors lack well-developed physical strength and competitive experience. But, what most juniors don’t know, is that a typical “fitness club type” routine will not prepare you well for the mental and physical demands of a competitive tennis match. Again, fortunately, there are ways to strengthen the core, legs and upper body, plus condition the mind to enjoy tangible results in a short period of time.
All junior tennis players would be served well by focusing greater attention to the “mind aspect” of their fitness training routine. What is the current status of your state of mind? Train like a champion … be sure your fitness routine helps you develop a healthy belief system and strengthens your ability to stay focused on process, not on results. Mentally speaking, nothing is more important than staying in the “here and now.”
One simple exercise to help you develop greater focus and better tennis results would be to concentrate all of your attention on an object close to you and on your breathing process. That will switch you to a “here and now” state of mind. Want proof of how it works? Just take a look at the best players in the world … they always look at their racquet strings between points! This simple exercise will help you stay focused between points, improve your recovery time and better prepare you for the next point.