Many of us know that the mental side of tennis is a large part of the game. I have heard different statistics as to how much it actually is, but the most common figure I come across is that the mental side of the sport comprises 80 to 90 percent of the game. That’s a huge amount of the game to which the recreational player frequently gives the least amount of attention to.
One of the areas that the competitive player has to contend with is how to “come from behind” versus how to “hold onto a lead.” Each scenario requires a different mental approach.
When we are losing, we are vulnerable to a particular kind of mental chatter and a shift in our body language. Statements like, “I better not lose,” “He/she is better than me,” “I have a lot riding on this match,” or “I’m having a bad day” interfere with our ability to concentrate on the elements that would actually assist us in making a comeback. Coming from behind requires motivation—not only to win, but to “dig in” and never give up until the last point is won or lost. It requires us to focus on the present moment, not the one that just passed, and not allow our minds to wander to the final outcome of the match.
Conversely, holding on to a lead challenges us in a different way. When winning, it’s easy to allow our minds to jump ahead to the glory of winning and easily lose focus of the present moment. If we are playing an opponent who is of equal skill technically, strategically and mentally, a letdown in concentration can cost you dearly.
Knowledge is power. Being aware of the mental traps that can potentially undermine your performance will make you not only a better player, but a stronger overall competitor.
Tina Greenbaum, LCSW
<p>Tina Greenbaum, LCSW is a sport psychology consultant and a holistic psychotherapist. She works with tennis players of all levels in learning how to manage their emotions on the court. She shares this passion with her partner, Fred Sperber, a professional tennis instructor of 28 years in a six-week program called Tennis to the Max where they combine mental skills training with on court execution. She may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or visit <a href="http://www.tennistothemax.com" onclick="window.open(this.href,'wwwtennistothemaxcom','resizable=no,location=no,menubar=no,scrollbars=no,status=no,toolbar=no,fullscreen=no,dependent=no,status'); return false">www.tennistothemax.com</a>.</p>