| By Tina Greenbaum

In my last article, I spoke about the necessity to redefine “pressure” so that you can begin to experience it as something normal and to even welcome it. It’s been said that the best players, under pressure, rise to the occasion and begin to play even better, whereas players with lesser mental toughness, fall apart when the going gets rough.

So, what are some of the skills that you need to learn and practice, so that you can be one of those competitors who forces your opponent to truly earn every point?

A great competitor is a flexible thinker
That means that the player can adjust very quickly to a changing environment of the game. As you know, with every point you win or lose, your emotions have the capacity to change as quickly as the score. This tendency can play havoc both with your mind and your performance.

Many players understand that they need to continuously re-focus their attention and calm their nerves. The problem is that they don’t know how to do it. It’s important for each individual to have their own, what I call, “Home Base.” That means you have developed a word, a phrase, a sensation or ritual that immediately brings to mind a calm feeling and a clear mind. You’ve seen players bounce the ball several times, turn around in between points, or pluck their strings. They are gathering themselves and getting ready for the next point. Once you have established what that will be for you, you need to practice it over and over again, just like any other skill you want to master. This concept of repetition and practice leads us to the next important tip.

Challenge yourself at the edge of your ability
There is a certain spot where you learn best. It could be called your “sweet spot.” If we don’t ask anything of ourselves, we never improve. If we ask too much of ourselves, we get frustrated and overwhelmed and are likely to quit. So you want to find that place where you’re “stretching,” but know that the skill you are working on is within your reach. I had a coach who once said to me, “We can never go any faster than our nervous system will allow.” So if you are one of those folks who pushes yourself and ends up angry because you’re not succeeding, remember that you might be setting yourself up for failure.

In his book, The Peaceful Warrior, author Daniel Millman talks about “The Law of Accommodation.” This universal law says, “If you ask of yourself a little bit more than you are comfortable with every day, then your ‘body/mind’ will accommodate to the new level.”

So, rest assured that if you follow these two tips, you will be on your way to becoming calm, cool and collected on the court … and a force to be reckoned with!

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:tina@tennistothemax.com">tina@tennistothemax.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>