What is Mental Toughness in Tennis?
The most prominent challenge in winning a tennis match isn’t the opponent, or what kind of racquet they have, but the player’s thoughts. Most errors are caused by poor judgments which lead to mistiming. Mental toughness, therefore, is the ability of a player to steadily generate and retain focus in a series of stressful occurrences. A player must possess strong and competent psychological skills to win a match mentally. Mental fitness involves behavior and mindset which in turn sparks confidence in a player.
How does a player achieve mental toughness in tennis? Here is how:
Tips for Mental Toughness in Tennis
- Visualize Being Strong
A sound subconscious image reflects in the physical body. Our bodies mostly display the mental image. If you envision yourself as a weak player- it’s done. On the contrary, if you envision yourself as a strong player- done! Don’t be carried away by thoughts of failure. Visualize the last time you hit a good shot and feel good that. Start your days focused and anticipating for a positively productive match.
- Constructive Self-Talk
Self-talk is a language directed inwards by making external or internal statements or thinking. It’s some self-dialogue that aims to identify and solve subconscious beliefs and perceptions. Positive self-talk during a match helps to improve your mental toughness. You need to work on phrases that motivate you and suppress the negative subconscious inner person. Practice with statements until you discover those that optimize your performance.
- Develop a Ritual
A ritual is a conditioned practice that mentally prepares a player for a favorable point. Its a feedback loop aimed at reinforcing self-confidence in a match. Frequent performance of the ritual configures your mind to associate it with success. With time, this routine becomes a useful tool for refocusing and regrouping. However, it should be done unintentionally in the spirit of sportsmanship but not with an aim to intimidate or annoy your opponent. In case your opponent does something intentionally to distract you, handle it the same way you treat other extraneous distractions previously discussed.
- Block Out Distractions
Don’t let your opponent, the crowd or anything sway you from the game. Focus on things that are within your control. If you concentrate on distractions, you’ll end up not playing your game, but theirs. Don’t allow your opponent take advantage of you. If you do, you’ll end up worrying about mistakes committed. You succeed when you play a proactive game- you’re making focused and decisive moves. Develop a mental rhythm that works in tandem with the match rhythm. This requires you to maintain consistency amid distractions from the crowd and the opponent.
- Dealing with Mistakes and Emotions
At times, the match may get very competitive, and tension does get high. Besides, making errors in a row makes people nervous and feel like they’re losing the game. In turn, this provokes anger, and a player starts to vent in a negative direction. A practical approach to deal with mistakes and emotions is to remind the player just to let the past be. A lost point can’t be recovered by committing another error but instead concentrate on regaining the lost point. Some mistakes committed before the start of the match should be avoided. Self-discipline regarding physical issues determines the quality of a game. You should neither forget to tape a recently sprained ankle nor fail to warm up or stretch which results in sluggish performance.
Mental toughness in tennis is a great arsenal that improves with much training and practice. You too can strengthen the mental muscle as it’s a powerful success tool both in tennis and life.