Secret to a Better Mental Tennis Game
How do they do it? How do the best tennis players at any
level, perform their best under pressure? Can anyone learn
to do this?
These are questions that have driven me for years because
I was one of those players with a beautiful game yet choked
under pressure. It drove me nuts.
I've been fortunate to work with one of the "founding fathers"
of applied sport psychology in tennis, Dr. James Loehr. Loehr
wanted to know what separated the top 50 pros in the world
from the next crop. He studied it intensively and could not
find anything during the action. The big break through came
when he studied what the best players did in the 25 seconds
He discovered that the best players in the world are very
disciplined and consistent with their time between points
while the lesser players were not.
We took Loehr's work and applied it to our singles players
at Cal and then developed the model for doubles as well. This
work was a key ingredient to our success.
After applying Loehr's model with our own teams, Coach Brogan
and I applied to other sports as well and found that it worked
beautifully. Eventually I turned our work into my first book,
Get Your Game Face On!
Today I want to share with you the cornerstone piece of the
Game Face model. I believe this one step I'm going to share
with you is the key to the mental game on and off the court.
The first of the four steps in the Game Face routine is "Reaction".
This means what do you do the monument the point is over?
What do you look like? What do you sound like? How well do
you manage your reaction on the court no matter what just
happened in the point?
Most players I work with say, "Well, it depends. Did I win
or lose the point?"
The best players at any level never say, "It depends." They
have trained themselves to manage their reaction no matter
what happens. They maintain a tall, confident posture on the
court regardless of how the point ended.
They keep their Game Face On at all times. This includes after
they've made a mistake - or their partner made a mistake!
The reaction step is the first 3 seconds after the point ends.
To keep your Game Face on and have the best shot at playing
well under pressure, it's essential you learn to mange this
short yet curtail window of time.
The classic, high level reaction step in tennis looks like
this - turn away from the net or a mistake, take the racquet
out of your non-dominant hand, maintain a tall confident posture
and walk to pick up the ball. And mentally, you say something
simple like, "yeah", or right back or next one" - if you or
your partner just blew it.
Finally, if you want this high level, Game Face reaction to
show up on demand regardless of what just happened, you need
to practice it - a lot. You have many opportunities every
time you are on a tennis court to practice this step - at
clinics, practice sessions, matches etc.
This is the first and cornerstone piece of a strong mental
game. You know what to do, now practice it.
Kathy Toon is author of the book Get Your Game
Face On! and former Division-1Tennis Coach at UC Berkeley.
Discover how to play your best tennis when the game is on
the line by grabbing your free copy of The X Factor Report:
Secrets to Winning Doubles at http://GlamSlamTennis.com.
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