Overcoming Tennis “Jitters”

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Feeling nervous, to some extent is a normal and even a positive aspect as performing well. However, when nervousness escalates, performance declines. This is especially  true in sports like tennis and golf, where optimal levels of arousal tend to be in the lower ranges.

Tennis “jitters” result in increased muscle tension, bad decisions and distractibility. Ultimately, this leads to increased errors and a greater number of lost points. 

Nowhere is this more obvious than in a typical doubles match among intermediate level players, especially while serving in a critical point of a match. 

As a “sports psychologist” and active competitive tennis player, it is easy to observe this. When the score is 40-30 and the server misses his or her first serve, the second serve is often just “lobbed in” to avoid the dreaded double fault. In reality, attempting to lob the ball in rather than attempting to hit a reasonable second serve with spin, pace and a margin for error, is probably no more reliable and results in the same amount of double faults. On top of that, a ball that lands short and softly allows the returner all the time in the world to place the ball wherever they want. In short, you end up losing the point anyway.

The cure for tennis jitters is to care less about making the mistake in the first place. Rather than worrying about the double fault, losing the point, caring what others may think, take a deep breath, visualize the second serve as being successful and just go for it! Whatever happens, happens. 

When I work with my clients, whether face to face in my Boca Raton, Florida office or over the phone, I go into the process of effective coping in far greater detail and often teach and incorporate other strategies to overcome these and other long term negative habits.

The beauty of tennis is it is a game for life and you can improve some aspect of your play and performance throughout your playing career.

FAMOUS QUOTES ON THE MENTAL GAME OF TENNIS

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Match the quote with the tennis champion who said it:

1.Tennis is 90% mental.

2.It’s not whether or not you choke, but when you do how you respond.

3.I never looked back or dwelled on my defeats. I always looked forward.

4.The softer the hands the better the player.

5.The most important point in any tennis match is always- the next one.

A. Martina Navratolova B. Chris Evert C. John McEnroe D. My ip Jimmy Connors E. Andre Agassi

To improve your mental game, reflect on what these quotes really mean and how you might apply them to yourself. Recognize that mental skills, just like physical ones need to be practiced many times in gradually more challenging settings to become natural, automatic and effective. As you develop your “outer game”-strokes, strategy, conditioning, leave time to work on your “inner game” – beliefs, attitudes, body language, thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Answers: 1.D 2.C 3.B 4.A 5.E

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