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Mindfulness in Tennis

October 10, 2005 12:28 PM

by Dr. Robert Heller

Mindfulness refers to awareness of your thoughts and beliefs. It’s critical to recognize what we think and tell ourselves because it will impact on our feelings, behaviors and performance.

In counseling players at all ability levels I have noticed that often times, they psych themselves out, even the before the match has begun. Here are some common examples:

  • One player told me, “I looked at the draw and saw that I was playing someone I had lost to before. I felt discouraged, like I was probably going to lose.”
  • Another player confided,” When she came on the court she just “looked” like a real player. She was decked out in the most expensive tennis outfit and must have had four rackets in her bag.”
  • A third player noted, “During the warm-up, he hit the ball so hard, I started thinking I was going to be blown off the court”.

Notice how these biasses set these players up for feeling defeated even before a single point has been played! Being mindful of your thoughts and beliefs is the key to being able to change them for the better when needed.

I reminded the player who had lost to his opponent previously that today was a new day. He might play better, his opponent could play worse. In talking about the prior loss, he became aware that the difference was really just a few points, hardly a blowout.

The woman who was overly impressed by her opponent’s outfit and rackets was able to recall that she had actually competed favorably against other opponent’s who “dressed to the 9’s”. She concluded, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.

The young man who was fearful of being blown off the court by the power of his opponent observed that many of these powerful shots went long or into the net once the match got going. The next time he faced this type of opponent he thought to himself, “OK, you win the warm-up, let’s see who wins the match”.

Next time you are about to compete, be mindful of your thoughts and attitudes. If you identify negative or self-defeating thoughts, find a way to refute them or change them around. By doing so you will have added a powerful mental tool to your tennis arsenal.

Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist, sports psychology consultant and certified tennis instructor based in Boca Raton, Florida. He is the author of the 2-volume mental conditioning CD-Rom program, “TENNISMIND.” For information on sports enhancement training, workshops and other services, contact him at (561) 451-2731, robertheller@adelphia.net or visit www.thewinningedge.usptapro.com.




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