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The Quiet Warrior

January 31, 2006 10:18 AM

Dr.Robert Heller

As we seek to improve and perform at our best we often turn “outwards” seeking a better forehand, faster serve, or greater endurance. Yet, as Tim Gallway, of “Inner Tennis” fame suggested years ago, sometimes it’s best to turn “inwards,” learning the art of quieting our mind and calming our body.

The “Quiet Warrior” is not without emotion, nor does he play with an “I don’t care” attitude. Instead, he focuses on the present moment, letting go of the last point as soon as it occurs, refocusing instantly on the task at hand and reacting with appropriate levels of emotion to each situation.

Perhaps the best example of the modern Quiet Warrior among the top players would be Rodger Federer. His emotions during the match is typically within a narrow range, rarely getting overly excited over a good shot or upset over a poor one.

For Rodger, the ability to regulate emotions to this degree is most likely a combination of personality and temperament, experience and conscious training of reactions to specific on-court events. While John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors excelled by arousing themselves with extremes of emotions, many more champions have found a narrower range of emotions produced the greatest success.

Mind-body skills can help you regulate your physical and mental reaction to events and situations. There are a variety of methods that are widely available and can be taught and learned like other skills. Over time, with practice, they can be incorporated into on-court behaviors.

What follows is a brief list and summary of mind-body practices that can help you become a “Quiet Warrior.”

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
    The slow, rhythmic pattern of breathing characterized by long, inhalations and even longer, deeper exhalations.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    A series of systematic isometric exercises where you gradually squeeze, hold and release specific muscle groups of the body.
  3. Guided Imagery
    Imagining a quiet calm image or “movie in your mind.”
  4. Hypnosis
    A combination of relaxation and suggestions in the form of words and images to create a calm feeling in the body and mind.
  5. Meditation
    A form of relaxation where you sit quietly and concentrate on a word, phrase or number while ignoring distracting thoughts and feelings.
  6. Tai-Chi
    Often called, “meditation in motion,” the slow and continuous dance-like movements produce an increased ability to focus and block out unwanted sights and sounds.
  7. Yoga
    A series of postures or stretches held from several seconds to several minutes. Aids in flexibility along with generalized relaxation effects.
  8. Biofeedback
    The use of a “machine” which monitors physiological functions like heart rate. The objective feedback allows you tune into the impact your thoughts, breathing or posture have on you.

For best results, seek a qualified/certified practitioner to train with.

Until next time---

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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