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Understanding The Impact of “Momentum”- Part II

June 13, 2006 02:22 PM

Understanding the Impact of Momentum – Part II
Dr.Robert Heller

Momentum can be controlled and used to your advantage once you know what triggers a momentum shift in you. Momentum shifts really take place between your ears!

How do you react when you double fault? When your opponent serves an ace or hits a ball that clips the top of the net and dribbles over for a winner, what do you think or tell yourself?

Your perception and reaction to these and countless other on court circumstances often contributes to how you will play for the next several points, games or even the rest of the match.

I remember watching Jennifer Capriati playing. She was ahead by several games when she believed she received a bad call. She argued with the linesperson and then the chair umpire, disrupting her rhythm and momentum. When play resumed a minute or so later, she proceeded to lose the next 14 consecutive points!

When you are ahead with a descent lead, avoid interruptions. Keep the “pedal to the metal”. You can usually recoup from a bad call or an error here and there. It’s just not worth the risk of disrupting your flow.

For some players, momentum shifts occur when they are ahead and on the brink of closing out the set or match. Rather than maintain the strategy and intensity of play that lead to their lead in the first place, they may try to protect that lead and play to avoid losing rather than playing to win. Here is a strategy Andre Agassi has used:

Next time you are ahead and close to closing out the match, reverse the score in your mind and “imagine” you are actually the one who is behind. In this way you will keep your focus and intensity high and make each point count.

Sometimes, for unknown reasons, an opponent comes out of the starting gate hot! They are hitting lines left and right and may even go for low percentage shots that hit their mark. They seem to have a great feel for the ball and all the luck in the world. Before you know it, you may be down 3-0 or worse! Rather than let up or give up try this strategy:

Think to yourself that they are playing “out of their minds” and will likely cool off soon. Tell yourself that you need to hang tough and stay positive so when they come back down to earth, the score is close enough that your solid play can turn the tide.

In managing momentum, I like to remind myself of the title of a well-known motivational book. It’s called, “Tough Times Never Last- Tough People do”.

Until the 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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