Before you step out onto the court…
Lately I’ve been talking a lot about ‘routines’ and my Beating the Tennis Demons System ™. When I train athletes and coaches on my system I talk about pre-performance routines and more specifically touch on the self-sabotage cycle that happens about a week before a match. Today I want to specifically touch base on the things you may not pay attention to the week and day before you step out onto the court that affect your game.
Because of my system, one of my professional players has gotten so good at slowing down the negative chatter in her head and has gotten better at identifying the demons that sabotage her match but she still struggles a little bit with identifying those little negative thoughts that creep in a week before her match that then lead to bigger thoughts and sometimes rear their ugly head during the match. For example, one of those thoughts is around who she is playing. Once you finds out who she is playing (really regardless of who it is and whether or not she’s beat them before) her brain starts chattering: can I beat her again? She has a tough serve. Have I done enough practice on return of serve. If I don’t beat her I am out and won’t get the next round. What will people think of me?
My client has gotten SO much better at dealing with this thinking but we are still dealing with it. What’s wrong with thinking: can I beat her again? It seems innocuous, right? It would be if you immediately said, yes I can beat her or were able to let the thought go but where does that thought take my client? She has a tough serve. Have I done enough practice on return of serve. If I don’t beat her I am out and won’t get the next round. What will people think of me? Besides the thoughts growing larger what happens from here? My client starts over-practicing; particularly return of serve. She starts worrying about the outcome which pulls her out of the process. The only control she has over the outcome is to stay in the process. She starts worrying about what other people think of her which means her match is not about her but is now about what she has to do to look good.
I challenge you to start looking for the innocuous thoughts:
- Have I practiced enough?
- I feel tired!
- My muscles are sore!
- I can’t beat her!
- Those courts suck!
- It’s gonna be cold!
- Etc, etc.
This is where the cycle begins!