How do you show up for a tennis match?

 In Competition, Tennis

When I ask clients this question, they scratch their head and go, “huh?” I wear…I bring…late…early…these are some of the answers I get. I usually follow this up by asking, yeah, you show up with your racquet ready to go, right? Response: yeah! You’ve practiced your forehand, backhand, serve, etc and are prepared to step on the court set to play, right? Response: yes! When I talk about how you show up for a tennis match, I assume you are physically prepared but rarely is a tennis player mentally prepared to step onto the court and play. We show up having physically practiced, expecting our head to show up and follow along with whatever our body wants to do. Guess what? It’s generally the opposite. Our mind tells our body what to do and if you show up kinda just expecting your mind to go along for the ride, you had better think again!

You need to ‘show up’ for a tennis match prepared not only physically but mentally. When I ask, how do you show up for a tennis match I want to know how you are feeling and what you are thinking; do you have the right mental energy to play a match. You may have heard me talk about this before, but think back to some of your better matches. Where you relaxed, pumped up or somewhere in between? You do not have to show up and play from whatever space you are in. Just as you have control over your physical ability, you can learn to have control over your mental abilities. Once you pinpoint the space you need to be in to play optimally, how do you get yourself there? For example, if you show up for matches feeling tired, you will more than likely need energy. How do you get that energy? One way is by listening to the kind of music that gives you the energy you need. Have you ever been tired at the end of your day? Have you ever listened to some jamming music on your way home from a long, tiring day? What are the effects? Most people will feel a bit rejuvenated. Music can do similar things to you before a tennis match.

This may sound perhaps a little grammar school-ish, but the thoughts you are thinking before a match carry into your match and impact your ability to play. For example, if you are thinking that there’s no way you are going to beat your opponent, you carry that into your match and it shows up in tense muscles, errors, double faults and continued negative thinking. That thought doesn’t just go away. It builds on itself. You can, however, learn to reframe or let go of those thoughts and start a match with less to none of that thinking impacting your ability to play the match.

The better question here, is this: how do you mentally want to show up for a tennis match? It’s ok to have expectations and then figure out how to get there. You have physical expectations and make a plan for how to get there. The mental skills are all learned behaviors and are vitally important to plan for so you show up in an optimal space. This way your physical and mental skills can work together to get the job done but your brain should never go along for the ride.

Photo cred: Stock Snap

Dr. Michelle Cleere
In her own private practice as an elite performance expert, Dr. Michelle Cleere helps top athletes, musicians, and executives in competitive fields unlock the power of the mind and create the mental toughness to be the best. Dr. Michelle’s extensive academic background, which includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Sports Psychology, allows her to help clients deal with performance anxiety, gain more confidence, and build resilience. In addition to personal coaching, Dr. Michelle takes on many roles – a best-selling author, athlete, and teacher. Dr. Michelle’s bestseller line, Beating the Demons, helps clients develop practical skills to gain more control over competitive environments and mitigate the interruption in play to overcome intense odds and defeat adversity. As a 15-year USAT Coach, she developed simple and effective tools to mentally train her athletes, and they are used by coaches around the world. She is a professor at John F. Kennedy University where she teacher her students to use the mind as an ally to improve performance.
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