Tennis: The Mental Battle
Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.
It is no secret that tennis is a mental game. Perhaps one of the most out of any other sport. In a singles match, there is no one else to rely on but yourself; no teammates to support you, no one to take the blame for your mistakes… just you. This might be one of the most difficult aspects of the sport to overcome. As a tennis coach, I often see how this affects the young athletes that come up through our programs here at the UBC Tennis Centre. I notice how the pressure in a match to win a point or an audience watching from the sidelines can completely change the way someone performs. A serve that has, until now, been of second nature is suddenly being watched by other people. It is amazing how that serve can change so drastically once an athlete pays attention to every single detail: the toss, the impact, the constant thoughts running through their mind, or perhaps trying to impress someone in the audience. Of course, this is the case for any sport, but I believe it is much more heightened with tennis as you are the lone soldier facing off against another lone soldier. A mental battle.
Recently, I was coaching teen fundamentals during our Spring Break Camps along with fellow co-worker Bob Exell, who is not only an incredible tennis coach but an incredible player as well. As we were heading off court, one of the students approached Bob with frustration. She was concerned with how to control her emotions while playing in a match, as she would get frustrated and angry when she made a mistake. Bob calmly mentioned that it is important to stay positive and that it is incredibly easy to let mistakes and negativity spiral your game out of control. He then said something that I will never forget. He said, with a chuckle I might add, “one more thing, as you’re walking away tell yourself, ‘I am in control’, and take a deep breath.”
Like I mentioned earlier, tennis is a mental game and it is important to learn from your mistakes. But I think it’s almost more important to not let those mistakes get to you; learn from them and move on. Re-assure yourself with positive thoughts, especially in the middle of a match. And like Bob, use a simple phrase to remind yourself that you are in control. It will go a long way.
Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.