This month’s column of tennis coach Marcin Bieniek focuses on the importance of controlling emotions during tennis matches. Marcin gives us tips on how to train our nerves and focus, in order not to let anger get in the way of victory.
In tennis, unlike in sports like soccer or basketball, your weaknesses can’t be easily masked by your partner’s strength. If you make a mistake, you don’t have a partner to correct it, so it is crucial to take responsibility for your own actions and learn to deal with different obstacles.
Tennis players are hard workers and they put a lot of effort every day to get better results. Technical adjustments are incorporated into practice sessions. Tactical awareness is built while watching tennis matches. Systematic visits in the gym are scheduled to take care of physical preparation. Add mental routines, recovery methods and nutritional focus and you have the full picture of an ambitious tennis player. Then we go to a tournament, make some easy mistakes and… it starts. We tend to get angry. We start to use bad words. We are negative. We throw the racquet. We lose the match.
This scenario that happens to many players doesn’t have to happen anymore. The ability to control own emotions and calm down while playing tennis is possible to train, so it depends on you how badly you want to improve this area to win all the matches that you should win.
Too many times athletes mistakenly think that because they train hard and play well during practice sessions it is guaranteed that they will show the same performance while competing in tournaments. The reality is that during training session you play without pressure, so there are not so many situations that you can get angry at. Completely different story happens when you go to a different place and try to beat your rival to advance to the next round and collect additional ranking points. The pressure is everywhere. That is why you need to possess ability to calm down and control your emotions to not let them ruin all your training work.
Understand what happens
To make any change successful, it has to be based on conscious effort. At the beginning, players have to understand why being nervous doesn’t help their tennis. Negative emotions make your body tense. Your strokes lose fluidity and quality. You start to be impatient and make wrong decisions based on emotions (not on strategy). If you understand how much you lose every time you get nervous, you will quickly decide to work on this negative habit and transform it into skills that will help you on the court.
Routine is a proven method to keep us focused on the right things. When we get angry, we need routine to quickly calm down and play our best tennis. Looking at the best players in the world, they all have trained routines that they use between the points to let them stay calm and focused on one point at the time. Adjusting racquet’s string, using towel, going to the specific area on the court or shadowing strokes are examples of what you can do to control your emotions and maintain high level of performance.
Learn to breath like an athlete
Breathing is an important aspect of any activity. Specific breathing techniques are known to calm down and perform up to own potential. To deal with negative emotions, you should use this simple pattern: breathe in through the nose while counting to 3 and breath out through the mouth while counting to 5-6. At the beginning, you can find it difficult because your “nervous” body will want to rush things, but your goal is the opposite: slow things down and play without obstacles.
Now armed with new knowledge about how to deal with negative emotions, you can step on the court and work on this ability. With repetitive conscious effort you will quickly see positive changes both in your behavior and your on-court performance. And don’t forget that you can work on this skill in your personal life, too. Stuck in a traffic? Understand your situation, apply breathing technique and use this time effectively!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach, currently working with a Top 60 ITF player, and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. Marcin is the author of Enjoy Tennis Blog and a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines. Moreover, Marcin was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.
MORE ARTICLES BY TENNIS COACH MARCIN BIENIEK:
- Tennis tips: 3 areas that cost you too many points
- How to practice serve the right way
- Coaching tips: How to avoid mistakes in tennis
- Things to (not) do on vacation to improve your tennis game
- How to translate your tennis practice into match wins
- How to build team spirit in tennis
- How to become a master of claycourt tennis
- How to make your serve more effective
- How to choose the best tennis racquet to fit your level, playing style and body type
- How to handle playing tennis in sunny conditions and even take it to your advantage
- 5 portable fitness tools for serious tennis players
- Best foam roller exercises for tennis players