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Mental training in tennis

It is more focused on the psychic state of the player in relation to a performance to achieve. It is a training stage which is extremely individual and which aims to work on thoughts, attitudes, self-regulation, control of the environment, actions ...

The effectiveness of mental training depends on the player’s ability to train regularly in this area and the skills of the coach to manage the player over several years as in the last moments before a match. For the tennis player with the mental training, you should have the proper equipment for the play, like you should have proper tennis racket there is a list of rackets available in the market but you have to choose the best. In the same way you have to select proper shoes for the grip in the field there is a long tennis shoes list available but you have to choose the best.

First step of mental training: development goals

This first step is to list the major objectives that make it possible to set priorities for mental work.

The important questions to ask are:

  • Why do I train and why do I compete?
  • What are or are the goals in my career as a player?
  • How can I build and carry out my project?

By starting by answering these different questions, you are laying the groundwork for your sporting priorities. But to move forward, your objectives must meet reliable criteria:

  • The coach must allow the player to choose his own goals: this allows him to gain the player’s confidence and promotes a quality investment.
  • The objective (s) must be simple, precise, well defined, concrete: simplicity, precision and realism are synonymous with efficiency and success.
  • It is important to set performance objectives and not just result objectives: in other words, the objective (s) must be mainly formulated in terms of the conduct to be achieved and not only in terms of the results to be achieved.
  • The objective (s) must be written to make them more real: keep a logbook, display your goals on the wall keeps you in touch with reality.
  • The objective (s) must be controlled and flexible: it is important to put in place a device that is both rigorous and flexible to adjust permanently.
  • The objective (s) must be formulated in positive terms and present a challenge: motivation and performance will be all the higher.
  • The player’s personality must be taken into account when setting goals: this is essential in order to avoid embarking on a dead end.
  • The objective (s) can be divided into three periods of time:
    • short term (less than one month): essential steps for medium-term objectives;
    • medium term (one month to six months): essential steps for long-term goals;
    • long term (6 months to a few years).

This goal setting is essential in terms of motivation because it allows the player to stay focused on what he has to do and direct his behavior and thoughts towards the goal to achieve.

Second stage of mental training: the background work

Visualization development:

The practice of mental visualization can internalize, memorize and understand the different sensations and images that come to us in a more or less intuitive way. Of course, everyone has their own visual skills, but the ability to think in pictures is a skill that can be learned. The ability to imagine and simulate will allow you to acquire new technical gestures, correct them or strengthen them. On the other hand, mental simulation is a dynamic approach that allows you to better prepare and manage matches by recalling more or less symbolic images. It allows one to imagine oneself before and during the action, thus improving one’s mental availability.

Concretely :

  • Learn to relax to better visualize.
  • Use mental simulation: to represent the execution of a technical gesture or a tactical sequence or to represent the environment, the context of training or competition improves learning and performance. Feel free to combine mental simulation with the physical repetition of a technical gesture to enhance the effectiveness of visualization.
  • Use videos, photos, films or the mirror: these different approaches allow you to discover or review what you are actually doing and to build an objective image of the situation, so as to encourage feedback and feedback. learning.
  • Set up visualization routines before, during and after the match: always in the following order: short relaxation followed by visualization followed by a short integration phase of the impressions to end with a return to action.

Improved confidence:

Self-confidence is essential in everyday life and on a tennis court. It involves the way you think, act and feel. Finding yourself in a positive psychic state, with positive images and thoughts in your head, combined with a certain degree of technical and physical training, helps you build unwavering confidence in all circumstances. To have the conviction that one is able to realize a great match, and even to win it, is to engage on the path of mental solidity.

Concretely :

  • Improve your fitness.
  • Think and act with confidence: act as if …: “act as if” means putting yourself in the shoes of an actor, a successful player who expresses himself without doubt, adopting positive attitudes and thoughts. .
  • Be irreproachable in the pre-match preparation.
  • Improve your self-discipline in training.
  • “Anchor” your successes in writing, with a word, a music or a gesture, an attitude, an image.

Improved concentration skills:

“Apply yourself, stay in the game, concentrate, play the points one after the other” are all remarks that we usually hear or transmit on a tennis court. Improving attention and concentration skills before and during a competition remains a priority goal to achieve mental fullness. It is a quality that allows you to focus your attention on a specific action, a goal, a behavior, while disregarding disruptive elements. It is not easy to maintain concentration for the duration of a match where efforts can be longer or shorter, more or less intense. That is why it is necessary to focus on what we have to do in order to relax the mind, to abstract external parasitic elements, to relax and to direct thoughts towards action. achieve. Practice here and nowis to be consistent with the conditions of the match, to be lucid, it is simply to play winner.

Concretely :

  • Play the present, “here and now.”
  • Learn to relax, calm down: by becoming aware of your current breathing, your abdominal breathing or by practicing basic relaxation.
  • Practice meditation: it is a technique that aims to improve concentration, focus by focusing on your breathing or an object, a specific point in space, a sound, an image, a sensation or even on a word.
  • Set up routines.
  • Control your eyes during the match: before the action, your eyes are a witness of your mental state, hence the interest to adopt a conquering, confident, filled with energy. During the action, fix the ball is one of the known exercises in order to improve its concentration

Mastery of emotions and energy:

Emotions represent a set of reactions of the organism expressed through behavioral and physiological manifestations. They are necessary for the achievement of a great performance but must above all be controlled to provide the essential energy for success. Any player understands the consequences of poor emotional control due to an arbitration problem, stupid mistakes or an odious opponent … That’s why anger, fear, frustration are reactions that must be controlled for avoid that they control you. On the other hand, the more emotional a player is, the more willing he is to provide energy. He must learn to cultivate, mobilize this energy and then guide and use it wisely.

Concretely :

  • Control your breathing.
  • Learn to relax (control the level of excitement) or on the contrary “fuel” emotions.

Strengthening motivation:

Motivation is the energy that moves us forward and makes progress, great performance. According to NUTTIN, motivation is “the energy of action”. It is an internal process that influences goal-directed behavior. In other words, motivation energizes our actions, helps to overcome obstacles and remains the key factor of learning. The keystone of motivation is undoubtedly goal setting. The goals to be achieved are regulators of our motivation and stimulate our desire to play and to meet the challenges.

Concretely :

  • Reconcentrate on your goals or set new goals.
  • Practice positive visualization.
  • Get to know yourself better and trust your intuitions.
  • Encompass motivated, enthusiastic and fulfilling players.

Stress and anxiety control:

Controlling the rise of anxiety as you approach a match, withstanding the pressure and negative stress that comes with competition, requires you to be extremely mentally strong. It is by mobilizing and channeling the available energy that the player will be able to approach the event with an optimal level of activation, that is to say with a positive stress. Anxiety would be more perceived as a fear of the unknown, linked to situations that are difficult to control, or which seem destabilizing for the player. It is important to finally agree that stress is essential to achieving a performance, but that its intensity and orientation vary from one individual to another. Before and during a match, the player must learn to mobilize his resources in order to relax,

Concretely :

  • Identify the stress and anxiety agents.
  • Learn to relax and breathe.
  • Practice physical activities regularly.
  • Improve your diet.
  • Train to meet the demands of competition: learn how to handle “pressure”.
  • Stay in the present.
  • Smile, relativize, it’s just a tennis match!
  • Practice goal setting.

Development of fighting spirit:

Combativeness in the match, aggression on the field, determination and pugnacity are behaviors that can promote performance in competition or go against the rules of the game and the player, if they are exacerbated and deviant. When the aggressiveness is badly channeled, it can express itself negatively on the adversary, the referee, the close environment and on oneself. This is why mental training aims to help the player orient and cultivate positively his aggressive impulses and not to make him apathetic. Some players need, to express themselves fully or to avoid being too tender or dominated, to acquire and / or to show a certain aggressiveness, combativeness, but which of course remain symbolic, dynamic and positive.

Concretely :

  • Analyze and channel your bad aggressiveness.
  • Challenge yourself to increase your determination and fighting spirit.

Control of negative thoughts:

Practicing tennis in competition is accepting to play against an opponent or against oneself, so to face adversity without triggering reactions of annoyance, frustration or anger … Otherwise, you risk jeopardizing your concentration and allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts or even fear. To maintain a low level of negative energy, it is necessary to maintain positive and optimistic feelings. Controlling negative thoughts therefore involves fighting them to limit their effects and replacing them with positive thoughts that boost your performance.

Concretely :

  • Learn to direct and steer your energy.
  • Develop positive thoughts and trust yourself.

Third stage of mental training: improve game management

Better prepare before the competition:

The training, the days, the hours and the minutes that precede the tournament, the match, are integral part of the realization of a performance. It is indeed upstream of the competition that it is important to implement the rules, the means which allow to gather all its energy, all its forces to give the best of oneself the day D at the moment T. more specifically, pre-match preparation aims to put oneself in an ideal psychic state, that is to say a state in which you feel ready to express your best level. Success in a match depends on the player’s ability to mobilize his resources, such as motivation, concentration or confidence, not only during the match but also before, in order to approach the encounter in a favorable mental state and thus neutralize the negative reactions such as the knotted throat, the stomach ache or the flight … The D-day, the player must adopt a strategy which he puts in place as soon as he mentally flips into the game, and that’s why pre-competitive mental management can only be individual. However, certain mental dispositions can help the player to optimize this pre-competitive period and manage the stress of the game, such as rigor, enthusiasm, humility, pleasure or envy.

Concretely :

  • Like a formula 1, make the final adjustments: the match is coming … Pay attention to your qualities and strengths.
  • Optimize your preparation by paying particular attention to your warm-up, especially on a mental level.

Improve mental toughness during the match: get closer to the ideal state of performance (EIP)

When the game begins, the player has only one idea in mind: to gather all the energy accumulated during training and past matches to strive for success. But the course of a meeting places the player in front of many uncertainties that can put him in danger. That’s why deciding to improve your mental health is to give yourself the maximum of chances to be effective in the action, to give the best of yourself throughout a match, to express its full potential and express itself at its best. The player can thus create a particular mental climate that allows him to achieve excellence. This is called an altered state of consciousness, that is, a particular psychological state that achieves the best performance, called in sport the Ideal State of Performance (EIP).

The characteristics of this state can be broken down as follows:

  • A certain amnesia that causes the player to play almost automatically, instinctively, making it difficult to describe the match at the end of it.
  • A concentration / dissociation component which means that the player is totally centered, focused on his match, ignoring everything outside.
  • A detachment of pain that leads the player to increase his tolerance to it, not experiencing feelings of fatigue, weariness or exhaustion.
  • A perceptual change that is defined by manifestations of distortion of time, deformation of reality. These events may reflect an impression of playing in slow motion.
  • A great sense of power and control that allows you to achieve great things without restraint.

This internal state is characterized by high physical availability, low anxiety, high energy, optimism, a sense of calm, focus, confidence, and is extremely related to the requirements of the game.

Concretely :

  • Practice the inner game: develop and master all of his mental skills to let him do, act and express his full potential in the game. In other words, you will promote access to your EIP by being physically and mentally available and stimulating your resources.
  • Optimize rest times, recovery between points and changes of side: by setting up efficient and adaptable routines derived from your personal values ​​and which become automatic and stable.

Improve recovery

The match is over and whatever the result, you have to ask yourself if you have mobilized all your physical and mental resources to reach your goal. By doing this, you can identify weaknesses and strengths, learn from the competition, and go beyond simply losing or winning. At the end of a match, the player must know how to organize himself and discipline his thoughts in order to remain lucid about what has just happened and to re-motivate himself to prepare for future events. To give ourselves the means to structure and optimize the physical and mental recovery after a meeting is to build the future and put ourselves in the best position to tackle the following events.

Concretely :

  • Master all recovery techniques (stretching, breathing, relaxation, visualization …).
  • Perform the analysis and the balance of your match, your tournament, at rest, in order to prepare you to bounce on the competitions to come.
  • Learn how to react and recover from a victory (to welcome and fully experience the sensations, keep your feet on the ground, anchor the impressions …) or defeat (do not question everything, let pass the anger and the frustration, understand and accept the reasons for the defeat …).

 To conclude

The purpose of this article is to be unambiguous: to suggest that the mental aspect in tennis is an essential element of the performance and to show that by creating the most favorable conditions, the player has in his hands all the assets to develop his potential and succeed.

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