What ingredients do you need to make it as a tennis player? (Part 2)
CONFIDENCE, MENTAL STRENGTH & NO EXCUSES
Tennis is such a physical game but the mental side is just as, if not more important to your game. You can have the best serve for your age but if you start to crack when in pressure situations and your serve goes to water you're not getting the benefits out of your strong serve. Being mentally tough and being able to hold your composure and not show your opponents any sign that you are frustrated or upset will be a huge step in the right direction, you need to be able to stay focused and positive at all times. Being able to rise under high pressure situations and play a tough point in crucial stages of big matches is a massive part in showing mental toughness.
Some small things that you can do to help you with your mental toughness and composure…
- Have a routine. If you watch closely you will notice most professionals (and a lot of juniors) have a routine before the start of each point. Things like bouncing the ball a certain amount of times, or a big breath to get set for the point, for example. That is great… as long as you stick to it! We see so many of our players doing their routines while they are winning but as soon as the match gets close or they are starting to lose and get frustrated the routines go out the window, usually along with the match. The routine is designed to be something that you do regardless of the score to help you re set, focus and concentrate on the point ahead, not be dwelling on the previous points. You can spend the 20 or so seconds thinking of what you did well or what you could have done better but as soon as you start your routine your mind is fresh, you’re positive and focused on the point you are about to play.
- Positive reinforcement. Once the point is over regardless whether you have won or lost the point you can do some thing positive, I used to like to give myself a little slap on the thigh, I used it in a positive way when I played a good point to fire myself up, also used it if I wasn't happy with the point I had played to remind myself to play harder or smarter. We also like the two bounce, after every point you can do a quick two bounces on your toes which is a positive movement. Another famous and effective one is playing with your strings (Lleyton Hewitt is famous for it) taking your focus away from the ball to adjusting your strings is a great way to re group. Another Australian legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley used to scratch her grip as a way to calm nerves and refocus before each point. Again everyone is different and try all of the above or have a chat with your coach and see which ones work best for you.
As a coach we should be able to watch your matches and not know whether your winning or losing because your attitude and the way you hold yourself on the court is in such a positive and confident way that you always look like you're winning. Being positive on the court will do massive things for your own game and you will automatically feel good and confident in yourself.
Being confident in yourself and your game will get you far but make sure that confidence doesn't turn into cockiness, there is a fine line that you want to stay on the right side of.
Every player is different, some show no emotion, some show too much emotion (Kygrios), some are vocal, some are quiet, some fire themselves up, some have an inner fire, some are modest in their achievements, some will tell everyone how good they are, some are so focused that they don't notice the crowds, some need complete silence and are put off by the slightest disturbance. My point is there is not a set way that you have to be, not a certain style that you have to have to be able to make it as a tennis player, everyone brings their own flare and flavour and what works for one player may not work for another. That is the job of a coach to be able to read our players and work out what works best for them.
No excuses is a HUGE part of our game that needs to be changed!! The amount of excuses our coaches have heard from their players as to why they lost their match or why they aren't training well is crazy. "I lost but he is two years older then me." "The sun is in my eyes and mum forgot to pack my hat." "I can't do any running today, I rolled my ankle at school the other day and it's a bit sore." "I'm tired." "It's too windy."
When you come to training or turn up to a match turn up to play! Don't arrive with an excuse in your head to use as to why your'e playing bad. I understand you don't always feel 100% but thats when the resilience comes in to push through it and still train your best or get that tight win even when you're not at your best. Rafael Nadal is a great example for this. No matter the conditions, the surface, the opponent, how good his body is feeling or how his feeling mentally he turns up ready to fight and play his best on the practise court and match court and gives his opponent nothing. Even in his post match interviews if he is asked why he lost the match and was he not feeling great or a little injured he very rarely admits to it. He will always commend his opponents on a great game and say they were just better on the day. Nadal is a great role model for all our young players.
By the way guys... pack your own bag & make sure you have everything! It's not up to your mum to make sure you have a water bottle, you take responsibility for your tennis things!
Great example of this (& a funny story)
Ryan was around 15 or 16yrs old and Wally Masur had just been announced as the new Head coach for NSWIS and Ryan had been told to turn up early in the morning for his first training session with Wally. Everyone was super excited as we had all heard of Wally and new how amazing he was and couldn't wait to meet him & get on the court. So we turned up at Homebush, got out of the car, grabbed our bags out of the boot and walked onto the courts & Ryan looked down and realised he still had his ugg boots on.... no tennis shoes..... OH NO. First day training with Wally Masur & Ryan hadn't even brought shoes... He had to wear his mates running shoes that were too small for him.
Just make sure you guys have everything packed!