Applying Mental Skills

Do you find that you get stuck in old mental habits–worrying about whether you will win or lose, getting frustrated with your errors, feeling tense? Someone once told me never to tell students that something is hard to do. I disagree. Breaking old mental habits, based on all of our past conditioning, IS hard. Being real about this sets us up for the challenge and opportunity before us. To think otherwise is both unfair and unrealistic.Changing mental habits takes motivation, a plan and the focus to intervene when we are getting swept away. It’s one thing to have a tool (i.e the deep breath) and quite another to pull it out regularly and use it. Some people believe that we shouldn’t really need a mental tool to perform at our best. We want the focus, confidence, composure to just be there. But, what doesn’t take some effort and a plan in life? Why should the mental game be any different?

In your next match please set one or two performance goals that you have control over (i.e. playing aggressively, being patient, stepping in on your returns, keeping your eyes focused on the court, using your deep breath between points to keep yourself from thinking, etc.). Stay committed to your plan. Focusing on the things you have control over, rather than sticking with one of your brain’s favorite hobbies–looking into the future and trying to determine how it will all end up.

Many of the players I work with talk about what a relief it is to have something relevant and specific to focus on other than the score. Their results are showing it and they are thinking less about the score while they are in the middle of the match.

This is one of Rafa Nadal’s greatest secrets thanks to Uncle Tony.