In Andre’s autobiography, Open, he continually references Steffi’s attempt to help him get out of his head. “Feel, don’t think,” she would continually say to him. He scratched his head at first. What is she talking about? Finally, it dawned on him that being present and out of his head was a secret he had not really paid attention to–except, funny enough, on his best days.Tennis, like many sports, brings out the voice in all of our heads. We think, we analyze, we debate, we project into the future…well our brains do anyway. As I’ve said many times, that’s what our brains are designed to do. Work, work, work.
A pro player I am currently working with told me that his top two challenges are not overthinking his technique (yes, even some pros do this) and not knowing what to do with “all of those thoughts.” “What about spamming them?” I suggested. We all get emails that go right into our spam folder. Maybe you need to be more aware of when one of those comes into your head and be ready to spam it.” I said. He liked it and it worked. When you get better at this you can literally do it in a second or two.
But, this takes conscious effort and recognizing that you are in your head. It becomes so habitual for us to think and analyze for many of us that we often don’t even know what mental track we are on. If you are in your head thinking about anything other than picturing where you are hitting the ball, planning a new tactical play, or pumping yourself up, you are likely entertaining some spam.
If you have too many thoughts in your head we need to get you out of there. Trust me, it won’t help you play your best tennis even if you are one of the smartest people around.
Like Andre learned, you, too, may need to add a dose of dropping into your body on the court ….Learn to get out of your head and into your body (truthfully you may need to do this 20 times a match), train yourself to feel the ball, feel your racquet in your hand, feet on the ground and the sweet feeling of hitting that second serve return down the line. The deep breath can help you begin this process by bringing your attention away from the thoughts and back to the task at hand.
Feel, don’t think. I know this is one of the breakthroughs I experienced, which is nice so I can actually say I was “there. If we are in our head all the time debating about what to do next, are we really there? Sort of yes, sort of no.