Positive Body Language in Tennis
All athletes know the importance of positive self-talk. What you say to yourself sets up how you perform in tough moments.
If you beat yourself up on the court, that negativity will manifest itself in mistaken-ridden play in matches.
While self-talk is critical, athletes communicate how they feel in another significant way… body language.
Your body sends powerful messages to your brain that affect your level of competitiveness and play on the court.
It also tells your opponent that you are upset or frustrated.
Negative body language such as shaking your head, hanging your head, poor posture, frowning, clenched hands or slamming your racquet create intense, negative and disruptive emotions.
All negative language leads to anxiety, frustration and under performance, so you must be vigilant as to the messages you are sending to yourself.
Rafael Nadal pays particular attention to his body language, especially during his dominant run to his 16th Grand Slam championship.
Nadal won his third US Open title by defeating Kevin Anderson in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 while hitting 30 winners and only11 unforced errors.
Even though Nadal won the final in convincing fashion, the victory marks the first time in Nadal’s career in which he has rallied from a set down in three matches en route to a title.
Nadal appeared calm throughout the Grand Slam final, even though there were a few deuce games and break points in the first set.
NADAL: “No, I was not calm. I was nervous, but all the body language that is not in a positive way is stupid to make it, because it’s going against you. [It] is one of the things that I tried to do all my life, that the body language helps me, not go against me. Because [body language] is one of the things that depends just on me, not on the opponent.”
There are a couple of takeaways from Nadal’s statement:
First, body language is a choice; it’s under your control. Your body language is not controlled by your opponent, the line judge, the spectators or the match circumstances.
Second, choosing negative body language makes no sense at all. Choosing negative body language is like choosing to play without your racquet.
If you want to play at your peak, you need to arm yourself with the right equipment which includes the right attitude and mindset.
If you learn to master how you conduct yourself on the court, you will be able to keep your emotions in check and regulate the level of nerves you experience in competition.
For Better On-Court Body Language:
First, identify specific types of negative body language that you engage in during tennis matches, such as head down or slumping shoulders.
Next, identify when you have negative body language most often.
Is it after losing a set or after hitting several shots long? Look for the common scenarios that triggers these negative body behaviors.
Lastly, choose an alternative and positive behavior. For example, “When I hit a shot long, I will take a deep breath, lift my head and pull my shoulders back.”
By being conscious of the messages you send yourself, you can replace those messages with more positive and self-enhancing messages.
Learn all my strategies for better on-court composure:
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Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
I often hear players complain about the following problems when they play in matches…
“I get so tight or tense before matches that I can’t think straight or have any rhythm in my game.”
“My confidence seems to disappear when I go from practice to matches and I don’t know why.”
“I get so frustrated with hitting bad shots or with errors and it snowballs.”
“I expect so much when I play that I unravel and lose confidence when the match does not go as planned.”
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“She did really well with controlling her emotions during the matches today. We were very proud of her for not showing her frustrations during the match; I think that was a big accomplishment. She really looked in control of her emotions even when she double faulted or made mistakes. The changes we saw in her behavior in less than 24 hours were AWESOME! Thank you for your guidance!”
~Jennifer, Tennis Parent
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~Mike Withers, Joe Withers Father
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What are our mental coaching students saying?
“Since you last worked with AJ in early September, his National ranking has improved from 349 to 148. His tournament record at one point, since talking with you was 17-4, with 3 of the 4 being in third sets or tiebreakers and 2 of those matches being the same player, whom he has since beaten (you may recall he was on an 0-9 losing streak when we contacted you). His tie-breaker record is at least 90% through last weekend when he won the 18s District tournament with a semi and final match tiebreak win. Your help has definitely improved AJ’s results and his on-court demeanor has substantially improved.”
~Dawn Woodman, A.J.’s Mother
“Maggie had such a great weekend. As always, after she works with you she just seems more grounded and focused. She’s less likely to look around and get distracted during her match. She’s more focused on one point at a time. Also, as a parent, I’ve learned to encourage her process goals and not outcomes. Consequently, she played well and won her first doubles match, upsetting a seeded team in a really really close match!”
~Katherine Johnson Cannata, Maggie’s mother