How To Handle Prematch Jitters
Most tennis players feel “jitters” or nervousness before match play. You can feel prematch jitters or nerves in many ways such as a pounding heart rate, sweaty palms, tightness in your shoulders or dry mouth. These physical symptoms are often a normal reaction by your body. They are the body’s way to prepare for the upcoming match.
For most players, feeling highly nervous has negative effects on their performance. When you feel nervous or afraid to lose, your muscles tighten up. And when your muscles tighten up, you don’t have full range of motion which can lead to a tight stroke.
Mentally, nervousness also can cause athletes to play more defensively or try to avoid mistakes.
Keep in mind that not all prematch jitters are bad. Prematch jitters take two forms – positive or negative.
Positive prematch jitters occur when tennis players interpret their physical changes (rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, or feeling butterflies in your stomach) as positive, such as “I’m ready to play!” If you interpret these physical signs as helpful to your performance, you will perform better and have more fun.
Negative pregame jitters happen when athletes interpret these physical signs as negative, such as “I’m nervous.” Negative prematch jitters can be harmful to performance if they don’t disappear within the first few minutes of the first game. Tennis players who experience negative pregame jitters are more focused on themselves, such as feeling that they are nervous or questioning why their heart is beating so fast. When this happens, you are not focused on the game, such as executing a game plan or strategy.
Most tennis players who get nervous before a match, are nervous for a specific reason.
You might feel nervous because you don’t want to disappoint a parent or a coach. Or your might fear that you won’t play up to your or others’ expectations. You might become nervous because you are afraid your hard work won’t pay off.
Whatever the sources of your anxiety, you can take control of your thought during your match to reduce your nervousness. Start by playing high percentage tennis – focus on hitting balls five feet over the net, hit with a lot of topspin and cross court. This will help you find your rhythm and boost confidence until your confidence replaces nerves.
You can also use your time between points and on the changeovers to reduce your nervousness. Take a few extra seconds to release your tension. You might take a deep breath to relax, shake out your muscle tension or use positive self-talk to prepare yourself for the next point or game.
All tennis players feel some type of nervousness or jitters before and during their matches.
You want to look at your nerves as a good sign – it shows you want to do well and care about your performance. A good option is to tell yourself that it’s normal to feel some prematch jitters. Tell yourself that your body is ready to compete.
Welcome the jitters and you won’t waste time focusing on how anxious your feel.
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