Increasing Match Concentration And Focus
I’m often contacted by tennis parents and players about lack of concentration or focus during matches. I try to explain that concentration can be affected by various mental game or tennis issues.
Yes, sometimes, you might lose your concentration during the match, but it’s more likely that you lost focus because you got frustrated or tightened up during an important point, for example.
I received the following tennis psychology question from a tennis parent about his son’s concentration during matches:
“How do I help my child increase concentration and focus on the ball? My kid continuously makes mistakes during a rally as well as hitting an easy ball when she should force her opponent in to hit a difficult ball.”
While you might think this is a focus issue, many issues with her mental game might be the culprit, such as fear of making mistakes, playing defensively, or too much tension. All of these mental game of tennis issues are interrelated.
Fear of failure is a common mental challenge for tennis players. Tennis players may be afraid to make mistakes, embarrass themselves or not want to disappoint a parent. They are essentially afraid of what happens when they lose as far as how they will be perceived by others. They may have low self-confidence, crave social approval or attach their self-worth to their performance.
Tennis players who are afraid of making mistakes may play more defensively and become tense.
When players are tense and play more defensively, they do not go for their shots, but try to just get the ball back. They may hit the ball down the middle or go for high percentage shots.
Trying too hard to hit the big winner may also be the culprit. On easy shots, some players try too hard to hit the perfect shot and then tighten up and lose their trust.
As for the concentration issue, your child may experience internal or external distractions. When athletes are distracted externally, they are usually distracted by something in the environment, such as a coach on the fence, a ball rolling on the court or a player on the next court.
External distractions are usually easier to block out.
You can tell your tennis player to focus on what will help her get the job done.
Internal distractions are harder to get out of your mind and refocus.
This may include negative thinking, doubts, worrying about the next point or thinking about the last mistake. The best option is to teach your kids how to refocus when they are distracted on the court. Every tennis player will get distracted at some point.
They key is to recognize that you are distracted and refocus quickly on the next point.
Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
Successful tennis players have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in tournaments.
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“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
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“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