Improving Focus in Matches
Do you have trouble transferring what you learned from one sport to another?
One golfer wanted to know how to transfer what he learned about the mental game of golf to tennis. As long as you understand the mental game demands in tennis, the concepts are very similar…
Here’s the new tennis psychology question:
“I came from a golfing background where I felt I had a decent mental game with a preshot routine and focused on the target. I have trouble translating that to tennis. In other words, where should my focus be in a particular situation?”
The concepts I teach in the mental game of golf are very similar to tennis psychology concepts. If you played well focusing on the target in golf, you are most likely a visual learner and performer, which is very common. If you are a visual performer in golf, you like to see images in your mind, (such as shots and targets) to help trigger your swing.
You can still use routines between points. In fact, I encourage players to use a routine prior to each point and to help process the last point. I won’t talk about the details of a good pre-serve routine in this article, but I do want to help you with your tennis psychology question…
Your challenge with focus in matches may have to do with focusing on too many details of your technique and not enough on targets, especially if you are taking a lot of instruction in tennis. Most academy players work a ton on their forehand and backhand and very little on playing the game.
I see this with my daughter in tennis. Her coaches’ mentality is you have to learn how to hit the shots properly before you can learn how to play and hit targets, which I don’t buy into.
I believe this causes players to focus too much on how to hit shots perfectly and not enough on targets and strategy, which you must also master to play well in matches.
Let me first say that your focus for practice should be different from your focus in matches.
In practice, you want to focus on improving your shots and game. In matches, you should focus on strategy and hitting to targets. For example, if you have an open court down the line (during a match), should you focus on how to make a good stroke down the line or focus on hitting a spot down the line?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask…
Tennis coaches might argue you have to focus on the mechanics of a good stroke. My philosophy is that you have to focus on the target and trust in your skills (developed in practice) to hit a good shot.
As for your focus, the less you have to think about the better. You want to have a clear, calm mind, which allows you to react on the court, a similar concept I teach in golf too. If you over think your game or strokes, you don’t have time to react and focus on strategy!
Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
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“Danielle 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 on Danielle’s behavior in less than 24 hours were AWESOME! Thank you for your guidance!”
~Jennifer Alamo, Tennis Parent
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- How your mind can be your best or worst asset on the court.
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What are our mental coaching students saying?
“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