In a recent blog, “The only thing that every player feels….pressure!” I introduced the concept that every player feels pressure at some point in a tennis match. The question really becomes, how do we deal with that pressure? I offered two main ways that pressure can impact or affect you as a player.
1. A Player can “EMBRACE” the pressure.
2. The pressure can “GRIP” a player through fear or anxiety.
What does it mean to “EMBRACE” pressure? Let’s look at the idea of “making shots”, becoming a “player” of the ball instead of a “hitter”. Being a “player” of the ball is getting in the best possible position to receive the ball and then send the ball back to your opponent with as much accuracy as possible during a point. Being a “hitter” of the ball is essentially just swinging with minimal sensitivity to placement, feel or (touch), and random placement.
The idea of “Embracing Pressure” is accepting the emotions and nerves, then focusing on “playing” the ball with feel, rhythm, and good timing. It is essentially doing whatever it takes to “make” the shot. When you “make” shots, your opponent is forced to respond to “make” the next shot. By doing this over and over again, each rally, each point – you are “Embracing the Pressure”. You are focused on the task at hand, in the present moment, your mind is clear and quiet to perform the task of “making” the shot in the court. When this happens, an interesting phenomenon occurs – you actually begin to “project” or “place with force” that same pressure towards your opponent! By being pro-active and anticipating with good timing and rhythm to intercept the ball, you will ultimately “make” the shot. Your opponent then feels the pressure to do the same and when your opponent begins to “react” to your shots, the pressure has definitely been projected upon them.
When we make “unforced errors”, errors that were not forced by our opponent’s shot, these produce “pressure”. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you were in a place to perform a task – you were ready and by no fault of someone else, you just simply made an error, you felt the let down, the thought “I should have made that shot!” This is one of the main ways that pressure can “grip” you. The next shot comes, the opportunity to place the ball back in your opponents court, you miss again in the net, wide, or long – pressure comes again. The thoughts begin to mount and you think, “I just can’t find the groove”, all kinds of excuses begin to flood the mind – pressure “grips” you in the form of fear, lack of confidence, or frustration. You are perplexed as to what to do now? So, instead of just “hitting” the ball back in the court, or that old cliche of “just get the ball back”, sharpen your focus on “playing” the next shot! That is the essence of “EMBRACING PRESSURE” – focusing on “playing” the ball with touch, feel, and precision. Touching something is not the same as hitting something, and “touching” the ball is a totally different mindset than “hitting” the ball.
Embracing pressure is the MINDSET of “playing” the ball, “touching” the ball. Playing the ball implies CONTROL.
Sometimes spontaneous emotional outburst are helpful to “push” some of that pressure away from you, however, REPETITIVE emotional outburst is a lack of self-control and even the appearance of frustration displayed through poor body language can become a sign of the pressure “griping” you! Instead of fighting the pressure, pull it in close by accept the pressure, then FOCUS your mind, FOCUS with your body language, FOCUS your eyes on the ball…………….. and PLAY!
PLAYING implies FUN, and when you are not having FUN – it’s a struggle, it’s a battle stirring from within. Fighting against the struggle is a loosing battle, you must RELAX, trust in your training. If you need more training and experience, seek out an inspiring and motivating coach to help you EMBRACE THE PRESSURE, and WIN – no matter what the score!