By Angelia Chirichigno
When kids are learning the game of tennis, we instill in them the importance of solid groundstrokes, a strong serve, and quick hands at the net.
There’s no doubt a sound technical game is fundamental to the success of any junior player. Just as we fine tune our physical skills, we must also practice the equally important skills of the mental game of tennis, especially as we head into match play.
Two of the most critical elements of the mental game are staying focused and positive on the court. But those things are easier said than done when in stressful situations. So how do we do it? I went out and spoke to several of SoCal’s most respected coaches and pros to get their advice. Here were a few of their favorite tips:
- Always be Confident in Yourself: Even when you’re not feeling your best, having confidence in yourself will prove to you and your opponent that you are mentally tough. You’ll play stronger and feel great!
- Remain Calm: Things can get tough out on the court, and learning to control your emotions is often one of hardest lessons we learn. But remaining calm will allow you to reserve all of your energy for your game.
- Tune out the Distractions: We often have to multitask during our daily lives, but on the court we want to be solely focused on our game and on the things we can control. Therefore, we need to tune out the things we cannot. For instance, we can’t control the weather, our opponent’s supporters, or matches on other courts. We can only control our actions and should be fully focused on making them the best they can be.
- Stay Pumped Up: It’s great to give yourself a pep talk before a match or after a winning point, but it’s equally important to keep yourself motivated when you are down. It’s been scientifically proven that negative thoughts can increase chances for negative actions, so don’t give your opponent the upper hand by getting down on yourself. You’ll be more likely to make unforced errors and not play your best game.
- Establish Routines: Tennis players are known to be creatures of habit. Some may call it superstition, but having routines, both on and off the court can help establish a sense of calm and control. Whether it’s starting off the day with a good breakfast, making sure your bag is packed with everything you need, or spinning your racket after each point as a way to keep your focus, maintaining routines can help you relax, especially during chaotic times.
Those are some great tips from the pros, but let’s hear from the kids! Here are what a couple of our SoCal rising stars had to say:
“Tennis is a mental game for any player. How I stay focused is I focus on just one point at a time and not the previous point. You don’t want to carry thoughts about a shot you missed or unforced errors into the next point. Negativity has no place in my head when I’m on court during a match, just me and my inner cheerleaders who are always cheering me on no matter how I’m playing, I stay confident.”
Kalli Minor, age 11, Compton, CA, USTA Net Generation Ambassador
“When I get down in a match, I try to just focus more on the things that I practice with my coach. I try to concentrate on watching the ball, brushing it up, and hitting the ball out in front of my body. I forget about the score and the person I’m playing, and practice swinging properly and placing the ball.”
Benjamin Strug, 10 years old, Beverly Hills, CA, Boys 12 Satellite
For more great tips on youth tennis, visit netgeneration.com. More than anything, go out there, get playing, try your best, and have fun!