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Elements of the Mental Game

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  • johnyandell
    started a topic Elements of the Mental Game

    Elements of the Mental Game

    Let's discuss Paul Lubbers and Miguel Crespo's article, "Elements of the Mental Game"

  • don_budge
    replied
    Originally posted by lucifer View Post
    I have played tennis for years, always with more tension and negativity than was helpful, to put it mildly. So my results are far worse than my abilities. I have read all of the things that people say that are meant to get you out of this state, starting with The Inner Game of Tennis, and everything that has been written since. It is very silly to tell yourself you are better than your opponent, when you know that is not true. Then you get more tangled up in mental knots. What all this is really about is fear--fear of losing the point or the game or the match, fear of looking bad, fear of letting your team mates or your partner or yourself down. Even fear of not doing as well as you know you can. I have tried everything all of these people suggest and basically none of it works for me. I am still in my head and it is going 90 mph with negative comments. Plus fear is lodged in the reptilian part of your brain and is not amenable to words.

    Recently I had a breakthrough of sorts. The goal is to get completely out of your head and into your body. I used to be a ballet dancer and never had trouble with mental issues, I think because dancing is not about winning. So somehow, recently, I got myself into believing that playing tennis is just the same--which I think it is on many levels. It's a physical activity. So that's what worked for me. Not thinking about the consequences, not editing or commentating on my performance, but just doing it. I tell myself that I am dancing with the ball, and it works. Then I am thinking about the ball (you do, after all, have to be thinking about something--your brain is never a tabula rasa), dancing with the ball, and that is all. It is astonishing how well this works.

    I also believe that a lot of this issue, the negativity and lack of confidence that so many people have, has to do with the way tennis is taught. I have run into many coaches, teachers, etc. who are unbelievably negative, thus instilling the attitude and belief into poor unsuspecting children that whatever they do is not good enough and therefore THEY are no good. This gets internalized very quickly and you, the coach, have created someone who is tense and full of self-doubt. I think that someone should work on this issue from the teaching end. Teach with positive input and not negative input. When someone does something right, say so. If technical corrections need to be made, and of course they do, then it can be done in a positive way. Don't say: "Don't go right straight to the ball." Say: "Get to the side of the ball. Give yourself some swing space and then you can really hit it." Duh. So then the person is thinking positively instead of "Oh dear, I am doing it wrong." This sounds simple, but I have rarely rarely heard any coach talk like this. I have heard two and they were people who got very good results from their students.
    lucifer...you've been a member since May of 2005 and this is your first post. It's well written and extremely thoughtful...but why now? Whatever possessed you to post now? The devil made you do it?

    Leave a comment:


  • don_budge
    replied
    Originally posted by lucifer View Post
    I have played tennis for years, always with more tension and negativity than was helpful, to put it mildly. So my results are far worse than my abilities. I have read all of the things that people say that are meant to get you out of this state, starting with The Inner Game of Tennis, and everything that has been written since. It is very silly to tell yourself you are better than your opponent, when you know that is not true. Then you get more tangled up in mental knots. What all this is really about is fear--fear of losing the point or the game or the match, fear of looking bad, fear of letting your team mates or your partner or yourself down. Even fear of not doing as well as you know you can. I have tried everything all of these people suggest and basically none of it works for me. I am still in my head and it is going 90 mph with negative comments. Plus fear is lodged in the reptilian part of your brain and is not amenable to words.

    Recently I had a breakthrough of sorts. The goal is to get completely out of your head and into your body. I used to be a ballet dancer and never had trouble with mental issues, I think because dancing is not about winning. So somehow, recently, I got myself into believing that playing tennis is just the same--which I think it is on many levels. It's a physical activity. So that's what worked for me. Not thinking about the consequences, not editing or commentating on my performance, but just doing it. I tell myself that I am dancing with the ball, and it works. Then I am thinking about the ball (you do, after all, have to be thinking about something--your brain is never a tabula rasa), dancing with the ball, and that is all. It is astonishing how well this works.

    I also believe that a lot of this issue, the negativity and lack of confidence that so many people have, has to do with the way tennis is taught. I have run into many coaches, teachers, etc. who are unbelievably negative, thus instilling the attitude and belief into poor unsuspecting children that whatever they do is not good enough and therefore THEY are no good. This gets internalized very quickly and you, the coach, have created someone who is tense and full of self-doubt. I think that someone should work on this issue from the teaching end. Teach with positive input and not negative input. When someone does something right, say so. If technical corrections need to be made, and of course they do, then it can be done in a positive way. Don't say: "Don't go right straight to the ball." Say: "Get to the side of the ball. Give yourself some swing space and then you can really hit it." Duh. So then the person is thinking positively instead of "Oh dear, I am doing it wrong." This sounds simple, but I have rarely rarely heard any coach talk like this. I have heard two and they were people who got very good results from their students.
    Nice username "lucifer". You could have used some sort of facsimile such as the Robert DeNiro character in "Angel Heart". He called himself "Louis Cypher" in the movie when in the end he ended up being just plain old "Mephistopheles".

    I often refer to the game of tennis as a dance too. Dancing with the tennis ball. Getting into position. Actually this is perhaps one of the most important things you can concentrate on when actually playing...get your ass in position. Get in position to the ball and make the more balanced swing of you and your opponent. If you do this you have a better chance of success.

    The key to playing well is in your preparation. The warm up is key. Getting your feet to move in synch with the approaching ball. When warming up concentrate heavily on watching the ball and hopefully this will continue into the match. Once you get distracted by emotions and what not your eyes tend to stray. In warm up try concentrating on having the racquet face perpendicular (ninety degrees) to the net when the ball meets the ground in front of you. This encourages you to get the racquet prepared to go forwards early. Nerves tend to play a big factor in matches and when nervous you get that "deer in the headlights" look in your eyes. The feet forget to move...you feel you have cement in your shoes. Probably a terrible feeling for a ballerina. You are a woman...aren't you?

    Once in the match and you are properly warmed up and prepared you should have some sort of strategy in mind. An idea...a simple idea. Try to implement it. Most importantly...know the score. Know how to play to the score as well. There are your tactical objectives. Once you are playing all of your technical thoughts should be left on the practice court. You have room for one thought...maybe as lucifer you have room for two.

    Leave a comment:


  • johnyandell
    replied
    Sounds like you are moving into the process. It starts in my opinion with the willingness to accept the outcome either way. Your dancing analogy is a good one. Have you read the older, original Jim Loehr articles in the mental game section, especially From Negative to Positive?

    Leave a comment:


  • lucifer
    replied
    I have played tennis for years, always with more tension and negativity than was helpful, to put it mildly. So my results are far worse than my abilities. I have read all of the things that people say that are meant to get you out of this state, starting with The Inner Game of Tennis, and everything that has been written since. It is very silly to tell yourself you are better than your opponent, when you know that is not true. Then you get more tangled up in mental knots. What all this is really about is fear--fear of losing the point or the game or the match, fear of looking bad, fear of letting your team mates or your partner or yourself down. Even fear of not doing as well as you know you can. I have tried everything all of these people suggest and basically none of it works for me. I am still in my head and it is going 90 mph with negative comments. Plus fear is lodged in the reptilian part of your brain and is not amenable to words.

    Recently I had a breakthrough of sorts. The goal is to get completely out of your head and into your body. I used to be a ballet dancer and never had trouble with mental issues, I think because dancing is not about winning. So somehow, recently, I got myself into believing that playing tennis is just the same--which I think it is on many levels. It's a physical activity. So that's what worked for me. Not thinking about the consequences, not editing or commentating on my performance, but just doing it. I tell myself that I am dancing with the ball, and it works. Then I am thinking about the ball (you do, after all, have to be thinking about something--your brain is never a tabula rasa), dancing with the ball, and that is all. It is astonishing how well this works.

    I also believe that a lot of this issue, the negativity and lack of confidence that so many people have, has to do with the way tennis is taught. I have run into many coaches, teachers, etc. who are unbelievably negative, thus instilling the attitude and belief into poor unsuspecting children that whatever they do is not good enough and therefore THEY are no good. This gets internalized very quickly and you, the coach, have created someone who is tense and full of self-doubt. I think that someone should work on this issue from the teaching end. Teach with positive input and not negative input. When someone does something right, say so. If technical corrections need to be made, and of course they do, then it can be done in a positive way. Don't say: "Don't go right straight to the ball." Say: "Get to the side of the ball. Give yourself some swing space and then you can really hit it." Duh. So then the person is thinking positively instead of "Oh dear, I am doing it wrong." This sounds simple, but I have rarely rarely heard any coach talk like this. I have heard two and they were people who got very good results from their students.

    Leave a comment:


  • klacr
    replied
    Great article. Only wish it were longer.
    The belief in one's capabilities is often times stronger than their actual abilities. But who's going to tell them that? Playing with a sense of confidence comes from a mixture of experience, success and a deep intuitive belief that the person on the other side of the net is simply not better than you on this day. Good points by Stotty as well.

    Kyle LaCroix USPTA
    Boca Raton

    Leave a comment:


  • johnyandell
    replied
    Scotty,
    Great points. I think that I shared something with you as a player myself--refusal to accept the possibility I could lose and willing to do anything to win--and play anyway I needed to. As I got older and was willing to let go of the outcome--more confidence in myself as a person and good feelings regardless of outcome--then I was able to play more in the process and to trust my confidence. And of course that is the paradox.

    Leave a comment:


  • stotty
    replied
    Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
    Let's discuss Paul Lubbers and Miguel Crespo's article, "Elements of the Mental Game"
    A lot of these ideas have been knocking around a long time and all of them are credible and good ways to deal with stress. I guess it's whatever works for you.

    Me, I played loads of matches when I was young. I was never a perfectionist and was happy to cross the finish line whatever it took so long as I shuck hands the winner. I can count on one hand the matches I felt I really played well in, so not many. I wouldn't say anxiety stopped me winning, but it certainly stopped me playing to the best of my ability most of the time. The only times I really overcame it is when I reached the point where I was prepared to tank. Once I tanked, I became released and suddenly became dangerous. It is not something I have ever recommended to my students but on given occasions it worked a treat for me.

    The bottom line with positive self talk is I could never talk myself into truly believing it. I had an inability to fool myself. I was always too inward and introspective.

    One thing I always liked about Lew Hoad and Boris Becker is the way they walked around like they owned the stadium they were playing in. Chin up, shoulders back, full of a kind of patrolling self-confidence. You can't learn that. You can't buy it either. You either have it or you don't.

    Perhaps if you get kids young enough it might be possible to instil some of the qualities Lubbers and Crespo talk of in the article. Coaches might be able to educate young athletes to have better thought processes, whereas self-taught folk like myself are left purely at the mercy of our own experiences and thoughts, which become embedded and impossible to change.
    Last edited by stotty; 04-07-2017, 02:00 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • dipperhitter
    replied
    I have probably read the Jim Loehr articles twice over the years, but this is a solid summary. Allen Fox said half of all competitive tennis events (points) are negative--you lose. Negativity creeps in from that. This article made me refresh.

    Leave a comment:

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