Staying Relaxed In a Match

Competition can be intense. Waves of emotions can come and go with varying levels of intensity and impact to your game. We will outline here some ways to stay calm and relaxed on the court during a match. 

Stay relaxed

After all the on court training sessions and off court hours of preparation the time has come for competition. Skills, strategy, and mindsets are put to the test. Staying relaxed and focused is key to allowing all the time and preparation to lead to success. Below are some skills to use to stay relaxed and focused during a tennis match. 

Breathing

Breathing has more impact on a persons body and mind that one may think. The use of proper breathing techinques can aid in physical recover, calming of the mind, and creates space for planning a next move. A players focused breathing should happen intentially in 3 different times of competition. 

  • During a Point
  • Between Points 
  • On change overs
Essentially, the three parts of a match listed above cover all the areas of a tennis match. While it may make logical sense that breathing should happen in these three areas, intentional breathing is quite different than the automatic breathing that the human body does without intense thought.. Intentional breathing in these areas does the following:
  • Connects the mind and the body.
  • Allows the body to relax and recover. 
  • Keeps the mind focused on something specific rather than all the distractions happen.
There are a lot of distractions during a tennis match, being connected to ones self allows for control to be attained. Intentional breathing helps to create a sense of control blocking out external distractions. Intentional breathing is focusing on inhaling and exhaling, feeling the air enter into the lungs and leaving them in a controlled way. Intentional breathing usually takes longer than automatic breathing. Usually a steady inhaling takes a few seconds followed by a holding of the breath for a second or two then a slow and steady exhalation of the breath follows. Breathing in an intentionally way is one of the things that highly successful tennis players do. The next part of this article will discuss rituals which as you will see have breathing as an essential part of the process. 
 

Ritual between points:

when watching athletes play a match it becomes very evident that they have certain patterns of behavior that they engage in before and after each point or game that is played. (Many even have a pattern of how they act on change overs as well.) These behaviors are called rituals. Professionals have selected actions they intentionally choose to do which helps them focus or move on to the next point. Some examples of rituals are listed below. A scenario is also listed in order to help give more light to this picture of how a ritual is implemented. 

After the point is over for the first 5 seconds feel the emotions from the last point; good or bad. Allow these emotions to flow through the body and then exit. For the next 5 seconds focus on a goal (look back upon the goals that were created before the match and remember what you had planned to do.). During the next 5 seconds create a plan to achieve that goal. Simplistic activities such as walking to the fence turning around and walking to the baseline, going to a towel, fixing your hat or hair braid are all rituals. No matter what it is, make sure that you develop a ritual between points to turn to.

Here is a direct example of what a ritual may look like:

After you lose a point:

  • Go back to the fence, breath and relax your mind, put the last point behind you, grab your towel, focus on the next strategy for the following point, keep breathing, shake out your arm, Turn around and approach the baseline, focus on a target and a plan, relax your shoulders, inhale and exhale a long breath. Start the point.

After a point you win:

  • Go back to the fence, grab your towel, remember what worked, relax your mind and body while holding onto the positive strategy that worked. Keep a good energy level. Turn around, go to the baseline, focus on a target and strategy, and be ready to play the point.
Having a ritual allows a tennis player to find and maintain a rythm. Finding the right type of rythm that you may need will take some time but using this rythm once you find it will pay off. The rythm allows a player to shrug off points lost and continue in patterns that create points won. Playing tennis is as much about competing against the self as it is competing against an opponent. Having a set ritual will add to the control an athlete has over themselves, their opponent, and the match result.

Conclusion: 

Staying focused requires an athlete to find space within a competition to relax the mind and the body. The use of intentional breathing and implementation of a ritual are skills that will impact success on a consistent basis. 

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