We hoard mental baggage as we go through life. Learn to let go with proven techniques that can help you reset when baggage gets in the way on the tennis court.
Coach: Aleks Szymanski, Founder of Tennisletics, and Certified Mental Coach.
Bio: Founder of Tennisletics and tennis fanatic. Started work life as a military and search and rescue helicopter pilot. Spent the past two decades founding and nurturing fast-growing technology businesses across the globe. Competed at high-level squash, judo, and rugby. Certified Mental Coach.
Residency: Austin, TX, USA
Length: 3 min 19 sec
Other tracks by Aleks Szymanski: Baggage, Distractions, Self-Confidence, Threat Or Challenge, Stress, Two Outcomes.
You might like: Be Yourself.
As we make our way through life, we intentionally or unintentionally become hoarders. And beyond hoarding physical things as human beings, we seem to be really good at hoarding the mental 'baggage' that ends up forming the fabric of our life. And if we're not careful, can start to dictate how we behave, especially in times of stress.
Tennis is a game defined by the smallest of margins with often five points or less deciding the outcome. So knowing every point counts, how can you leave this annoying baggage in the locker room?
Stop and think for a moment. How liberating would it be if as tennis players, at least for those critical moments, we could play freely and ignore our emotional baggage? Well, the bad news first, it isn't easy to handle emotions on a tennis court. And it takes practice. You've spent a lifetime of hoarding feelings. So your thoughts cannot simply be undone in a few minutes.
The good news is there are proven techniques that work. Let's focus on one approach you can use today to reset yourself when your emotional baggage gets in the way.
Imagine this scenario, you're playing singles against a player that has beaten you in the last three occasions you have met. Y ou when the first set 6-4. As you start to tire, they had renewed energy. And in the second set, they chase down every ball and won 5-7.
The match is to be settled on a third set super tiebreaker. Your mind is now spinning. Like the previous occasions, you feel that you should have won this match already. You're the better player, Is history going to repeat itself again? If this scenario sounds familiar, you're not alone. Whether you liked it or not, you're allowed the baggage from your previous matches to come on to the court at the start.
So firstly, it's not a time to panic. You played well in the first set. So let's get you reset and ready to play.
Quickly find a space away from the other player to have a moment to yourself in the shade of its hot. Face away from the court if you can. Now take your racket in your non-dominant hand and start to breathe deeply. Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the chest rise and fall. Listen to the air going in and out. Now stare at your racquet strings. See their texture, the way they cross over each other. The yellow flecks of the ball caught between the strings. Be in this moment, right now. This is what sports psychologists called 'centering'. Keep breathing in and out the tension disappear from your shoulders and upper body.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Okay, times up. Grab your racquet in your playing hand and go. Good luck. Like the work you put into your killer forehand or your promising kick serve, to take your tennis to the next level, you need to continually practice on managing emotional baggage in your game.