Despite what people might say, when it comes to the tennis court, stress is largely good. Learn how to manage stress by eliminating the small things and focusing on what you can control.
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: 2 min 54 sec
We continuously hear from medical professionals, health consultants on TV, and in the media, about how damaging stress is, and how we need to eliminate it from our lives.
The truth is that stress is a necessity of life. Over hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have used stress levels to make sure we are ready to fight or run when attacked. Stress itself is not 'the' problem. The issue is how we deal with it.
Tennis champions learn to manage their stress and use it to their advantage. So how do they do it? The key theme of stress management is focusing on what you can control and only harnessing stress to improve your performance. Recognize that as tennis players, not all pressure situations affect us in the same way. Importantly, we have to identify which ones affect us the most. Your total stress level is often built up of many individual triggers. And it is the 'totality' of this, that usually takes us over the edge.
So if we can eliminate the small things, then we can be calmer are those critical times. Given that you have limited energy and attention, the best way to start is by focusing directly on what you can control and ignoring what you can't. You cannot directly control your luck and that of your opponent. The wind, the noise, the quality of the court, the balls, your opponent's calls, or the umpires calls if you have one, your opponent's performance. And if you're playing doubles, the level of your partner.
Instead, let's focus on factors that you and only you can control. If you can manage these effectively you will perform at your optimum level. So what can you control?
Only you can control your mindset. So stay calm, and think positive. Follow your strategy, your game plan, and only adapt it if it's not working. Prepare and train appropriately before the match. You can control the intensity you're putting into clinics and take comfort in knowing you're ready. Eat and hydrate properly the day before the match and in pre-match preparation. Your food intake like many pre-match decisions will affect your stress levels. Take the time to follow a rigorous warmup regime, so you're primed and ready to play.
To summarize, despite what some may say, stress is a good thing. The best tennis players prepare thoroughly so they can manage stress with a mindset that focuses exclusively on what they can control and ignores what they can't.