Have you ever been nervous enough to worry about an upcoming match? Have you ever been so nervous that the game seemed more difficult than it does when you practice? One way to improve your performance when your mind seems to be full of worry is simply to “relax”. You don’t want to relax your mind, just the muscles in your body. You will find that most of your worries will stop once your body becomes truly relaxed on court.
The important thing to remember about relaxing is never to force it. It will never come about by trying so hard to relax. Chances are you’ll only create more worry and tension for yourself by thinking so hard about it. It must come effortlessly and easily or it won’t come at all.
When the score is close, inexperienced players tend to feel pressure as negative thoughts enter the mind. Anxiety, fear, frustration, and temper can all tighten the muscles in your body and hinder your play. On the other hand, positive thoughts will calm the mind, allowing you to concentrate better. Do your best to think positively about your performance under all game situations. Failure to do this can cause you to “choke” when you need to play your best. Choking is what athletes call “fear of failure”. When a player chokes during a match and misses a shot, the muscles in the body are tense, the heart is racing, the player feels clammy, maybe even nauseated. This is all happening because anxiety is present in the mind.
The first thing you should do if you ever find yourself choking is to “slow down”. Slow down your breathing, slow down your walk, and most of all, slow down your tendency to play fast. Take more time between points. Attempt to clear your mind of all unwanted thoughts. Take a deep breath and recommit your thoughts to the challenge of the match. Long, deep, slow breathing can send a message to the mind telling it that the body is relaxed and back in control. Karate students are taught to exhale when they chop or punch. This helps them to relax their muscles for more control and power on contact. It can work for you too.
This lesson is an excerpt from Bring Your Racquet:Tennis Basics for Kids
www.kirkhouse.com/books/bring-your-racquet and Amazon.com