How best to manage an error, a difficult moment during a match?
In a game, you often have to deal with complex situations from a mental and emotional point of view.
At that time, handling these situations properly can help you face the game in the best possible way and bring the game home.
So what do you do when you make a mistake, when you’re going through a rough patch, or when you’re having a bad day?
Here are some helpful tips to experiment with and put into practice:
1. Avoid thinking and judging
When we make a mistake, or when we go through a difficult moment (where perhaps anxiety, stress and frustration prevail), it often happens that the attention is scattered on irrelevant content, such as negative thoughts. , self-evaluations and self-criticism, which can affect motor skills and even lead to performance drops.
Learning to train for a non-judgmental and non-reactive attitude is essential.
When we unlearn to judge ourselves, we can play intuitively and be focused. For it is precisely the act of judging that leads us to think. The constant mental activity that produces thoughts constantly interferes during a performance.
We make a mistake and are immediately prompted to assess what went wrong with instructions on how to fix it. These judgments, repeated continuously over time, become self-fulfilling prophecies, transform into expectations, and sometimes even into beliefs about oneself: as when, for example, one says “I am not capable” – aimed more at identifying than momentary behavior or momentary gesture – or “I’m always wrong”, “I can’t”, “I can’t” (which are unrealistic generalizations). Saying it to yourself, repeating it and thus pointing out the error, makes things “real”.
The consequence of the constant stimulation of the mind – which is never calm – is a tense body, which tenses and stiffens. In fact, it has been shown how the mind affects the body and vice versa through a complex neurophysiological feedback system.
Negative thought, fear, anxiety and intensity of effort affect the mind, creating a kind of blockage that limits the maximum expression of potential.
When we’re in the flow of the game, it’s important not to think about how, when, or where to hit a ball. We don’t have to force ourselves and think after the hit whether we hit well or badly. But it helps to be aware of the sight, sound and feel of the ball, maybe even the tactile aspect, and just knowing without thinking about what to do.
So, it is important to have confidence in our own means, to access automatisms (which will be created) and to let go of the need for conscious control over what we are doing.
2. Don’t think about the game. Visualize!
After a mistake or when the mind begins to wander, before starting the next point, we can recall with a memory visualization, an image of a plan, a pattern, and relate it to the desired mental state ( which works, for now).
It is important that the image is linked to an emotion (perhaps the best game we have played, or the best move we have ever made) so that it can be fixed in our memory.
It would be even better if we could do it in a way that involves all of our senses. It is a process that must be practiced, like a stroke, until it becomes automatic. This is why it is important to live it during training with commitment and constancy.
3. Focus on the breath
If we are in the throes of anxiety, or if we feel that we are unfocused or exhausted without energy, developing awareness of the breath produces positive effects both physically and mentally.
If we feel too agitated, concentrating on breathing so that it becomes slow, deep and rhythmic, perceiving it especially in the lower part of the stomach (diaphragm), will distract the mind from other activities and allow us to return to an optimal state of activation, calming us down and lowering the heart rate.
A lower resting heart rate can lead to improved physical performance through more efficient cardiac activity and greater endurance, as well as less perceived fatigue.
Or, on the contrary, if we need to increase the level of activation, because we feel exhausted or too relaxed, we can use a faster and shorter “activating” breath (at the thoracic level) that aims the intentional acceleration of breathing. .
4. Managing the mindset through the body
Based on the principle that the brain and the body are one and must be trained together, one way to avoid falling victim to thoughts and judgments is to change body language and use it to positively affect the body. mental state.
Walking with your back straight, head high, shoulders apart, with an average pace and a decisive and authoritative step, holding the racket head high will allow the brain to unconsciously reactivate the memory of the underlying cognitive states. It will also give a message to the opponent indicating self-confidence and having a mental presence on the pitch.
A useful exercise can be watching an ATP or WTA match without seeing the score, trying to guess from body language who is winning and who is losing.
Even smiling can be used to relieve tension, as it stretches and relaxes facial muscles with a cascading effect on the rest of the body.
To conclude, mental skills are learned but must be practiced in order to be able to access optimal performance in the game. The advice is to try, practice and see what works best. Good tennis to all!