Special from EASI Academy
|Share: || || |
Recent research from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin sheds some very interesting light on fear in tennis.
Tennis is an eye-to-eye combative sport. Unlike team sports like baseball or individual sports such as track and field, tennis is a one-on-one combative contest of wills, stamina and skill. In this respect, tennis stimulates a part of the brain that is millions of years old and which has evolved to ensure our survival in primitive hostile environments.
The curious thing about this part of the brain, called the limbic system, is that it cannot make subtle distinctions between emotional threats and physical threats to our well being. As a result, tennis players may experience the same fear of emotional situations that they would normally fear in a life-threatening situations. For example, in simplistic terms, serving for a match can be as frightening as being a passenger in a plane that is going to crash land. The limbic systems cannot make the distinction.
The fear "build up" and subsequent increase in blood pressure and heart rate that can occur in tennis can be dissipated in a team sport by the presence of teammates. In track and field it can be dissipated by the fact that you do not have to face your opponent, and in golf it can be dissipated to some degree by the fact that your opponent cannot obstruct your actions or intimidate you. But in tennis, you are forced to face all of these "adversaries".
What the recent research brings to the fore is that movement alone can be a source of fear. Millions of years of evolution have conditioned the limbic system to register any object moving toward you as a threat. The research even used a computer simulation wherein the image "Aa" started out as small and then grew larger, giving the appearance of moving forward, to test a subjects response to movement. Even this simple "perceived" movement registered fear.
Now, let's hit the courts. Suppose you are at the baseline and your opponent charges the net. This act will evoke a primitive fear response. Unless you are trained to deal with this response, you will likely make an unforced error simply as a result of experiencing primitive fear. The reason is that the limbic system has direct "over ride" control of the motor systems and will interject a "tick" or jerk into your stroke causing it to go astray.
And that is not the only problem. You are in a baseline rally and the ball keeps coming back right at you. This alone can evoke a fear response that causes you to weaken a bit and begin hitting short, giving your opponent a significant advantage.
Tennis is continual movement, and movement can evoke primitive fear. Unless you understand this and train to overcome this fear, you are likely to lose matches you should win.
Leave a Comment
More Player Advice
A Daily Mental Plan That Might Just Work
Focus ... Concentrate ... Stay in the present ... these are all words
and terms we use when coaching players from time to time. We have
difficulty understanding why they get distracted and lose focus during
various stages of their matches or in practice. But how many tennis
players have a daily mental routine or practice? Not just a plan
before or during matches - but an actual daily practice to strengthen
their minds and emotions?
How to Win Without Your A Game
When you look at the world's top players, isn't it amazing how often
they are in the quarters, semis, and finals of Grand Slam tournaments?
How is it possible for them to be that consistent time after time? How
do they bring their "A game" when it matters the most? The
reality is that the top players understand that the key to consistency
and playing well has to do with how to act when they don't have their
The Weight of Winning - Greatness and Glory
Coaches teach, develop and mold players from their experiences,
successes and mistakes. Their job is to push their players through
doors where there have never been before - and to get them past their
fears of failure, success and the unknown. Coach Paul Thomson of UAH
describes a recent dual tennis match that serves as a microcosm of why
coaches do what they do.
About Ray Brown
Dr. Ray Brown entered tennis late in life through medical research
over 17 years ago. His main focus was to determine whether tennis
could be used as a new venue to learn more about the human brain than
could be achieved in a laboratory setting alone. While the main
objective was to advance science, the result was the development of a
new approach to tennis training,
organized around understanding and teaching the mental game from the start.
Dr. Brown received his PhD in nonlinear dynamics from U.C. Berkeley
and has published numerous a scientific articles in the top refereed
journals, the most recent publication being this year.
Additional information about Dr. Brown can be found at the
EASI Academy website.