Home Boys' Lists Girls' Lists Men's Teams Women's Teams News Photos Contributors Links Help Sign-UpOnline Store
Latest News | Categories | Authors | News Archives
 
 

News & Features

Player Advice
Are You 100% Present?
Share:    

When I work with competitive junior tennis players, one of the first concepts I share has to do with "The Now" and "The Noise". I ask them to get out pen and paper - or open a new Google doc - and list what they think each of these terms mean. Before reading further, go ahead and write down "The Now" and "The Noise" - and then list as many things that you think might go under each category.

Damon Valentino of FlowSport
Ok, now that you have listed some ideas, let's discuss what each of these concepts really mean - and why understanding what they are and how they work is crucial to being a consistent player when the pressure is high or when you are struggling to stay motivated.
 

The Noise

If you're like many of the clients I work with, the first thing that comes to mind are all the external elements. Some examples may include:

  • The crowd
  • The elements (wind & sun)
  • My opponent (bad line calls, intimidation, conflict, grunting)
  • My parents / coach (cheering, looking dejected, yelling)

It's true that these all play a role when considering all the noises that we encounter on the tennis court, and they represent real challenges. But perhaps the most powerful noises are the ones that you create inside your own head.

A Harvard University study found that most people are only living in the present moment about 50% of the time. That means that half the time, people are somewhere else. The question is, where do we go if we're not in the present moment? Answer: wherever the noise in our mind takes us. So for half of your day you are likely to be caught up in thinking about something else that may have happened - or worrying about some things that might be about to happen.

Without realizing it, most of us are creating a fantasy world inside of the real world. We project what others are probably thinking. We build up a small moment and make it seem like life or death. We have running dialogues in our mind about things that many never happen. All that noise gets in the way of what is most important - focusing on hitting the right shot at the right time ... every time.

Here is what Novak Djokovic had to say about it:

"Istopped thinking too much about what could happen and relied on my physical and mental strength to play the right shots at the right time."

If you recall, there was a time when Djokovic was known as someone who buckled under pressure. But he has now become an all-time clutch performer. To be clear, it's impossible to "stop thinking". Instead, Djokovic stopped putting his focus on all the noise and turned it to the task at hand.

Think of focus like pointing a camera. Whatever it's pointed at is what is in focus. It's not that the rest of the scenery disappeared, but the only thing in focus is what is on your camera screen. So how do we shift our focus away from all the noise and put it somewhere that is more productive? We need to learn how to move our camera away from the noise and point it on the now.

 

The Now

Here are a few tips for understanding the now and a few suggestions that may be appropriate for you. Of course, be sure to personalize the list so you are being true to your own style.

  • Task at hand (are you getting ready to serve / return, where do you need to physically be on the court)
  • Next point strategy (aggressive, consistent, attack the net, bring opponent in)
  • Routines (fix strings, adjust wristbands, walk to fence)
When Djokovic said, "... play the right shot at the right time," he was talking about being in the present moment. When you learn how to play in the present moment, you are not wasting valuable energy on all the noise inside.

Just for the sake of this lesson, let's assume that being present is like having a full tank of gas. Now, let's assume that you play an important point and lose it. Instead of getting back into the next present moment, you spend mental energy dwelling on the last point. You play the "what if" game. You project what the score would be if you would have won the point. You fixate on the line call your opponent made. No matter what it is, the main point is that you are not in the present moment. You did not shift your focus to what's happening now. Instead of having a full tank of (present moment) gas, you are down to three-quarters. Suddenly, you are not the player you were just a moment ago.

This type of scenario happens over and over again, in many different ways. As much as your ego wants to be right or project on what might have been, you have got to learn to shift your focus to what is happening now.

Here are a couple of great ways to learn how to connect to what's happening now. Spend 5 to 10 minutes each day practicing these skills. Be sure you feel comfortable with them before bringing them to the court.

  • Breathing - probably the single most important skill to develop. Breathing is a physical act that can train the mind to focus on getting back in the moment. I like 4 x 4 box breathing (4 count in / 4 count out). Be sure to find a rhythm that feels natural and don't force it.

  • Notice 5 things - It's crucial to get your senses back in the moment. What are 5 things you can (see, hear, touch, smell, taste). It's not important to get all 5, but activating your senses is a great way to get back in the moment. Be sure to practice this off the court and during practice before trying to use it during a match.

If you let the noise play too big a role when you're competing, you immediately are playing at below 100%. My question to you is why would you want to do that? Take the time to learn how to shift your focus away from the noise and back to the now and you'll be amazed at how much more consistent your game will become.

 

Leave a Comment

 

More Player Advice

23-Apr-2019
Players Shouldn't Settle for Status Quo When More is Possible
If players want to achieve their goals, they can't just settle for status quo once they hit a plateau. Columnist Dave Mullins recommends keeping standards high if you want extraordinary results and avoid doing what everyone else does.

7-Mar-2019
Mullins: Pulling Out of Tournaments is a Sign of Weakness
Why are so many players pulling out of tournaments? Are they really injured? Are they more afraid? Do they just not care enough? Dave Mullins can't stand the trend, and argues that players are losing more than matches. They are losing a chance to develop mental toughness.

16-Jan-2019
Mullins: Be Negative, Angry and Stop Setting Goals
It may seem counterintuitive, but being negative, getting angry and not setting goals could be a strategy of success for some players. Columnist and former college coach Dave Mullins explains why.

 
 Player Advice Index |   Subscribe

 

About Damon Valentino

Damon Valentino is the Director of Sidestreet Performance Coaching in the SF Bay Area. He holds a Master's Degree in Sport Psychology and was a former Division I full scholarship tennis player at Michigan State University. Damon works with competitive juniors as well as collegiate tennis players across the country.

To set up a free 20 minute strategy session with him in person or on skype, go to his website at SideStreetCoaching.com - or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 
RECENT COMMITMENTS
 ATP GEAR - RACQUETS
  Kevin Anderson
 
Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 2.0 Tour 18x20 Racquet
Sale: $129.00
Review, Feedback, Demo, Video
 
  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
 
Babolat Pure Aero Plus Racquets
Sale: $199.00
Review, Feedback, Demo, Video
 
  David Goffin
 
Wilson Blade 98 (18x20) Countervail Racquet
Sale: $199.00
Review, Feedback, Demo, Video
 
  Andy Murray
 
Head Graphene 360 Radical Pro Racquet
Sale: $159.95
Review, Feedback, Video
 
 
 
RECENT HEADLINES
ITA NEWS
 WILSON TENNIS
 
Generation Fast Ep. 4: Dong Ju Kim
 
Wilson Tennis follows South Korea's Dong Ju Kim as he visualizes his next opponent and match to reach his true potential.
 
THE LATEST FROM ZOOTENNIS
5/25 My D-III Team Recap; Quarterfinals Set in D-III Singles; No Americans Remain in NCAA D-I Singles; Noel, Damm Reach Milan Grade A Semifinals; Three…
5/24 Division I Singles Semifinals Set; Division III Individual Championships Begin Friday; Five Americans Advance to Milan Grade A Quarterfinals; Four US…
5/23 Wesleyan Women Claim First NCAA Division III Team Championship, Emory Men Earn Fifth Team Title with Wins Over Top Seeds CMS
5/22 Top Seeds Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Aim for Men's and Women's Division III Team Titles Wednesday against Emory and Wesleyan; All-America Day at…
5/21 Top Four Seeds in Men's and Women's Draws Make Division III Team Semifinals; Rough Day for Seeded Division I Players in First Round of Singles…
Colette Lewis has covered topflight junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Read her weekly column, follow her on Twitter, and and find more of her daily commentary at ZooTennis.
 

Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
Contact our web team with any corrections