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The Mental Game...

The interesting thing about the mental game is the only opponent is on your side of the net and this opponent is more formidable than the one on the other side by far. The three key concepts here are courage, confidence and clarity. The outcome of any match is always in question as there are many variables which can turn an easy victory into a loss. When a player has the three keys listed above working in harmony with a well trained body then there is no reason why victory should not be his in a competitive contest.

Courage: With the Courage to hit the right shot when needed even in face of a great risk of losing is what makes a Champion. There is no greater lesson to face for any player than to overcome Fear and to avoid caution when the timing is right and take the opportunity when it presents itself. This is the difference between a player who will win matches against lessor mortals and the player that will be victorious over other champions.

Confidence: Trusting in yourself and having a secret belief you are the best and able to come back or achieve beyond your past experience in spite of what others believe or even what you see in reality to be true. This belief is a reservoir of energy and talent which takes on superhuman attributes. Confidence means to be "with trust" and or to have faith. Being able to feel this onrush of faith at the right times is a key for a player. Having confidence before a match begins is more expectation and getting pumped up, where confidence really shows is through the difficult points in the match where combined with Courage there is application and a successful marriage of will and ability.

Control: From the audience it is very apparent who is in control. It is the player who has a focus, a determination and the drive to win. A match must be won, there are no delays, substitutions or ties. One player will win and one will lose the last point. When that happens the game is over. The one who controls the movement of the ball, the tempo of the game, the emotions and forces the action will win.

Clarity: Control is immensely important in setting up the win yet Clarity is the one key and most crucial element in the game. There are points wherein the momentum of a player, their confidence, courage and control can be crushed. When playing an opponent of the same relative level of ability, training and skill it takes on different level. There is a true battle of wills that ensues with every point more critical than the last. The pressure increases and becomes more and more intense with each point. It is at this point where clarity of mind and emotion must be pure and crystal clear. No other extraneous thoughts about the future or the past can occur.

Concentration: The winner is focused only on the ball and in complete concentration. It is here there is a timelessness and the zone of perfect play. The mental game is about reaching a higher level of completeness where awareness is heightened and purpose in increased. It is enhanced by high level pressurized competition. The pressure can break a player or turn one into a champion.

 

Excerpts courtesy of "The Inner Game of Tennis"

Every Game is composed of Two parts, the physical game and the mental game. The physical game is against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles and to reach an external goal. The game that takes place inside the mind of the player is against such obstacles as; lapses in concentration, nervousness, self doubt, and self-condemnation.

The Inner Game is played to overcome all habits of mind that inhibit excellence in performance. We often wonder why we play so well one day and so poorly the next, or why we choke during competition, or blow easy shots. Why does it take so long to break a bad habit and learn a new one? Victories in the mental game bring valuable rewards that are permanent which contribute significantly to one's success. The player of the mental game comes to master the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills. He discovers a true basis for self-confidence, and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too HARD. He aims at the spontaneous performance that occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at one with the body. The Player finds within this zone of confidence the surprising and easy ability to surpass his previous limits again and again. While overcoming the common hang-ups of competition the player of the mental game uncovers a will to win that unlocks all his energy and is never discouraged by losing.

There is a far more natural and effective process for learning and doing almost anything than most of us realize. It is similar to the process we all used but soon forgot as we learned to walk and talk. It uses the unconscious mind more than the deliberate self-conscious mind. This process doesn't have to be learned; we already know it. All that is required is to unlearn those habits that interfere (enter fear) with it and then to just let it happen. To explore the limitless potential with the human body is the quest to the mental game.

Imagine what goes on inside the mind of an eager student taking a lesson from an equally eager new pro. The mind is churning with sixteen thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn't be doing. Improvement seems dubious and very complex at best. The panacea, or cure all, that is recommended is that with practice you will eventually see a major improvement. Overteaching is something that is a problem. One day when I was in a relaxed mood, I began saying less and noticing more. Errors that I saw but didn't mention were correcting themselves without the student ever knowing he had made them. Why were the changes happening? Sometimes verbal instruction to a conscientious student sometimes decreases the probability of the desired correction occurring. All teaching pros are aware of this phenomena.

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