For the past couple of months, I have worked with some high school players hungry to make varsity next season. We are nearing the end of our training so I wanted to start focusing on using the skills I was teaching them in point play. After all, if they cannot put into play what they have learned, what kind of teacher am I? :)
So after five minutes of having them play out points while serving, I had them come in and tell me the first thing that came to mind so far while they are playing. Here are a few of their responses:
I'm not as relaxed as I would like to be.
I'm missing a lot of my first serves.
I think I'm playing pretty well given this is the first time playing points in awhile.
So after all that was said, I noticed a common theme with their responses. They were focusing their attention internally rather than externally. Meaning, they were more worried about how they were playing rather than the strategies to use against their opponent. This is why every sentence they gave me started with "I."
What I wanted my students to realize is that there is no way you are able to play your best tennis (and effective) if all they are doing is analyzing how you are playing throughout the match. In fact, focusing on your play is the best way to get yourself out of "flow" or "playing out of your mind." Yet, we tend to have this mindset when we play all too often. Yes, it's important to make adjustments to your game as you feel the need to be the most effective on the court but the main focus needs to be on strategy. Other than the obvious benefits, players also have the freedom to hit their shots without constant critique coming from yourself. This is also why some can feel liberated while dancing while others would rather do anything but move on a dance floor.
If technique is your main focus as you play, your strokes will most likely be tight and restrictive as you cannot trust your strokes in this mindset. Instead, keep your focus on your opponent and let your strokes naturally put the ball where it needs to go. You will be sure to have better results in your match and if you're like me, you'll enjoy them a lot more! Happy hitting!
Want to learn a few exercises to protect your shoulders? Check this video out!