Tennis players realize how their thinking affects their body abilities and how it affects their emotions. Both body and emotions influence their tennis performance.
The power of our thinking
Thought - body connection
Our thoughts affect our body much more than we are aware of. Actually there is a part of our thinking that affects our body below our awareness.
The simplest experiment to prove this is to make a pendulum. Tie a string on a paper clip and then hold it still above the table. Then IMAGINE that the pendulum swings left and right.
You will see that it starts moving in your imagined direction without you being aware of your moving your arm. This is how our thoughts affect our body without our awareness.
Now think how this affects a game like tennis where 1 degree of racquet face change produces a difference of 40cm on the other side of the court.
Thought – body connection when we ARE aware of it
Probably every tennis player has experienced a »tennis arm« where tension in our body affects our arms and legs and we feel heavy and cosntricted. This is caused by our thinking about negative consequences of an upcoming match or situation.
Obviously this tension comes from negative emotions like fear and doubt but it originates in our thinking.
You can again think how will your tennis look like in this state.
Thought – emotion connection
Try this – remember a painful memory and hold it i your memory for 20-30 seconds. How do you feel? Probably not good.
Now remember or imagine a happy and joyful moment and hold it for 20-30 seconds. How do you feel now? Very good I presume.
Hopefully you are now clear on how our thoughts can create our emotions.
Now imagine, how does your tennis game look like when you are in a state of negative emotions. Your decisions are not good and your body energy is either too high or too low. More on this topic on arousal control.
A player who is not aware of his thinking just follows his thoughts and they often lead him into a negative mindset.
The goal is to become aware of his negative thinking and either change into a constructive and solution based positive one or just empty his mind. This is done with various techniques of the Inner game of Tennis.
Thought awareness is very important in peak sports performance. We can live a good and satisfying life even when we are not so vigilant about our thinking. But if we want to reach the summit in any sport then the top performers are apart by only milimetres or hundreths of a second. These small differences can be produced by our negative or incorrect thinking.
Most of amateur advice about positive thinking is good and it works well. But if you want to be a top tennis player then you need to become more and more aware of your thoughts and be able to choose what you will think.
You need to choose thoughts that will help you reach your goal and sometimes it's even better to leave your mind out of the game.
That's when you enter the zone – it's when your best abilities come out and you play your best tennis. There are no disturbing thoughts and your game just flows. And this is the final goal of thought control – no thinking at all.
How to practice
You need to become more and more aware of what you are thinking. And hopefully you now understand how negative thinking affects your tennis and you are now motivated to change your thoughts.
1. After your practice session (and later, after the match) rate the awareness of your thoughts from 1-10. If you are totally aware of what you are thinking, then that's a 10. 1 means that whatever you think, you think automatically, and you are not able to observe your thinking. (yet)
2. Write down negative thoughts that occured to you during this practice session (or match). This will further raise your awareness.
3. Rate the ability to stop or change your negative thoughts from 1-10. 10 means that you are always able to stop and change your thinking and 1 means that your negative thoughts take over even when you are aware of what you are thinking.
Do this for one week and you will experince much higher awareness of your thinking and much higher ability to control your thinking. Stop the autopilot that you run on and choose the thoughts that make your mind your best ally.
Next week – Arousal Control