Tennis Tip Volume I: Visualization


Every now then, the Tennis Center will put up some tennis tips that could be able to help your mental and physical performance on the courts. Consider this the first installment.

Visualization

Mark McGwire leads the major leagues in home runs, and in blank stares. Visualization, he calls it. Before each at-bat McGwire will imagine the pitcher throwing the baseball. He will imagine how the pitch will move, maybe a fastball or a curveball, and he will imagine smashing the ball with his Paul Bunyan swing.

New York Times, 1998

  • It is more than just a buzz word spoken by motivational speakers across the globe. If done correctly, visualization can help you in pre-match prep as well as before or during any set, game, or point in a match (depending on how much you decide to employ this).
  • Envisioning yourself doing something on the court, while in deep focus for a sustained amount of time before you step foot on the court, helps you to stay calm and feel confident as well as assist the physical aspect of the sport by performing a bit of a reverse direction in the muscle memory phenomenon and help you execute the strategies, tactics and shots that you previously envisioned executing in specific situations.
  • It is also important to keep in mind that you are not playing against yourself, so visualizing some of your opponent’s play beforehand to the degree that you know them as a player will truly make this endeavor successful.
  • Lastly, the key to making this all work is to do this with a clear, stable, mind and emotional state. I’m sure most everybody goes into a match with a base strategy, optimistically seeing every game as a potential a hold of serve or a break, and perhaps every point with some sort of pre-determined general strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…but I can guarantee you that it is more likely to contribute positively to your play if it is well thought out in a peaceful mental state. Going into a point upset about previous happenings and saying to yourself, “I’m going to go for a huge winner down the line off the serve” may work, but thinking the same thing while remaining calm is much more likely to be fruitful because you are likely to not rush the return when the serve comes around. This means you will have better footwork, better technique and are more likely to connect on the sweet spot rather than potentially just reaching for the ball and swinging for the fences out of frustration.
  • Of course, it is easier said than done, but I have had some success over time through the use of visualization, and have also seen a good deal of success of others through visualization. It also translates to many (if not all) sports, and perhaps other facets of your life as well.

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