If you have ever played tennis, or any sport for that matter, you have no doubt experienced times when you feel incredibly angry for some reason. Maybe you are getting beat badly by an opponent or you have just hit your 50th unforced error of the match. When you strive to do well and be competitive, unexpected results can cause feelings of frustration and anger.
We’ve all seen the person on the court who throws their racquet, slams water bottles down, or curses when they hit a bad shot. Maybe this is a description of you? I know I’ve been guilty of this from time to time. We’ve all been there. But rarely will you see an athlete benefit from letting their emotions be known. Allowing yourself to become angry causes you to tense up, over hit the ball, try for overly difficult shots, and countless other things that are detrimental to your game.
Aside from having a negative effect on your own game, showing frustration can be a great motivator for your opponent! I remember playing in a match against an opponent who got vocally angry with himself whenever he lost a point. It didn’t matter how many good shots he hit, any error on his part would bring out the yelling, foot stomping, and occasional racquet toss. It was unreal! This guy could hit twenty perfect shots and one bad shot would send him off the deep end! I quickly started to realize that he did not completely trust his game and was beatable. The truth of the matter was that I was not feeling good about beating my opponent until he started showing outward signs of rage. That gave me all the motivation I needed to keep playing tough.
Another reason to constrain your anger is that you might end up driving people away from ever wanting to play with you again. Would you want to continue playing with someone who acts out every time they have a bad day? Many tennis players enjoy the social aspect of the game just as much as the physical aspect, and they don’t want to put up with an opponent getting upset all the time. Remember, one of the goals of tennis is to have fun, otherwise why would you play?
While bottling up your emotions is never a good thing, the method by which you release them can make all of the difference. Instead of getting angry at yourself over bad shots or missed opportunities, strive to pump yourself up over the little things that you are doing well. If you dwell on a bad shot you will continue to play with a negative attitude, which rarely results in a good outcome. But if you focus on any little thing that you are doing well you will play with a positive attitude. And staying positive, and therefore confident, is essential in a mental game like tennis.
Here are some more tips that player’s use to avoid outbursts on the court:
- Slow down. If you’ve hit a bad serve or return, take a little extra time to prepare for the next one.
- Stop thinking about the last shot. Its over. You can’t replay that point, so what good can come of continually thinking about it? Get your mind focused on the next point.
- Take some deep breaths to calm yourself if you feel you are getting upset.
- If you are on a changeover, take a drink of water and wipe yourself off with your towel. Try to come into the next game with a positive attitude.
And remember, you never want to show your opponent that you are getting frustrated. This only serves as a motivator for them. Try to approach every point with the same game face. This advice applies on points that you’ve won as well! You don’t want to get too keyed up after winning a point, just as you don’t want to get too angry after losing a point.