Learning how to play tennis can be either a wonderful or a very frustrating experience. It depends on whether your approach and expectations to the game are realistic and whether your coach and his way of teaching the game of tennis are the best for your starting level of play.
When you start learning how to play tennis you probably don’t know much about it. You’ve seen how good players play and they seem so effortless and the game seems easy. You decide that you want to try it too and enroll in one of the lessons at your local club.
There are 2 main areas when you are still learning how to play tennis:
- Technique (footwork, body, arm action)
And here are the main mental points for these two areas of your beginning lessons:
1. Be aware – when you learn how to play tennis you are soon overwhelmed with lots of information. This can cause you to lose focus on most important things – depending on your coach’s instructions. Listen to your coach and do as he/she tells you to. Sometimes it’s your arm movement, sometimes focusing on the feel of the racquet, sometimes on your movement. Be aware of what is happening so that you may correct that.
We coaches often come to the situation when the player wants to hit the ball in court while our main concern is correct form. And sometimes we don’t care about form and just want the player to develop feel and put the ball in court but the beginner is still focused on the correct form. So stay with your coach’s instructions and be aware of the outcome.
2. Don’t take the game too seriously and don’t try too hard – it’s only a game. You are already too tense at the start since you don’t feel which muscles you need and which you don’t. So you use too many of them. If you add to this a too serious approach and you try too hard to hit the ball in or to please your coach, you will slow down your improvement and lose all the joy and fun when learning how to play tennis.
3. Accept mistakes as a part of this game. There will be probably quite some mistakes at the beginning. Don’t let that discourage you, it’s only feedback. You learn from them. You need mistakes, without them you can’t explore your limits. And remember your tennis abilities have nothing to do with you – your inner self. There is no connection unless you make one.
4. Be patient and willing to wait before results come. Your brain and body need many repetitions before they adapt. Wait and be patient. You’ll soon know how to play tennis.
5. Here are some mental qualities that lead you to success, regardless of your skill level or area of your involvement:
a) Focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want
- playing better instead of not playing bad
- serving in the court instead of not making a double fault
- hitting an »easy« ball in rather than hoping that you won’t miss again
b) Be decisive – when you decide what you want to do (hitting down the line or crosscourt, hitting close to lines or more in the middle, playing more attacking shots, playing more volleys, …) do it. Stay with you decision. Decide quickly – remember: he who hesitates is lost.
Even if your decision turns out to be wrong, you’ll get some feedback. When you are indecisive and don’t decide what to do, you don’t know when will such a situation present itself again.
c) Be courageous – there are many situations in the game where you’ll feel the fear: of missing, of making a fool of yourself, of winning, of not improving … There is only one way of beating the fear – courage. Doing the right thing regardless of your emotional tendencies. Just do it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Learning how to play tennis can be a very fun, exciting and rewarding experience. Follow these mental steps when learning and playing and you are on your way to becoming a mental master of this beautiful game.