in Sports

Tennis and concentration

I picked up tennis almost a year ago and now I’m in love.

What I love about tennis is that it requires my full concentration at all times. Everything is so fast and the slightest change in my racket angle can make an otherwise great shot a really bad one.

I started taking group classes and quickly moved to friendly matches and very small tournaments.

I came to realize that inner-talk in tennis is your worst enemy. Even though it’d be something that I’d do constantly.

In matches, I’d cheer myself and I’d narrate what to do as if I were my own coach.

Little did I know that this would make me tight. My concentration would shift from the game, the court, the ball, the position of my opponent, and the whole environment to my mind, and this back and forth, between playing and going to my inner self-talk is what made me tight, robotic-like, even.

This wasn’t my realization, but it was the clear conclusion that I got from the famous book: The Inner Game of Tennis. I read this book in desperation and anger, after losing a match that I shouldn’t have but did because I couldn’t play my best game, not even my C game.

After reading the book everything made sense.

Imagine that you wanted to dance, but instead of feeling the music and expressing how you feel the music you start an inner monologue on how you should move that would go like this:

Move your right feet to the right, now your left to the front, raise your hand, move your head side by side.

If you were to approach dancing this way, I guarantee it—your movements wouldn’t have rhythm, you wouldn’t flow and you would feel tight. You will look robotic.

That was me, trying to play tennis. I wasn’t flowing on the court.

For almost a month now, I’ve been focusing on being present while I’m playing. The easiest way to do this is to look at the ball at all times. Listening to how the ball sounds when it leaves my racket and having body awareness, especially feeling my feet.

Giving your full attention to the ball is intoxicating. It allows me to hit much better but that’s not the only upside. The real upside is getting out of my head, to be fully present, whether I’m winning or down in a match.

I already knew that playing football had this effect on me. It’s a great experience to feel the same playing tennis.

I now play tennis to improve my concentration.

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