The great Rod Laver's tweet said it all: "A star is born...What a fighter you are"
In becoming the first wildcard ever to win Indian Wells (the previous best efforts were Martina Hingis and Serena Williams who both made the semi-finals as wildcards) Bianca Andreescu has made it pretty clear that she is a new star in the women's game.
Throughout the tournament she has described that from a young age she trained for hours each day in meditation and visualisation (she has now reduced the amount to 15min per day). When asked about it she said, "Yeah, my mom introduced me to that when I was really young. I was maybe about 12. Ever since then I have been meditating. I do a lot of yoga, as well, and I think that really helps me just have a balanced life.I don’t only work on my physical aspect. I also work on the mental, because that’s also very, very important. It’s definitely showing through my matches where I’m staying in the present moment a lot of the time."
So while the huge majority of other players disproportionately train their bodies while leaving their minds to chance and the winds of external forces, Andreescu has very wisely incorporated mental training in a similar way to her physical training.
##Check out the video to see how she explained her views on the importance this has had on her development...
5 Key Mental Toughness Take Aways...
Here's 5 ways this type of mental training likely played such a big part in Andreescu's incredible run to become the 4th youngest female Indian Wells champion of all time, and should be part of every players' improvement plan.
1.) The Development of Self-Belief
The way Andreescu responded to the opportunity and pressure like she was an experienced champion who had won it all before was quite incredible.
Our brains are designed to continually automatically prepare us for the future based on what has happened in the past, invisibly guiding our moment to moment thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
In this way our brain acts like an ‘anticipation machine,’ funnelling and filtering incoming information through the lens of our past experiences influencing how we come to ‘see’ and ‘be’ in future situations.
By training visualisations of future success, players can influence the way their brain interprets situations of unchartered territory through the lens of positive past visualised experience when the moments of opportunity actually arrive.
2.) Improving Physical Skills
Andreescu has amazing physical power and skill.
It's important to realise that visualisation can be used to actually practice improving physical skills. This is commonly believed to work by imagined events creating the same neuromuscular responses as if we were having the actual experience. So by practicing physical skills in our mind, the body changes according to the thoughts that we have.
But one additional and little talked about positive effect of mental training is that it absolutely improves the quality with which players actually train their physical skills, because to consistently work at improving physical skills is dependent on the way a player can concentrate and respond to challenges.
This is why training meditation and visualisation in the morning, like Andreescu does, is such a great idea... It primes the brain in a way that is helpful for activities that come later in the day.
3.) Developing Attention
The 3rd key thing to realise is that anytime we practice aiming and maintaining our attention on a present moment target, which is a basic requirement of meditation and visualisation, we are practicing the core foundational skill of tennis mental toughness and skill development.
4.) Developing Self-awareness
4th, Andreescu spoke of the importance of getting in tune with her body and mind during her morning meditation training. Without doubt the most common cause of poor player mental toughness is a lack of self-awareness of when they are acting based on the unintentional difficult thoughts and feelings (e.g., nerves, frustration) that show up throughout matches.
As soon as players engage in meditation and visualisation training, they are not only developing concentration, but the ability to more skilfully recognise when their attention has been drawn into unintentional thoughts, and consequently return it to their target. This self-awareness is one of the keys to skillful competing and practice and when players lack it their physical and even tactical skills typically become pretty worthless.
5.) Developing Emotional Fitness
Upon reflecting on finishing the job in her semi-final and final matches, Andreescu spoke of her skill in knowing how best to respond with helpful actions to the 'crazy' difficult emotions pulsing through her body.
One little used but powerful training technique is to practice developing 'emotional fitness' by visualising oneself in situations that evoke difficult emotions with the goal of improving tolerance of the experience. This works in the same way that athletes become better in responding to physical discomforts through physical training.
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