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When The Mental Wall Hits...And How Players Can Climb It

 

 

 

The 8thDay of the Australian Open showed how even the best professional players aren’t immune from hitting the mental wall.

First it was Dominic Thiem winning a total of 4 more games when leading Goffin 7-5 6-6 (4-4 in tie breaker)…

Next it was Istomin who, since shocking Djokovic, had continued his impressive display with a 3rdround victory and was then leading Dimitrov 6-2 6-6 from which point he won only 3 more games…

And next, Bautista Agut had fought his way back after losing the 1stset against Raonic 6-7, to win the next 6-3 and find himself at 4-4 in the 3rdwith several break point chances to serve for a 2 sets to 1 lead…He won only 1 more game from that point…

And finally, with Nadal stumbling as he neared the finish line Monfils suddenly found himself back in the match with a big chance to take it to a 5thset serving at 4-3 30-0 in the 4th…He failed to win another game.

Together this group of players (Thiem, Istomin,...

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Wawrinka's Pre-Match Nerves No Barrier To His 3rd Grand Slam...

 

 

That was another incredible big match performance by Stan Wawrinka to claim his 3rd Grand Slam and 11th finals victory in a row. Interestingly, it came after what he described as being the most nervous he has ever been before a match...

I found his candour regarding his pre-match nerves refreshing. Here's what he said in his post-match interview:

"Today, before the final, I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker. When we start five minutes before the match talking, last few things with Magnus, I start to cry. I was completely shaking...I was also -- because I don't want to lose the final in a Grand Slam. That simple. That's the only reason....The pressure, I was feeling amazing after the semifinal. I was feeling great yesterday. Really happy. But this morning it start to be there, the feeling of you don't want to lose. I don't want to come to the court and lose a final. So close, so far."

The reason players almost always feel nervous before...

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3 Reasons Tennis Is Not A Game Of Perfect: Nishikori VS Murray

 

 

1.) We All Have Naturally Wandering Minds

It is hard for even the best players to continually commit actions to helpful process point after point because we all have a mind that is easily distracted…

And it looked today like both players were suffering frequent concentration lapses as the match ebbed and flowed one way then the other…

To help players improve skill in being able to aim and maintain attention on helpful processes throughout matches is simple to understand, but as we saw in today’s match, hard to do…

We simply get players to practice paying attention to present moment targets such as sounds, or physical sensations while stretching for as long as possible, while also encouraging them to recognize when they notice their attention has wandered, and return to the chosen target…

This improves attentional skill like fitness training strengthens muscles…

2.) Players Sometimes Get Caught Up in Nerves When Trying To Finish...

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2 Powerful Communications That You May Not Have Realised Develop Mental Toughness...

If I could choose one attribute that I believe most supports player development of mental toughness I would choose emotional intelligence. But what is it and how can we nurture it in young players?

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to respond flexibly and intentionally to difficult emotional experiences like frustration and nerves.

This ability allows us to choose actions that serve our best interests even when we are experiencing difficult internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, body sensations, urges.)

So, for instance, when faced with a match situation that evokes anxiety, emotional intelligence would allow players to recognize anxiety, be able to accept the normality of that reaction, and continue on to face the existing challenge.

And when engaged in the challenge, frustration will naturally arise after an error.

An emotionally intelligent response would see players recognize the feeling then refocus attention on a process that...

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How Does Physical Training Increase Player Mental Toughness?

 

 

 

Less Physical Discomfort…First, fit players tend to experience less physical discomfort than unfit players in the same match circumstance. Therefore, fit players are better placed to focus their energy and attention on helpful processes that increase the chance of success, whereas unfit players are more likely to start taking actions based on their experience of physical pain. 

But there are also other reasons for the link between physical fitness and mental fitness that have to do with how our brains operate.

Stronger Bodies, Stronger Brains…

It turns out that physical pain and emotional pain are housed in the same brain area.

So what this means is that when players evoke physical discomfort through physical training they are literally making their brain stronger in coping with physical pain.

And because this part of the brain is also largely responsible for coping with emotional pain, physical training makes players fitter at coping with...

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SPECIAL REPORT: Control Traps Explained...

 

 

About 10 years ago I was frustrated and helpless regarding what I thought were my own failings in trying to help players achieve ‘ideal performance states’…But after some great mentoring from a psychology supervisor of mine, I underwent a process over several years of discovering that the ‘ideal performance/zone state aim was deeply flawed…As well as discovering the better way to develop mental toughness for tennis.

And I’m going to share with you examples of how to coach this better way in just a minute…

But first I have to explain how the field of sport psychology has failed us with some misinformation about how to help players become mentally tough.

 How Sport Psychology Has Failed Us…

For a long time the field of sport psychology has mistakenly held on to the view that the path to playing mentally tough tennis involves the ongoing search for the zone.

This means that we’ve usually been taught that...

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What Parents Can Learn From Federer's Mental Attributes...

 

 

With Federer serving at 2 sets down, 3-3, 0-40 against Cilic I’d resigned myself to having seen the last of his Grand Slam runs. ‘Father time was finally having its way’ my mind was saying. But of course I should have known better…

After all, perhaps because of his physical genius, Federer’s mental prowess has always seemed undervalued.

That he was able to perform perhaps his greatest, most important escape act, this late in his career, once again serves as a strong reminder of how great a competitor he has been, and still is.

And it got me reflecting on his greatest career mental traits, and what parents can learn from this…

For me, yesterday’s quarter-final match was a snapshot of what I believe are his top 3:

1.) Resilience

In summing up the match, John McEnroe said it well, “Everything was going against him and he figured out a way to win.., It’s one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen”.

And if 1...

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Developing Emotional Fitness vs Emotional Control...

 

 

 

One of the major ideas I focus on is the importance of helping players develop 'emotional fitness' rather than 'emotional control'...

Understanding the difference between these concepts and increasing skill in helping players develop 'emotional fitness' is usually the easiest and most powerful way that we can better help players develop long-term mental toughness...

So here's a clip of me discussing these ideas during my Tennis Australia Coaches Conference presentation...

Wherever you're watching this, scroll down. Leave us a question or comment, and all the best for the week ahead :-)...

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Lendl's Rehab Influence Pays the Biggest Dividends for Murray…

 

 

At first watch, Andy Murray’s superb dismantling of Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon final may have looked like a simple case of too much speed, too much craft, and too much defence for the big Canadian…Together, this combination certainly played a major role in Murray claiming his 2nd Wimbledon title…Slowly but surely building pressure that took its toll in the form of incredible Murray returning and passing + uncharacteristic Raonic errors (especially in the tie-breaks which he often dominates.)

But behind this storyline lay a subtle sub-plot directed by Ivan Lendl…

Throughout his career Murray’s biggest achilles heel, along with his second serve, has been an addiction to self/support team abuse.

While I explained my opinion of this process in great detail when describing Murray’s mental capitulation against Djokovic in last year’s Australian Open final, I will review briefly again here before discussing how Murray’s...

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Nick Kyrgios's Greatest Challenge

 

 

Despite Nick Kyrgios' awe-inspiring talent and unwavering self-belief…It appears clear that significant psychological hurdles stand between him and the fulfilling of his immense potential.

For example:

The loss of concentration during some matches…

Frequent intense anger…

His verbal abuse of others…

His occasional lack of effort…

Here's my take on why I think at least in part, Kyrgios' has developed an addiction to behaviours that serve to reduce fear/anxiety common to competing.

The 5 Behaviors…

1.) Appearing to Lose Concentration

Players can reduce difficult internal experiences without realizing to distract themselves away from the task at hand.

When we experience difficult predictions or judgments to do with competition outcomes, or difficult feelings and physical sensations to do with those thoughts such as anxiety, we may automatically shift our attention on to something else to avoid those difficult experiences.

This...

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