Mental Tip of The Day - Watch The Ball
So hopefully you'll be able to get on the court and hit some ball today. Those who get to practice midweek are the lucky ones! I know a lot of people who get stuck in the office and only find themselves playing either once after work or only on the weekends! Luckily I'm one of those people that gets to coach and play every day!
With that in mind, It's easy for me to say that each time I play I try and look for something to improve upon. Hence why I have written today's blog. Even if its simple, self-improvement and having something to focus on can not only help you improve, but it can take your mind away from the scoreline/drill and help you focus on the process.
So today's tip is a simple one. This is something that I'm sure you will think is just too obvious. However, it's essential and something we don't always do. To 'watch' the ball takes great focus and attention. Something that can be particularly hard when you're already focusing and thinking of the score, your technique, tactics, your opponent etc. To explain it a little further, watching the ball is exactly what it says. Let's say your opponent hits the ball to you, of course, we have our eyes on the ball, so what does 'watch the ball' actually mean?
Watching the ball means to take in the detail of the ball itself, AND, for as long as possible. So when your opponent hits the ball, watch its rotations (if it has spin), look at the fur on the ball, what color is it? Try to look deeply into the ball (and only the ball) as you are hitting back and forth with your opponent. Not only that, increase the time your eyes are on the ball by trying to look at the ball on contact.
This simple trick can help with several things, some of them mentioned above. By focusing on the ball, you are quieting your mind on all of the other stressors that Tennis players have to go through (wind, injury, opponent, score etc), as your mind is simply focusing on an external but essential part of the game. You are focusing your mind on exactly what is needed, you're watching the ball! In the book 'The Inner Game of Tennis', the author states that Tennis players play their best when they're not thinking about how they're doing it. I can relate to this, as my best Tennis has happened when I am in the 'zone' of not being conscious of what I'm doing. By watching the ball alone, you are thinking without thinking.
By focusing on the ball you are quieting the mind and taking away the stressors and other thoughts that can negatively affect performance. So next time you play, watch the ball come off your opponent's strings, watch it cross the net, watch your contact point and simply watch it go back. Try not to focus on anything else. I can guarantee that your mind will be quieter. you will be able to play Tennis with less stress, which in turn, will boost the positivity and ease of your performance.