I, like many other aspiring young tennis players, have constantly been faced with the challenge of injuries. Over the past 10 months I have spent 8 of them recovering from a strain in my back then numerous ligament tears in my ankle. Due to these injuries I had to significantly reduce my time spent on the tennis court and I was not able to do a lot of exercises off court in the gym.
As soon as I found out the news that I had torn 3 ligaments in my ankle and was going to be out of competitions for at least 8 weeks my mind immediately turned to all the things I would not be able to do. It took me several days if not a week to change how I viewed this injury.
I said to myself, “I can either view this injury as a negative and get upset about all the competitions I was going to miss, or I could see it as a positive and work on my weaknesses physically and mentally.” I decided to think of it as a positive and so I went to the gym everyday for 8 weeks and did numerous mental sessions with my coach a week focussing on different psychological elements of the game.
It was about 10 weeks after I rolled my ankle that I played my first competition. I went in with no pressure and expectation and the only goal was to come away from it with no pain in my ankle. A few weeks later I competed in a Junior ITF in Estonia. I went in it with the exact same mindset and just tried enjoy competing again. I came through five 3 set matches and walked away having won my first junior international competition. I was beside myself with pride and thanks towards my team for helping me get through it.
Unfortunately two weeks ago I rolled my ankle again and tore 1 ligament. Being back in recovery has made me realise even more how common injuries are to people in this sport. Over time I have developed a mental plan for dealing with injuries. Here are 5 of my favourite things I do to keep myself positive during injury:
1. Do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do - During my recovery time I realised I had so much more spare time where I wasn’t away competing. In this time I went out more with my friends and found new hobbies to take an interest in.
2. Improve yourself academically - Being a tennis player means that you are often on the road and don’t spend too many weeks in a row at home and therefore we miss a lot of school because of it. When I was injured I wasn’t on the road and that meant I could really focus on catching up on work I had previously missed in the year and make sure I understood everything that has been covered in school so far.
3. Improve yourself physically - Not being able to spend time on court meant that I spent even more time in the gym and was able to work on some of the weaknesses I had physically and build on my strengths.
4. Improve yourself mentally - I was able to do a lot of mental sessions with my coach which allowed me to go through the different psychological aspects of the game and think about different potential scenarios I could find myself in and how I would deal with them.
5. Simply relax - Juggling between school and tennis we never really have time to just relax. We are always doing something every day. Having an injury means more dead time in which we could use to relax and take some time for ourselves.
Over the past 8 months I have learned that an injury doesn’t just affect the muscle or bone that you hurt but it also affects you mentally and physically. In the time that I have been injured I have become more and more educated on how to recover from injuries and prevent them in the future. I found that simply taking my mind away from the injury and focusing on other things such as my school or the gym it helped me to cope with all the things I wasn’t able to do and in a way I accepted everything that was happening and tried to move forward.
By Lois Newberry