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Sport Psychology

Sport Psychology

Recreational players of individual sports can certainly learn a lot from tour professionals, but many lessons are hard to see, some even hidden BETWEEN the scores. Whether you play tennis, table tennis, racquetball, squash or badminton, methodically handling and preparing scores is a huge advantage. For professionals, spot rituals have evolved into the MOST efficient routine. This article will detail what usually goes on in the minds of professionals during these quiet moments, which the author calls the “Calendar for Emotions.”

Sport Psychology
Sport Psychology

As explained in a previous article in this series, “Sports Psychology: A Zen-Like Approach,” recreational players rarely address the emotional fluctuations of competition as well as professionals. Much of this difference is due to their amateur approach to preparations before the match and between points. Pre-match preparations are dominated by physical homework. Between point preparation, mental homework dominates.

This time can be roughly divided into three different 10-second phases. Once you know what to look for, it’s easier to spot them on great players.

Phase One: This first 5-10 second part involves dealing with the emotions generated from the previous point. If the previous point was an important “Won”, a pro seldom displays positive emotions (or uses the entire 10 seconds), with one exception. The exception is a change of momentum, which should have an impact on the outcome of the entire competition. In this case, displaying positive emotions MUST help maintain a high enough level of performance to continue until the end of the match.

Among racquet sports, tennis has a unique scoring system in which games and points have very different weights or degrees of importance, unlike the linear scoring system. In this case, a heavily weighted point (eg break point or set point) can create enough strategic advantage to create a “Descent” towards the outcome.

Because of its shorter, module-sized games and wide variety of tactics, tennis is similar to chess, where offensive and defensive weapons are deployed at key moments in the match. Other racquet sports with linear scoring are more like a long-distance race or a series of shorter sprints leading to the finish line.

Sport Psychology

For this reason, most “Wins Won” are received with an equal, sober face due to the knowledge that an equal number of defeats will come. IMPORTANT NOTE: statistically, the winner in a competitive match only gains a SMALL number of additional points (one or two percent) from the loser. Experts advise competitors not to let the emotions get too high or too low, as it requires extra energy during an already physically demanding competition. You will rarely find that NO effort or emotion is wasted amongst the scores of these iconic champions.

Great players learn to compartmentalize emotions, which makes it possible to access them instantly. For example, if they need to cry on the fly, the “chamber” fraught with the loss of a loved one is called back. Great athletes also learn to compartmentalize to use emotions efficiently and under time constraints. Remember that negative emotions cannot be stopped, but they can and should be limited/comparted due to time constraints. Let’s take a look at how the pros handled “Lost Battles” during Phase One.

Sport Psychology
Sport Psychology

When mistakes do occur, professional athletes adapt well to this compartment principle. They PRACTICE to deal better on the spot than recreational players. Sports psychologists have observed that it takes between 5 or 10 seconds for tennis tour pros to SILENTLY immerse themselves in completely normal frustrations without significantly displaying negative body language.

Sport Psychology

A critical example is disappointment when a player misses the first serve at a crucial point. The player knows that the odds of gaining the point swing towards their opponent as the weaker second serve puts them on the defensive or worse.

Coaches know that the most common cause of double mistakes is rushing to start second serve. Experts believe it takes at least 5 seconds, NOW extra time for Stage Two and Stage Three, to end, compartmentalize, or eliminate this natural frustration. Without this period, this frustration is likely to affect future performance, in this case second serve. If you follow the clues in others, you can almost feel like a couple of mistakes are imminent. Tennis commentators often give a clue to the audience when they feel it.

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