Win More Tennis Matches With a Paper Clip

  As a junior tennis player looking to maximize your game the last thing you want is to let your passion turn into anger. Anger is a type of emotion that often translates into poor performance and has a positive effect on improving your opponent’s confidence as well as turning college coaches away from considering you as a serious candidate for their team. Think of getting angry on the court as an injury to your mind. Like a physical injury, your mind needs time to heal. But often, when stress builds up tennis players worsen the mental injury by playing faster, thinking negative thoughts about recent mistakes, or thinking about negative future outcomes. Overall, the mental injury continues to worsen until we hand over the game and let stress play for us. Well, I have something for all tennis players to help heal the mental injury called stress. Say hello to the paper clip……...! It's small, very inexpensive, and when used correctly, extremely effective in helping you relax in your matches and focus more clearly. Here's how it works: Before each practice match start with 3 paper clips in your non-tennis ball pocket (left pocket for right handed players, right pocket for southpaws). If at any moment during each game you show a physical sign of anger (verbal statement, negative body language, etc.) take one of the paper clips and place it at the back of the fence on your side. As you go to the fence take a couple deep breaths and clear your mind (I strongly encourage making a habit of walking back to the fence and taking more time before each point regardless of the result). Remember, when you are serving you are allowed “20” seconds before the start of the next point. When you receive you have to play to the servers pace but still take more time before the next serve. The paper clips are there for several important reasons. To increase your awareness of negative thoughts and behaviors. To increase your awareness of how your body feels when you are upset. To reduce negative thoughts and behaviors and improve focus. Paper Clip Rules……………….. If you use up all three paper clips in one game, the game is forfeited. Make sure to adjust the number of paper clips according to how well you are able to control your anger. Some players may need 10 before each game and others may only need 1. To help heal the injury even faster you may want to allow your practice partner to penalize you by letting you know if you made any negative gestures in the match. You may also do the same for him or her. This mutual competitive cooperation will motivate both you and your opponent to reach each other’s goals faster. Above all, your short-term goal should be to reduce your stressful responses on the court a little more each week (avoid focusing on complete negative behavior elimination right away). Remember, developing mental toughness is like learning how to serve. It is a skill that needs to be practiced correctly and often. The more you practice and the better your mental technique is, the more you will improve!