Hosting big affairs is what Britain does well. And this will be no difficult task at the upcoming Wimbledon SW19 Tennis Grand Slam event; royally manicured shrubs, pristine conditioned courts and Fred Perry in statue at the heart of it all. This is the stage that will draw in players and crowds from around the world; players displaying their talent and ‘competing’ for one of the biggest titles in tennis. Compete, derived from the Latin work ‘competere’, is defined as coming together and striving together. Modern definitions suggest however, that people are drawn together to dominate and gain; gain a title, gain a ranking, gain in financial winnings. Tennis is a vocation for these players and now they must perform at their best.
Motivation and focus will be tested during arduous long matches and for those who progress from one match to the next, finding that concentration and focus again and again will be necessary. Emotions will ebb and flow, like the tides that set in on the Thames River just a couple miles down the road. It is impossible to expect a stoic presence through the course of a match, let alone throughout a player’s time spent at the tournament. However, knowing how to manage those emotions and energy to facilitate performance will be key.
Just as a battery loses it’s strength, players will be tested when their bodies begin to tire and mental resources begin to drain. Managing their energy efficiently will mean engaging emotional intelligence between points and at changeovers. Energy management becomes ever so important when matches run into a few hours. With evidence that more than 75% of the match is time spent between points (Woo, 2013), there is plenty time to gather ones thoughts and set aside any concerns rather than dwell on them.
Peck (2000) in his writings about the game of golf, suggests that a golfer must undertake ‘kenosis’ in order to abandon the demons that consume ones mind and energy after a bad shot. ‘Kenosis’ is a process of emptying oneself of the thought or practice that creates a roadblock in performance. A tennis player who fails to recognise this, will be dragged down with feelings that may mirror the same mild depression that takes hold of a golfer striving for perfection in his/her game. Before long, it may be game, set and match to the opposition, and all because of the inability to control those emotions that ebb and flow!
Using a few seconds to refocus and do away with negativity, will allow the player to remain in the present. Players that dwell on the last point and past, will likely become consumed by negative emotions that sap those battery juices more rapidly. Between point routines will prove effective ways to get the mind back to the present and tennis players can often be seen fiddling with their racquet strings, bopping up and down or simply re-adjusting their clothing to refocus. These are the moments to take a deep breath, line up the next play in mind and turn to face the next point with clarity. Such routines that incorporate visualisation are known to improve performance in tennis and other sports (Moore & Stevenson, 1994).
So as you swan around the courts at SW19, take note of the routines performed and notice the players who reset their focus for the next play. And the next time you’re on court think about how you will perform the act of ‘kenosis’ and your choice of a performance routine to help you stay present focused and energy efficient.
Moore, W.E. & Stevenson, J. R. (1994). Training for trust in sport skills. Sport Psychologist 8, 1-12.
Peck, M.S. (2000). Golf and the spirit: Lessons for the journey. London: UK, Simon and Schuster.
Woo, S. (2013, September, 4). How Much Tennis Is Played During a Match? The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323932604579053172340374060