In our busy day-to-day lives, multi-tasking is a goal for many, and for others a necessity. Unfortunately, it’s a detriment to all tennis players. Achieving mental focus prior to stepping on the court is key to success in tennis!
Peak performance on-and-off the tennis court occurs when you are focused on the important things in the “here” and “now.” Focus is about effectively dealing with distractions and keeping your attention on what’s important right now. That said competitive tennis players are bombarded with all kinds of life stuff before stepping onto the practice court. So what can you do to clear the mind of extraneous thoughts prior to hitting your first ball?
One of my favorite strategies was originally called “The Black Box” exercise. Now as a Mom, I call it “The Black Bag” since that is what I generally carry. In this exercise, you deal with distractions and worries by consciously imagining stowing them away in a “Black Box” before you compete and thus leaving your mind free to focus.
Here’s the process:
1) Pause just before you walk through “the gate” to the court.
2) Take 3 deep breaths.
3) Imagine a black box or a bag sitting right in front of you.
4) Open the box or the bag.
5) Dump “mental chatter” into the box with each exhale.
6) Also dump your to-do list, your worries, and your problems.
7) Put the lid back on the box. Distractions are safe in the box.
8) See the box disappear. It will be there for you after practice.
9) Step onto the court fully present, right here, right now.
Cutting out chatter and distraction is essential and doable, and like hitting a forehand or backhand, it requires practice. Pull out your “Black Box” and practice stowing away what you’ve “carried.” You will find you have liberated your mind as well as your ability to make way for a more productive practice and game!