Hey guys, Scott from PlayYourCourt.com, and today, I’m going to teach you how to battle your nerves on the tennis court.
So a lot of you have been asking me recently, “Scott, how do you deal with nervousness and how come the pros don’t ever seem nervous when they are playing matches?”
Well the first thing to understand is the pros, just like you and I, do get nervous. Nervousness is an emotion, and you can’t control nervousness any more than you can control being happy or sad. So the first thing to realize is that you are not going to completely eliminate nervousness, but that you are going to figure out ways to get through it and still play well when you are nervous.
When you are nervous basically what happens is your body will start to tense up, your legs will get heavy, your grip on your racket will tighten, and your stroke will start to feel like a folded up lawn chair. This is totally normal and I see the same symptoms in all of my students when they have a big match or when they are feeling pressure. Everything seems to tighten up and players that have beautiful strokes are all of the sudden hitting forehands like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and decelerating through their swing because they are just so tight. Some of my most agile students with otherwise amazing footwork turn into complete statues when they get nervous. All of these things are totally normal and they definitely can be fixed.
Remember, nervousness is an emotion that you are not going to immediately overcome, so we have go to learn to play through our nerves so that they are not going to completely destroy our game. There’s a couple of easy ways to do this.
The first thing we have to figure out is, what is nervousness doing to our body? I just came you the most common symptoms. We know it’s going to tighten you up, we know it’s going to freeze your feet, and we know it is going to slow down your swing. So how do we fix this?
The very first thing I want you to focus on is keeping your feet moving. I would even do this in between points. Bounce around between points and focus on your feet, not on your strokes when you are playing points. A lot of the time when you are nervous, you start to over-analyze your strokes, and by focusing on your feet, two things will happen:
1- You will unfreeze those heavy feet and start moving again
2- It will take your mind off of your strokes and let your body do what your mind already has memorized for you for your swing
So now, even though you are nervous, you are moving your feet again, and focusing on something other than being nervous: your feet. Pretty good start.
The second quick fix is to relax your hands. You are nervous, you are tight, and you are probably squeezing the shenanigans out of your racket. Everything starts at the hands. If your hands are tight, so are your arms and shoulders. If you can relax your hands, you can release the tension this nervousness has caused. In other words, you can unfold your lawn chair, abandon your T-Rex strokes, and go back to swinging like a normal human being.
The final thing is to focus on your follow through. You are moving your feet, you have a relaxed grip, and all that is left is to do is make sure you are accelerating through your shots. I can’t count how many times I have seen good players decelerate through the ball when they get tight. If you focus on your follow through, specifically getting your racket to a certain spot, like touching your shoulder or touching your back, you will ensure that you are accelerating through your shots.