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Hardscrabble Scramble
May 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Stress And Your Game

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Mike Whittington

Do you ever feel stress during certain matches? Is there a certain style or player that just automatically puts pressure on you? Do you find yourself choking in matches more than you should? These questions all center on your mental game and how you approach each match.

Every player gets nervous and feels pressure to some degree during a match. It is how each individual player uses that stress that sets him/her apart. I can assure you that even the tour players get a little tight during a big match but it is difficult for us to ever see their pressure. I feel that having that pressure even at the amateur level can help elevate your game.

Suppose you are playing against a player that is really considered a counter punching baseline player. This particular player stays back around the baseline and just gets the ball back, a "pusher" if you will. If you are an aggressive player that likes power and to tries to take control of the net then you might have a little anxiety about playing this particular player. While most people will moan and groan about that sort of competition, you really need to think of a game plan that you can use against this style. Of course, there will be some stress but having a strategy will not only help you during your match but it will also help you grow as a player. Being in tough match situations and thinking and playing your way out of them will take your game to a new level.

Recently I had a junior player participate in several local events and he did pretty well. It was then time to go out in the state and play some sanctioned events. Although this player didn't win at the bigger events, the experience of playing under that sort of pressure elevated his game to a new level. Now the local events put much less stress on him than before.

I think it is a good idea to put some sort of pressure on yourself in practice. That's right, stress yourself out a little! Find the time to work on specific parts of your game and then force yourself to use what you have worked on in practice. Play against that opponent whose style you despise. If you don't like going to the net then do it all the time in practice. Whatever puts pressure on you is what you need to practice. I think doing this will help you deal with the stress of the real match. You'll be surprised at how relaxed you can feel if you know that you've been in a situation before and found a way to deal with it.

Remember, it is OK to have those butterflies during a match. But learning to deal with them in practice will make the match so much easier. Most players practice the mechanics of their shots but neglect the mental side of the game that comes out in matches. In practice give yourself some pressure, learn to deal with it, and raise your game to a new level.

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


 

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