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Mental Equipment
August 2000 Article

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Mental Equipment Archive

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Get High on Tennis!

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Dr. John Murray

The enormous and diverse benefits of sport and exercise have been well documented. A special bonus reported in the sport psychology literature is called runner's high. It involves a sudden unexpected sensation of joy, increased satisfaction, connection with nature and perception of power. What about the tennis player's high? I'll argue that when all your mental and physical capacities are fully engaged on the court, you become high as a kite!

The March 2000 Mental Equipment article explored the psychological benefits of tennis. It was seen that mental and emotional health improves, behavior becomes more efficient and physical functioning is enhanced. In short, this is the ideal sport for our time. It is not surprising that tennis is on a steady upswing in popularity. Here is my favorite tennis quote (from Smart Tennis and by David Foster Wallace):

"Tennis is the most beautiful sport there is. It is also the most demanding. It requires body control, hand-eye coordination, quickness, flat-out speed, endurance, and that strange mix of caution and abandon we call courage. It also requires SMARTS. Just one single shot in one exchange in one-point of a high-level match is a nightmare of mechanical abilities."

I often describe tennis as "chess on wheels" because it completely taxes your mental/strategical prowess while demanding extraordinary mobility and coordination. Tiger Woods' recent accomplishments in golf are most astonishing, but keep in mind that you would probably eat his lunch out on the tennis court!

While I don't agree with John McEnroe that "golf is not a sport," one challenge to golfers comes to mind. Try teeing off in full stride or slide, with a moving/spinning golf ball, and hold off the decision about where to place the ball (and at what pace, spin, and height) until the last possible fraction of a second when your mental computer has calculated the most optimal solution based on the moving flag's position and past trends, and do this repeatedly in every rally while keeping your cool! I'm just teasing the golfers here while trumpeting the amazing nature of tennis. Golf is actually a wonderful sport, but I'm frustrated that I haven't shot under 88 in several years!

Tennis should be a lifelong pleasure and a quest for improvement. As you age, just move up to the next division. You're never too old. As you push your limits, you improve relative to your age, so there is no panic seeing your physical skills decline. It happens to your opponents too! When players have this attitude, and see tennis primarily as a challenge against oneself, rather than an opportunity to beat an opponent, "tennis player's high" is possible. You only see possibilities, push yourself to the limit, and find yourself completely absorbed in a difficult but joyful challenge. The success comes from the focus on performance and the passion for competition fuels this drive.

Many skills have been introduced in the Mental Equipment column. Here are eight broad tips that will help you develop "tennis player's high" and sharpen your outlook like a Wimbledon champion:

  1. Develop the Confidence of a Grand Slam Winner
  2. Stay Properly Focused During Practice and Match Play
  3. Set and Achieve Appropriate Tennis Goals
  4. Keep Your Passion and Joy for Tennis Alive
  5. Use Imagery to Your Advantage
  6. Monitor and Control Your Intensity Levels
  7. Always Work Hard and Smart
  8. Stay Flexible and Bounce Back from Losses Quickly

Playing tennis is its own reward. You are playing one of the most wonderful physical and mental activities ever invented. Challenging yourself is the key. I'll see you next month!

Update on the Smart Tennis Sport Psychology Tour 2000

The following is my updated European schedule. Perhaps I'll meet you at one of these fine facilities this summer.

  • July 28 - 29: K&K Palais Hotel, Vienna, Austria
  • July 29 - 31: Sport Vital Hotel, Therme Loipersdorf, Austria
  • July 31 - August 1: Sporthotel Royer, Schladming, Austria
  • August 1 - 3: Spluegenschloss Hotel, Zurich, Switzerland
  • August 4 - 6: Kempinski Hotel Sporting Club Berlin, Bad Saarow, Germany
  • August 6 - 7: Hotel Brandenburger Hof, Berlin, Germany
  • August 7 - 8: Jakobsberg Golfhotel and Club, Boppard, Germany
  • August 10 - 13: Hotel Saigerhoeh, Lenzkirch-Saig, Germany
  • August 15 - 16: Hotel Schloss Duernstein, Duernstein, Austria
  • August 16 - 17: Hotel Mercure Wien City, Vienna, Austria

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Mental Equipment Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.

Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.


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