Losing is not my enemy..fear of losing is my enemy.
– Rafael Nadal
Winning tennis is about more than just skill, technique, fitness and practice. Players like Rafa and Federer always seem to be able to find another gear to step up their game and win. They seem to thrive in high stress situations and don’t appear to have this problem that many of us suffer from, which is playing at our best in matches. Why is this?
A key part is mental strength. In the same way that we have to train our bodies to develop our playing ability, we also need to train our minds. Take Andy Murray, for example. We have all watched him play and said he wasn’t strong enough mentally. Finally, he has started winning the big matches. This isn’t due to him vastly improving his physical skills, but from him working on his mental strength and focus. One shot that I have really noticed the improvement in is his return of serve. It’s brilliant now – he steps in and takes it very early. According to his former coach, he always had this shot, but didn’t have enough belief to to use it. You see him shouting less at his box and you know he now has several extra gears he can move into if necessary and that he will perform on the big occasions. Sharapova is also a good example. You can see her using mental techniques and routines when she plays to help her focus.
So, do we really need this? Of course we do. If we want to perform during matches and let our ability shine out, we need to exercise our brains, practice using some mental tools and routines. It’s certainly helped me.
I’ve therefore arranged for an expert sports and exercise psychologist, Elena Aavram, to be available to my pupils. She is BASES and AASP accredited and used to work for SPORT WALES, with national and international elite athletes. She currently works with a number of atletes and teams in Cyprus, including several junior tennis players who are competing abroad in ITF tournaments.
She can help athletes in many ways, such as teaching them how to avoid becoming anxious or losing focus during competition, how to control their temper or even just motivate themselves to exercise. But, athletes don’t just consult sports psychology consultants when they’re having difficulties.
Elena’s role is also to:
- Enhance performance. Athletes are taught to use a variety of strategies including self-talk, imagery, relaxation techniques and routines in order to overcome obstacles and achieve their overall goals.
- Aid recovery from injuries. Athletes are advised and helped on how to overcome their injury (learn how to tolerate pain), and work on the mental aspects of their sport (essential as they will have the time to do it while recovering).
- Cope with the pressures of competition. Athletes are taught how to cope under pressure of competition, parents, coaches or their own expectations.
These are just a few elements that a sport psychology consultant can help an athlete with. There are many other issues that may rise within sports and Elena’s job is to help athletes overcome these issues.
Elena will also be talking at a seminar I am organising on 28th March at Neapolis University in Pafos. This will be split into 2 parts: the first aimed at educating parents on how to support and help their children with their sporting activites; the second at raising tennis players’ performance. Call me on 99 329107 to find out more.
For further information, or to set up an initial session, please contact Elena on 99 307813.
- A Winning Mentality (cyprustenniscoach.wordpress.com)
- How Advanced Sports Psychology Can Help the Average Athlete (outsideonline.com)
- Evaluate Mental Toughness in Your Athletes (footballmentaltoughness.wordpress.com)
- Mental Toughness Only for Competition or not? (coachdeanhebert.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Rafa , My Story (amitdas.me)