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Anger and Psyching in Tennis

January 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 126

Anger & Psyching

"Learn to control your emotions or they will control you."

- Edgar Martinez

There are few trials worse than a long walk of shame back to the changing room. Anger is born out of frustration and expectation. It feeds on itself. When you allow anger to get the best of you, it generally brings out the worst in you. As emotions go up, your capacity to behave in a calm, reasoned manner goes down. Anger blocks concentration, tactics and technique. Your temper can hurt you and you may despise yourself afterward for being so destructive.

You can allow opponents or situations to tie you up in knots. Then your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens, your stood there, with a clenched jaw and staring eyes. Tight shoulders and arms cause rigid strokes. You become hacked off and out of control. Or you can learn from it.

You control your moods and your emotions. If someone makes you angry, your giving that person power over you. They are then controlling your moods and emotions.

Anger can often be fear in disguise as anger is based on insecurity. Non-violent fighting spirit is based on self-confidence.

Tennis players who bawl at a line judge, shake their fists or throw their racket at the net in frustration will never make great players. They hit the ball with their ego's not their racket. The best have the maturity to master their emotions, not to be servants to them. That emotional energy allows you to raise your game. Those that excel at sports do not do anger. They can channel anger positively as it motivates them. Anger kept under control will work for you.

You cannot have a blind rage of anger if you remain calm. If you have an anger button, there is something you can do about it. While you are reading this, get yourself relaxed as we are going to set a calm button as a resource before another anger moment arises. For convenience, we will set the 'anchors' to your waist so you could do this standing, during a game and as it is inconspicuous, nobody will have a clue what you are doing:

Close your eyes and think of a recent time when you lost your cool, or think about the things that may trigger anger for you on a regular basis. Now, just for a few moments, really get back into it, get fully immersed into that experience, see everything you saw, hear what you heard that made you angry, feel exactly the way you felt.

Now step out of the experience as if you are watching someone else and rewind the scene, as if you were rewinding a DVD until you reach the very first moment your anger began to develop. Go back a couple more frames and imagine there a large red button and 'anchor' that somewhere on your body, lets say on your left waist.

Open your eyes and say your name backward to break state then close your eyes again.

Now take three deep breaths, exhaling out longer than the in breath. Think of a relaxing time, a good holiday, being on a beach, a quiet walk beside a lake, or a funny moment, something that makes you smile on the outside and the inside. Really relax and get into the moment. Where do you feel that feeling? Let it spread throughout your body, going to the top of your head to the tips of your toes, see it as a colour, feel it as a wonderful feeling, or hear it as a sound.

As it begins to 'peak' imagine a big green or blue button at your right waist. Press this several times and let the feeling amplify.

Open your eyes. Say your name backward. Now, press your red button and immediately after, push your green/blue button and hold them both for a moment before releasing your red button while continuing to hold the other.

Repeat the sequence another half dozen times until triggering your green/blue button automatically creates a calm response.

Psyching and gamesmanship comes with the territory. Cheating, provocation, oaths, verbal abuse and lies, are all designed to upset you emotionally and disrupt your concentration. Recognise it for what it is and do not allow it to get inside your head and ruin your composure. If it affects you, it is there, at the back of your mind. Even if you pretend it does not bother you, it does.

Be also aware there are two kinds of psyching - one your opponent does and the one you do to yourself.

A way to divert anger or over-stimulation is to divert your attention. Develop a ritual when you need to calm yourself or when you need a few moments to get yourself together. Pick a spot or a mark anywhere on the court. Between each play walk to that mark and touch it, or if that's not possible, look at it. This strategy can keep your mind focused while you give yourself a pep talk.

Do something physical to slow events down for yourself. Rub your hands together, tie your laces, rub the racket, bounce the ball. Nothing too complicated. These are all small psychological boosts for mental and emotional management. When you can, changing courts perhaps, change into a dry top, fresh socks, put on a sweat band. Do some small change to make things feel like it's a new start.

Don't get into a spin with the umpire even if he is as blind as a bat. Accept any decision and get on with the game, he will not change his mind. It always evens itself out in the end.

You could always do unto others as they do to you. Often they cannot take it. You are now taking the initiative. However, do you really need to lower yourself to their level. The best response is be mature and have compassion for someone who has to resort to gamesmanship to defeat you, as they cannot do it by talent alone. By the way, humour can be a great weapon.

The above article is taken from the eBook, Tennis Mind by Paul M Maher PhD. This can be purchased as a download from

Paul M. Maher invites you to learn more about sports psychology and to maximise your sports potential by visiting You will gain access to invaluable eBooks, regardless of which sport you play. The latest are focused on cricket, soccer, tennis and bodybuilding psychology.

Source: EzineArticles
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