By Eva Borras, Head of the Sports Mind ASC System
“I had a good forehand and backhand, and we were always working on my serve, but I could start to feel very negative during tennis matches,” Cibulkova told Sport360. Teaming up with a sports psychologist, however, “has really helped me to get into the match.”
Sports psychologists are not new to tennis. Ivan Lendl travelled with Alexis Alexis Castorri in the 1980s, and Martina Navratilova worked with one too. When somebody asks me if this role is key to a successful tennis team, my answer is always ‘no’. However, I would argue that working with a sports psychologist brings a lot of benefits, and can help tennis players, coaches, parents, even businessmen and women, to develop their game.
As in other sports, during a game of tennis, you have to handle a wide variety of situations, both on and off the court.
Situations, for example, such as when you have to close the set, or the match. When you are winning 4-1 up in the first set but just one minute later you start losing all subsequent games and you don’t understand what is happening…and your score jumps to 4-5 down. This is a typical situation which could happen in any tennis player’s match. By working with a sports psychologist or a coach with specialized training in Sports Psychology, you can work to find different solutions.
There is no unique solution for all players. As a psychologist myself, we try to understand each person’s individual characteristics: their progress, age, environment, stress control, mental strength, personality and even their courage when faced with challenges. Every player has different ways of understanding and coping with a situation:
– Maybe the player’s energy is low.
– Maybe they have been very stressed since the beginning of the match, and closing the set was just too difficult for them.
– Maybe they are unable to understand or recognize their emotions and they feel frustrated.
– Maybe they do not have enough confidence to manage a situation like that one.
“I tend to bottle up my feelings in my professional and personal life,” Carla Suarez explained to Sport360. “I didn’t think that my coaches and I would be able to find a solution, because I was playing well and practicing well, so it was something with my mind for sure.”
At the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, I work with our players every day both on and off the court, helping them to develop their mental skills. This type of training is not just useful for practicing and playing tennis, but for other challenges such as preparing for exams at school, and countless situations they might come across throughout their lives in the future. One more thing to learn, one more thing to improve.
The role of the sports psychologist is to provide every sports player with strategies to work on. In sport, at work and in life in general, we are always having to face and manage different situations. If you have the tools and strategies available in your “mental backpack”, your confidence will increase, your enjoyment in what you do will grow, and your performance will improve.
You will not necessary become the best in the world…well…maybe you will, maybe you won’t.
But you will be able to be the best that you can be, and perform at your best.
Head of the Sports Mind ASC System