During the match: Stay engaged, focused and disciplined

June 4, 2015 01:01 PM
By Dr. Larry Lauer & USTA Player Development Coaches, special to USTA.com
Routines are important not just before matches but also during the match. Champions commit to habits of excellence that are followed with discipline. This page includes the advice Player Development coaches give to their players on being fully engaged as a professional during matches.
During the match, the goal should be to be “all in” or 100 percent fully engaged as close to every point as possible. 
During the match:
  1. Know your game plan and be committed to executing it.
  2. Create the appropriate mindset with performance cues such as “one point at a time,” “play with margin over the net,” etc.
  3. Follow a consistent routine between points that fully prepares you for each point. For example, when a point ends:
    • Respond with positive body language; create a confident presence on the court. For the most part, be neutral about your reactions. No need to expend tons of energy fist pumping after every point, and avoid negativity if possible.
    • Recover with deep breathing and reviewing the last point. Know how the match is being played and what you need to do to perform.
    • Refocus on the next point by letting go of the last point and focusing on how you want to play the upcoming point. Visualize first plays (serve placement and next ball, return and next ball). Be positive and be determined about how you will play.
    • Ready yourself for the next point by going through rituals near the baseline. Bouncing the ball a certain number of times before serving or getting in an athletic stance and swaying is helpful in quieting the mind and focusing on playing the point.
  4. On the changeovers, sit down, hydrate and think about why things are happening the way they are. If things are going well, be simple-minded and commit to what is working. If things are not going well, think of potential solutions. By the time you walk back to the baseline, be committed to a positive plan of action.
  5. If you are struggling, take more time between points, refocus your mind on the task at hand and commit to how you want to play. This is best executed by going to a towel or some other place on the court that slows you down.
  6. Fight until the last ball in the match, with the understanding that “I am going to make one more ball than my opponent.”  
  7. Win or lose, come to the net, shake hands with your opponent, look him or her in the eyes and, with sincerity, thank him or her for playing.
See the Player Development Journal for more detailed information on pre-, during and post-match habits of excellence.
Dr. Lauer is the mental skills specialist for USTA Player Development