Habits for Tennis Success: Manage Emotions, Stress and Energy

March 17, 2017 01:21 PM

By Dr. Larry Lauer, special to USTA.com

The best tennis players separate themselves from the rest not solely because of talent, but because they have excellent habits that lead to their success. It seems that world-class tennis players have a number of habits that they do in their own individual ways, but that are similar to the 10 Habits for Tennis Success.

The sixth habit that great tennis players develop is the skill of routinely managing their emotions, stress and energy to create consistent excellence.

Habit 6: Routinely Manage Emotions, Stress and Energy

Great performances are almost always preceded by adversity and a player managing his or her emotions, stress and energy. Several phenomena are inherent in the tennis world:

  1. Wherever something significant can be achieved, there will be pressure and stress.
  2. Rarely does a great performance happen without adversity.
  3. To win a tournament, you will have to be resilient and tough.

Thus, it is extremely important to develop the habit of managing emotions, stress and energy. Players that understand stress and what happens to them when they are stressed can develop a plan to overcome stress. In addition, understanding your emotional responses and how to channel them to your performances is a hallmark of great players.

Every player should have a plan for managing their emotions, stress and energy. A plan creates a sense of control, leading to composure, reduced stress and greater resilience – along with confident competing. No plan and/or little understanding of stress and their reactions leads to uncertainty, creating fear, anxiety, doubts and lowered performance.

The same goes for energy and how stress and emotion affect it. Players must understand and learn to manage their energy effectively. Energy gives growth to whatever it is applied to, good and bad. But energy is like fuel in a tank: You only have so much until you recover (eat, hydrate, sleep, resetting the mind and body). Stress burns fuel quickly, so do intense emotions. Being able to manage energy and emotion are crucial to high performance.

Managing Stress and Emotion

Stress and emotions can be managed by understanding that you don’t necessarily control how you feel and the many stressors that exist, but you do control how you respond to them.

  • First, you must accept that how you feel is OK and so is the situation that you are in, and let go if the thought and feeling is unhelpful.
  • Next, players should focus on what they control because that is how they create positive responses.
  • Finally, the player chooses an effective response. Daily repeating of this adaptive routine allows players to develop the emotional and mental toughness needed to be resilient, confident competitors.

An understanding of how this routine can be used in many different situations empowers the player to respond effectively using a similar process. Our hope is that players learn to take performance advantage of their emotions. Channel anger into focused energy and determination to playing your game. Channel frustration in to problem-solving and adapting. Channel anxiety and fear into trust in yourself, your game and your team.

Coach Action

Help your player understand emotion control and the impact of stress and emotion on energy. Address seemingly different situations with this consistent approach, thus empowering the player to repeat a resilient response consistently.