OK, my partner and I have the gear for the game. We tithe half a year's salary for tennis lessons. Each has the best tennis racquet with the most expensive strings in our oversize bags. We've filled them with tennis balls, socks, wristbands, headbands, eco-friendly water bottles, sports drinks, grip tape and assorted first-aid items. We're got breathable clothing and the best shoes money can buy. We have everything it takes to win the match.
But wait a minute. How did that mismatched, low-tech doubles team just beat us in straight sets using 4-year-old racquets and generic shoes?
Well, maybe what they have can't be stored inside a tennis bag. I bet they are winning because they have invested in the most powerful piece of tennis equipment money can buy -- mental prowess. Having this in your tennis arsenal is key.
Sports psychologists agree that the conversation you have with yourself while engaged in tennis competition has tremendous power. It may seem innocuous if this is what you and your partner have come to know as familiar banter. However, if it is negative -- berating yourself after a missed shot -- you might as well subtract points from your score and hand them across the net to your opponents.
Instead of constantly concentrating on the physical aspect of the game, allow room and spend time becoming mentally equipped. Psychologists agree that self-talk, whether complimentary or derogatory, forms comfortable grooves (neural pathways) in our brains. The more we reinforce them, the deeper they become.
Your body believes you
If you constantly criticize your ability -- or your partner's -- during competition, you are creating a self-fulfilled prophecy. The longer you believe something and the more you pay attention to it, the more likely it will become true. If you expect to play badly, you will, and if you believe you are inferior to the opponents, you are.
The answer to your doubles trouble won't happen overnight. It will require a buy-in from both of you. Stop the negative chatter and start enjoying the art of the game. Once you do, you can improve your concentration, control anger and remain poised in the heat of the battle.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.