The Triangle of Control
In a tennis match there are a whole lot of things that happen to us which we have no control over. These events or happenings can be frustrating, disheartening, humbling, embarrassing and a whole host of other feelings.
However once we accept that we cannot control everything and expelling huge amounts of energy on those things drains you and limit your ability to keep performing on court.
What you cannot control?
- Net Cords
- Line Calls
- Weather and conditions
- Balls and Court conditions
- Opponents great plays
- Opponents line calls
- Tournament draw
- The list goes on…
What you can control?
Your own practice, your specific training sessions, your discipline to keep doing the things day in day out to improve long term. Your equipment (to a degree), your warm up and warm down, your nutrition, your healthy habits, your positive affirmations, your decision making on court, your routines on court, your research of an opponent or gamestyle, your dedication to improve everyday, your ability to listen and many many other areas.
The Triangle of Control
1. Routines 2. Emotions 3. Effort
I use the term Triangle of Control as it can be beneficial to use visualision of the triangle to help remember the three key areas:
– Training routine
Your training routine and your commitment to training determines your ongoing success. If you make a commitment with a coach, mentor or with yourself to a training schedule then sticking with that schedule makes you both a more in tune player but also a player who has the self belief that you can stick at your goals.
– Pre match routine
You must prepare your equipment, warm up your body and groove your strokes before playing. You must eat appropriately and create a good environment for yourself before you play.
– Playing routines
Playing good tennis is all about good routines oncourt. These routines keep us composed and give us something familiar to come back to after dealing with the turmoil that can occur while the ball is in play. There are specific steps you can take to sharpen up your playing routines but the pre serve and pre return are the most important.
- Pre serve routine – walking, breathing, visualising, bouncing.
- Pre return routine – walking, breathing, visualising, lowering legs.
This can take a lifetime and if you are competitor at heart then emotions are difficult to control. However like the development of a topspin forehand, the controlling of the incoming emotions is a gradual process which needs to be constantly worked on.
Every time we do a split second emotional reaction we could experience a host of instant mind states.
In tennis common negative emotions include anger, sadness, frustratration, fear, embarassment, and disappointment.
Any of these mindsets are not helpful to your best performance and you need to kick into your pre serve or pre return routine straight away to avoid being burnt by the negative state of mind. Positive emotions such as gratitude, happiness, enjoyment, fun, enthusiasm can all be helpful for your mindset. The key however still lies in taking that first 3 second breath (and starting the next routine) at the conclusion of the point.
Emotions also start well before the game and if you consistently think negatively about your game you will have trouble ‘getting up’ for matches, particularly in close contests.
As we all know some people have the ability to really dig in and give maximim effort, which is the final part of the triangle. It should be said that some people have the ability to turn a negative emotion into a positive change. John McEnroe is the best example.
While the ball is in play, effort is the vehicle that drives you around the court in battle with your opponent. Effort is in our control and a commitment to give your maximum effort to each point is essential to high performance. Tennis is lucky in that there is a built in recovery time between points and therefore as a player we should give our all to running down each ball and recovering from each shot to the best of our abilities. This means we need to work our legs, our tank and our minds to the best of our ability.
If you run for a ball with maximum effort, even if we don’t reach the ball or get it back, we send a message to our opponent of our desire to work hard every point. Your opponent may even try to go closer to the lines on their next opportunity and increase their risk of error.
Effort mantra – “I will commit to running down every ball until the ball bounces twice or hits the fence.”
Using the triangle of control during your match.
- During the point (training and playing) = effort.
- Between points = routines
- Constantly – emotions
At Scarborough Tennis Academy we start introducing the triangle of control to kids even as young as 8 years old. It may start very simple but even teaching them the self awareness of the incoming emotions can be helpful when they turn 13 where the emotions can become much more powerful.
If you live in Perth, Western Australia, come down to Scarborough Tennis for a free session. We do lessons for kids age 3 through to performance juniors and adults.
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Thanks for reading and hope your found something helpful for your game or your child’s game.
Scarborough Tennis Academy