Have you ever played a singles match and felt your mind is the second opponent you play?

Ever played a singles match and felt like you had two opponents on court? 

That is a very familiar feeling to me 

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I’m my own worst enemy, and I have always been. I don’t think that I have ever been able to do anything sports related or skill demanding just for pure fun. I always manage to feel like there is some kind of goal I want to reach or a competition I have to win- most of the time competing against my self. Even though it is nothing near a competition. 

I must add that I love to compete but I have realized that I have to balance the competitive focus and the having fun part. 

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Like you guys I spend a lot of hours polishing my technique, hitting ball after ball after ball. Sometimes I hit a whole series of beautiful shots and then make one mistake. I know that the mistake is going to happen at some point, but still I get super frustrated. The second I realize it is not perfect, I begin to tell my self how bad I am, that I can’t play, thinking that I should have practiced more, and that I should be able to hit an unlimited number of perfect shots. During matches tears came to my eyes even when I was winning, but I wasn’t happy If I didn’t play my best on every point. 

The importance to the "mental part" plays in tennis

My parents have tried to help me focusing on all the positive and my progress. I have done breathing techniques, writing in a little book that I brought on court, little routines on court and so on. But it only worked periodically and I began to get frustrated because I didn’t succeed on the mental part! 

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It was clear to me that it was crucial to change my mindset in order to keep playing, because I was wearing myself out and when I began in my new school in August, I applied for a mental coaching program.

The mental coaching program

Mental training was a total game changer for me. I began with group sessions. I remember the relief I felt during the first session when I discovered that the other kids (all doing sport on a elite level) had similar experiences and all could recognize my thoughts and feelings.

Because the group sessions worked so well for me, I began working with Jesper from www.mentalmotion.dk on a 1to1 basis. I love the sessions because there is no pressure and Jesper is always helping me, when I have some problems or thoughts I would like to work with. He is offering me good techniques to help me both on and outside the court. He helps me recognize my feelings so I can use them in a positive way. I’m always happy and filled with energy afterwards.

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Jesper has agreed to share how we work at www.mentalmotion.dk:

When it comes to mentaltraining, there are a lot of different approaches and methods used by trainers, coaches and mental trainers. In Mental Motion we have created a three step approach to help athletes in becoming great long-term performers: Registration of feelings and thoughts, identification of values and the development of a game plan.

1) Registration

When athletes begin their mentaltraining in Mental Motion we teach them how to register their thoughts, feelings and reactions when under pressure in difficult situations. This is a crucial step in becoming a better performer that you get to know yourself very well. A way of applying this into practice could be by writing down your feelings and thoughts whenever you experience a difficult situation.

By writing down difficult feelings, thoughts and reactions experienced when performing, you can become better at understanding yourself and by that make more conscious choices under pressure.

2) Values

You need to identify your own personal values and what type of athlete you want to be. Personal values such as courage, cooperation, kindness and independence can be used to guide you during performance, when you are challenged. When experiencing pressure, you can train yourself to let your values guide you to take the right choices.  

3) Game plan

A game plan is a way of preparing yourself when facing a challenging situation

Let’s pretend you are playing tennis and you are leading. By leading, you may unconsciously change your strategy from playing aggressively as intended, to playing safe or too aggressively, thus letting your feelings take over and controlling the way you play, even though that was not your initial plan. Your first step is to register what kind of feelings and thoughts you have in the situation. You need to create consciousness in order for you to refocus.

When you become aware of your situation, you will be able (if trained!) to release these thoights and feelings using your release strategy to change a certain behavior. A release strategy can be taking a deep breath, wipe your face with a towel or make a certain step with your feet (there are endless opportunities).

A last you need your values and desired actions to guide you. For example by focusing on the value courage and daring to stick to the initial plan.

In the end, it all comes down to practice – if you don´t try again and again nothing will happen. Mental training is like any other skill - it must be practiced. Think of how many times you have practiced your serve?

In Mental Motion we believe that a great long-term performance is when you learn how to register your feelings and thoughts, accept them and thereby using a release strategy, followed up by a refocusstrategy guided by your values.

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I still have high expectations, still striving for perfect shots and I’m still getting angry and frustrated with myself. But I have learned to accept these feelings and work with them while on court because I now acknowledge the feelings and know they come from a burning passion for tennis. I know that it is part of my drive and why I never give up. I know my core values and now my frustrations don’t get out of hand. That is a tremendous relief to be able to have fun and enjoy tennis and life.