Coping with the Demands of Tennis Competitions
Tennis is a fun way for young people to compete in sport as well as meet new people and develop skill sets.
However, we know that sometimes tennis can be tough, so we have put together some quick tips to help you keep enjoying the sport.
The information below covers topics such as how to deal with the demands of competitive tennis as well as other important issues which may arise when playing tennis at a competitive level.
The demands of competitive tennis
We know playing tennis can be hard work, both physically and mentally, especially when there are added pressures such as exams. Here are some tips on how to handle these pressures:
- If the stress of playing tennis is getting too much, tell someone. This could be your parent, coach, teacher or club welfare officer - don’t deal with it alone.
- This is especially important if someone is putting pressure on you – let them know how they are making you feel and that they are not helping you or your tennis.
- Everyone has days when they’re not on top form. If you have a bad tennis match or practice, the best thing to do is get back out there and keep going, try not to dwell on it.
- Give yourself time to improve your game. In all sports there is a pattern of quick development at first, and as you get better and more experienced, it’s harder to keep seeing the same level of progression.
- Try not to take it too hard if you’re not picked for a team. Some people have to miss out, keep practising and there will always be more chances for you in the future.
- Tennis can give you fantastic opportunities to travel for matches and training, but this also means time away from home and family which is sometimes not easy. If you find it tough being away, try to keep in touch with those back home as much as you can by text, phone or video call. Also, let the coach and team know that you’re not finding it easy, they'll understand, make sure to spend time with them and not be alone too much.
Tennis match nerves
Tennis match nerves are when you feel worried, stressed or uneasy on court during competitive situations. You can experience nerves before, during or after being on court and they are totally normal – they can even have some positive effects to your performance!
If you feel too nervous try:
- Breathing slowly
- Slow down, don’t rush yourself
- Look at your friends and family for support
- Don’t think about past points and don’t be too hard on yourself – if you hit a bad shot don’t dwell on it, move on to the next point
- Grounding techniques - these are little rituals that can take your mind off nerves, e.g. bounce the ball before a serve, have a drink, towel off, eat a banana. Anything that makes you feel in the present.
Dealing with failure
Failing can often be difficult to deal with but it is something that all tennis players experience throughout their time playing. Even the most successful tennis players in the world have experienced failure in their lifetime. One of the best ways to deal with failure and success is to treat them both as a learning opportunity.
A way you can ensure you are learning from failures is to talk through your experiences with your support group, whether that’s a family member, friend or coach; it’s always good to open up about how you feel and also how you think you can learn from each failure. From there, you and your team can create goals to maximise from your learnings and continue improving your game.
Above the entrance to Centre Court at the Wimbledon Championships there is an inscription that reads:
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”
These lines are from a poem by Rudyard Kipling written around 1895. The top players read this as they walk on to Centre Court and it reminds them to try to handle losing in the same way as winning. All tennis players can learn from this and use it as a guide for positively dealing with failure.
What to do if you’re thinking about quitting tennis
It's very common to consider quitting tennis, especially at times of stress like exam times, when you have an injury or are not playing well.
You should never feel under pressure from anyone to make you play tennis if you’re not enjoying it. If anyone is making you play when you don’t want to, try explaining to them the reasons you wish to stop or take a break. If they continue to give you a hard time, tell someone you trust.
Tennis is a game for life and you should always enjoy your time on court. If you feel like you are not enjoying the game, remember you can always take a break and come back to tennis later.