Every parent has been there. Watching their child play great in a match. Then, one small thing happens. They miss a set point opportunity, think they got hooked, they double fault, you name it. But after that moment, it all starts crashing down. Now they have resorted to pushing the ball and are losing points left and right. A match that was close is now one-sided, and all you can do is watch.
While there is not much you can do once the match has started, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can teach your child to prevent this from happening. In this article, we will be going over useful techniques your child can use to refocus themselves and keep them from self-destructing. These techniques will act as a reset button to calm your child down in the midst of heated matches, allowing them to keep a clear head and keep their focus on the next point. Tennis is a game of ups and downs, with the right techniques you can prevent the downs from creating gut-wrenching losses and allowing your child to always keep their head up high.
Speaking of keeping your head up high, the first technique we are going to talk about is body posture, specifically keeping your head up. A majority of kids have a habit of looking down and shaking their head. This can lead to more negative emotions encouraging the kids to fester on their mistakes. It has also been proven in studies that an upright posture and a smile can boost confidence and mood. Now I’m not saying they have to have a huge smile at all times, but, keeping their head up with a smile after a harsh/critical point lost will make it much easier for them to shrug it off and keep going. Preventing them from thinking about it too much and losing more points because of it.
Taking A Break Between Points
Another widely used technique is using a towel in between every point. This slows your child down and forces them to think about what they are going to do next. By slowing things down, it prevents your child from losing points in quick succession allowing them time to regroup. It also forces the opponent to play at your child’s tempo which could throw the opponent off. If your child’s opponent just won a big point and sees your kid start to stress out. The last thing they want to do is slow down. They’re going to want to capitalize on the momentum they just gained. If your kid is slowing things down by using their towel in between points, they can take away some of their opponents momentum, putting them in a better position. If your child doesn’t have a towel or simply doesn’t use one, they can always just walk to the back curtain or fence and stand there for a second before returning to the court. Either one works, and both methods are very effective.
One technique I use is taking a deep breath before every point. I use this breath to reset and turn all of my attention to the point ahead of me. It doesn’t take much time, so it won’t throw your opponent off at all. But, it is a great way for your child to not only calm themselves down but to refocus and bring their attention back to point at hand.
My personal favorite technique is to bounce the ball three times before going to serve. Bouncing the ball forces your child to think about where they are going to serve and what they are going to try to do during the next point. I say three bounces because if they bounce the ball less than three times, then they don’t give themselves enough time to slow down and think. I suggest giving them a specific amount of times to bounce the ball, in between three and five times, this way they don’t take too much time in between points. Too much time can lead to a time violation or a complaint from their opponent which can throw your child off. It can also result in them thinking too much, putting them in a panic. So a set 3 to 5 bounces will give them just the right amount of time to slow down and focus, putting them in the best position to win the upcoming point.
Writing Out Goals
The last and perhaps most powerful technique we’re covering in this article involves to sitting down with your child and writing out the goals of their match on a piece of paper. Then have them read it during change-overs. This is an incredible way to refocus your child on what they need to do during matches. Whether it is attacking the opponent’s backhand, hitting out on their forehand, getting to the net, etc. It’s all too easy to get lost in a match and forget about what you need to do to win. By having them remind themselves during changeovers they can put themselves back on track, stopping a downward spiral from getting any worse or even preventing it altogether.
Now that we have a few useful techniques, it’s time to get your kids to use them. It is important that you only try to implement one technique at a time. If you try to do more, you risk frustration and loss of interest from you child.If that happens, it’ll be like pulling teeth to get them to use it.
Putting It Into Practice
First, you and your child should choose a technique they should work on. Then twice a week during practice consistently remind your child to use the technique (If your child practices less than that then every time they play). If you can not be on the court, then tell their coach to remind your child. Or you can even text them if they have a phone with them on the court. If you can’t do any of these things, then write down the habit on a piece of paper (make sure it’s in big handwriting and takes up the full sheet of paper) and have them put their water bottle on top of it on the court. This way they will read it every time they go to take a sip of water, reminding themselves of the of the technique they are trying to use.
As your child uses the techniques, they will start to become habits. Once a technique is turned into a useful habit you can start to add others. By turning a combination of techniques into habits, you can give your child more opportunities to reset when things start to get tough. I use 3 of these habits when I play (Ball bouncing, deep breath, head up high) and I used to use more when I was younger. They have prevented many a meltdown throughout the years and will continue to prevent more. When your child starts using these techniques they will start to gain mental toughness and will be less likely to break down during a match.
I hope that these techniques are useful! Please let me know how they worked for you!