STEP 2: Train Your Mind The Way You Do Your Body
As researchers learn more about the connections between mind and body, they’ve discovered that the same deficiencies that cause us to break down physically also cause us to break down mentally. The brain is a muscle, and you need to exercise it like one. When you prepare your body for the stresses it will face during a match, you’re also preparing your mind for the different set of stresses it will face. “You can choke because you’re not properly hydrated, or if you haven’t slept enough,” says Dr. Jim Loehr, so-founder of the Human Performance Institute. “If you’re not physically ready for a match, you won’t be as ready mentally, and you’ll get frustrated more easily.”
Along with hydrating and resting, you should also practice getting nervous. “Put yourself in tight situations, and you’ll find what your tendencies are,” says Tennis Channel commentator and former No. 1 Tracy Austin. “My feet would stop moving and I would lose racquet-head speed, so I knew to be aware of those things.” Schedule as many competitive practice matches as you can, and pay attention to what happens when your nervous juices start to flow. Do you push, does your arm tighten up, do try to end points too quickly? The more you understand about how you react to pressure, the better you can prepare to fight it.