Saturday, June 14, 2014



Everyone responds to events in different ways. Dropping a glass of water can make us angry, shocked and frustrated or could even become a catalyst for laughter. It all depends on the person and how dropping that glass of water makes them feel.  Like thousands of events throughout your day, dropping that glass of water is a CUE that creates an action. In his bestselling book “The Power of Habit” author Charles Duhigg calls the action that follows a Cue a Routine. He states that while the Cue is the same for everyone, it’s in the routine that you see the differences in people.

Watch a game of tennis and you will see all the same cues. You will observe a player who is fatigued, some matches are more important than others, poor line calls occur, a player will go down a break of serve and another will go up a break of serve. These are all cues that evoke a routine. Many of these routines are destructive and lead to negative behavior. Develop enough of these destructive routines and your game becomes a mess of negativity.


The reality however is that we have choices, the player who becomes fatigued can either give up, or fight harder despite the fatigue. Important matches can either stimulate a player to rise to the occasion or to suffer from nerves and under-perform. We can choose to get over poor line calls quickly or let them frustrate us so that we lose the match. A break of serve can either inspire us, or make us feel so deflated that we lose the match without putting up a fight.

Go through in your mind all the recent matches you have played and analyze the destructive routines you have had that followed a particular cue. You may be lucky enough to have just a few to worry about but if you have several very destructive routines that follow particular cues you may need the help of rituals. Positive rituals are positioned just after the Cue so that our responses’ are ones that help us rather than hinder us. If you place these improved, more positive rituals throughout your game at the important times you are creating a shield of protection for yourself.

People often comment on the unusual habits of Rafael Nadal during matches. The obvious one is his water bottle routine in which he must place and position the bottle in the same pre-determined position after every change of ends. In a recent article it was found that he had 19 other routines that he always followed during his matches. Andy Murray has a large whiteboard covering an entire wall of his apartment in Miami that details a host of topics such as diet, fitness, and training schedules for weeks ahead. This acts as a road map for Andy’s routines throughout the days, weeks and months ahead.

It is clear that rituals are critical to your pursuit of excellence and can also help buffer you from those things during matches that conspire to hurt your performance.

The first step in creating rituals is to analyze your game and come up with a list of things that are hurting your result at present. I recommend building two lists; the first list should involve the on-court routines that are hurting your game. These could include:

·       Being overwhelmed by the occasion
·       Playing against an opponent’s reputation
·       Response to fatigue during a match
·       Going a break up or down
·       Starting the deciding set of a match
·       Poor line-calls etc.

The second list should cover personal routines off-court. To reach your full potential you need to look at everything that could help and hurt your performance in matches. This list could include topics related to the following:

·       Sleep habits
·       Diet habits
·       Rest habits
·       Mental training habits
·       Match & Practice habits 

Your task is to choose just a few weak areas in your on-court and personal lists to start with (this can be added to in time) and to replace those weak habits with routines of excellence that will contribute to excellence in competition. Once you have established the areas to target, both replace poor habits with better ones and create good habits where there were none.

Just a few new or improved habits in your day will create a ripple effect in the way you prepare and later perform during matches.

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