Saturday, May 17, 2014



The most important drill you do each day is the “drill” in your head.  The way your mind operates during practice will also be repeated during competition, therefore it’s critical to not only work on technical and physical aspects, but also practice the type of mindset that you need in order to compete at your optimal level.  

In many cases the technical problem you see when a player makes an error actually starts from a faulty mental mindset.

If you are a player who over-thinks when playing, chances are that you are making many unforced errors.  Over-thinking doesn’t allow you to play on an instinctive level where everything flows and your true potential comes to the fore.  As you make more and more unforced errors your confidence can reach an all time low. 

Over the years several players in my country were selected for special training because of their potential to be great players in the future.  They were given the best coaching and a regular hitting partner to spar with.  After 2-3 years of the best possible training and with considerable attention from the coaching staff each “designated player” failed to achieve success. 

There was a positive outcome to these “projects” however, in each case the project sparring partner went on to compete in Grand Slams!  How did the hitting partner achieve better results? If you examined what these Hitters did during those earlier training sessions you would find that they learnt to control the ball to specific targets and at specific speeds. They reduced their unforced errors to a minimum and they didn’t have any pressure placed on themselves from the coaching staff. They also had lots of opportunity to get to know their own game, while all the attention was focused on the player at the other side of the net.

The next time you practice, change your mindset to a “Hitter” mindset.  Focus on providing the ideal ball to your practice partner.  If the ball lands out or you have to run wide just to get the ball back, focus on helping the rally to continue.  If you can truly adopt the mindset of a Hitter a lot of your personal insecurities drop away and this frees you to play your natural game.

Here are some tips for your next practice session:

  1. Adopt a service (to your practice partner) mentality
  2. Strive to “feed” consistent and accurate balls
  3. Adopt the coach’s role during drills by being the player to direct the ball to the designated area
  4. If you make an error apologize to your partner rather than get angry with yourself

These small steps will unlock your game from the perils of being too analytical and self conscious. You will also become a very popular practice partner!