How can you go about preparing for the big moments in sports? I subscribe to an email newsletter (free) sent out by Patrick Cohn, a sport psychologist. His company is Peak Performance Sports – Mental Training for a Competitive Edge. Patrick sent out an email on July 4th about Cori Gauff, the 15 year-old girl that had such a great Wimbledon tournament. She defeated her long-time idol, Venus Williams, in the first round. How did she do it?
Her dad, Corey, (a former Georgia State University basketball player) said that they’ve worked hard on normalizing big moments. Normalizing means getting used to playing under pressure. How can you get used to playing under pressure? The answer – put yourself in pressure situations. How can you put yourself in pressure situations? In tennis it would be by playing lots of matches. The athlete, whether it’s a tennis player or someone who plays any other sport, needs to compete to conclusion. To compete to conclusion means you complete the match, game, etc. and have a winner and a loser.
The tennis player needs to get into tennis tournaments and also play practice matches with players of about equal ability. Compete against people that will create pressure situations for you. For example, hitting a second serve on game point against you with the set score tied 4-4 is different than serving at 40-Love with a 5-1 lead. Other sports like soccer and basketball play the game and keep score with regularity. The athlete needs to do enough of that in an individual sport as well.
Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach and the head of the tennis academy where Cori Gauff has trained, stated, “The learning experience of a match, there’s nothing that can replace that.” Consequently, get in the competitive game. To become a better competitor, you need to compete. In tennis don’t hide primarily in tennis lessons and clinics. That is a great way to become a better hitter, but not necessarily a better competitive player. In any sport to become a complete player, you need to put yourself in the competitive arena enough time to learn from it and then persevere by adjusting accordingly.