To Think or Not to Think

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by
 Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

Sports are based on mental fortitude. Top athletes can focus at the right times and will themselves to play their based at the most critical moments.

In tennis, many coaches say that the mental game isn’t taught or practiced enough. Let’s start with the premise that the mind game is important. How important it is in relationship to the physical game is debatable but one thing for sure is that it is critical to an athlete’s success.

What to think and when to think are key elements. Being positive and reassuring to yourself is important for confidence but when are you supposed to think?

Don’t think just do. Even NIKE’s slogan Just Do It implies not thinking but just going out and doing it. At some point planning has to end and execution must begin. In tennis, players need to perform their primary thinking and strategy between points but not during them. During the point players should just let it happen and play freely, play the way you know. Do what you do best.

Thinking about technique should be done in private lessons and clinics but not in competition. Once you iron out your strokes then you can use them in competition comfortably and without much thought.

Here is how you can look at it.

Match hasn’t started, think. Match begins, don’t think just do. Point ends, think again. Next point begins, just do. And so on.

So now that you know when to think, what are some of the things you should be thinking? After losing a point at the net you may think “this is the third time he passed me when I approached to his backhand. Either stay at the baseline or approach to his forehand. ”

You don’t want to be thinking “I just need to refine my movement on my approach shot. Perhaps I should try the hit and hop that I just learned.”

Keep thoughts primarily on strategy and away from technique.

The one shot in tennis you have complete control over is your serve. Your serve isn’t affected by your opponents last shot as every other shot in the game is. Novak Djokovic knows this well as he was stunned by Sam Querrey of the US in the 3rd round at Wimbledon in 2016. The world #1 and defending Wimbledon champion Djokovic said “Part of his game was brutal today, he made a lot of free points with his first serve. He overpowered me.”

Think before you serve then just let it happen. Andy Murray ended up winning Wimbledon in 2016 in straight sets. His first serve points won for the tournament was 78% and increased to 86% in the finals.

I’m willing to guess that in both Sam and Andy’s cases they were thinking at the right times and not thinking at the right times.

When you think can be just as important as what you think.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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To Think or Not to Think

PMA – Positive Mental Attitude

DSCF1626by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 
What you think about yourself is so important in athletics. Zig Ziglar once said “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” How we frame negative situations is key to high- level performance in tennis. There are always situations that are challenging. It’s not the challenges that present themselves that defines us but how we handle those challenges. Expect controversy. Expect cheating. Expect a long match. Expect some unexpected bounces. Expect let cords. Expect your best shot back. Expect the unexpected. If you set your expectations correctly then you will be surprised much less. If you expect then you can accept. Acceptance is the key to performing well under pressure and stress.There are always two sides to every coin. What goes up must come down. There is not good without evil. It’s how you handle life’s downs that creates someone’s character, not the fact that they have been lucky enough not to have any downs. Luck isn’t a strategy. If you keep moving forward in a positive manner, expecting the negatives, re-formatting the negatives into positives, you will achieve more success on the court.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Your mind is much more powerful than you think it is. Studies show that we only tap into a small percent of our mental potential. Use it as often and as positively as you can to steer you in the right direction. Left unmonitored, your mind can take you into dark, negative places. That’s why after traumatic events there are therapy dogs and doctors to help with the stress. They help you stay positive and put things into perspective. Keeping perspective in a tennis match is key to managing your mind and emotions. Putting too much weight to any one match will put too much pressure, however putting too little may have you not take things seriously enough. The balance of importance is what is key. If you have the right balance then you are more likely to be confident, and confidence helps with your PMA (positive mental attitude).

Ultimately tennis is just a game and any game should be fun. If you are able to put this in perspective it’s a lot easier to remain positive, knowing that win or lose you enjoyed the process.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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PMA – Positive Mental Attitude

Be Happy But Not Satisfied – The Importance of Intent

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Photo: AP via tennis.com

by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

Unfortunately most competitive athletes focus too much on the result and not enough on the process. The intent behind the result is more important than the result itself. In tennis, if you go for an unnecessary, low percentage shot when it’s not called for and it clips the net and barely trickles over for a winner should you be satisfied? Under these circumstances I’d be “happy but not satisfied.” Be happy that you won the point but not satisfied with your intent since it wasn’t a high percentage play.

Satisfaction would be derived from attaining the desired result while also having the correct intent. In soccer if you have the ball and juke the goalie so badly that he ends up falling to the ground leaving an open net and you blast an upper corner shot that hits the inside of the post and goes in, you should thank your blessings. All you needed to do was tap the ball into the open net at a safe distance away from the net post. You should definitely NOT be satisfied with that outcome, although you can be thankful or happy.

Intent is so important in competitive sports because it is an indicator of having the right tactics and strategies. You cannot directly control the outcome but you can control your intent. By having the right intent, hitting the right shot at the right time, you will eventually achieve increasingly positive outcomes. Having the wrong intent isn’t sustainable but sometimes athletes achieve the result that they want not realizing that they were lucky or got away with one.

In tennis, the four primary variables that a player can control are speed, direction, spin and height. Your fixed obstacles are the net and out of bounds lines and your variable obstacle is your opponent. If you have your opponent out of position then you only need to hit the ball fast enough to close out the point but NO FASTER and far away from your opponent enough to close out the point but NO FARTHER! If you are over hitting then you are either playing with emotion or ego, both of which are recipes for disaster. Humans are unable to think clearly and have emotions at the same time. When you become angry or emotional on the tennis court then you think less logically, which makes you stray away from your “intent” or game plan. Playing with ego can be disastrous as well because you are looking to “make a statement” when you just have to win the point.

When you are planning your intent for the fixed obstacles then spin and net clearance become more important. Barely clearing the net or consistently hitting the lines aren’t typically examples of sustainable strategies. I often say that if you have to hit the lines to win then you are either very lucky or playing someone much better than you (because there is so little margin to win a point).

Remembering when to be happy versus when to be satisfied will help keep your intent in check.

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
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Be Happy But Not Satisfied – The Importance of Intent

Playing Freely and Enjoying the Process

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Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Herald Sun

by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

The thing about competitive tennis  and all sports is just that – it is “competitive.” And where there is competition there is the dreaded score keeping. Score keeping by definition means there will be a “winner” and a “loser.” This adds to the pressure and therefore the nerves. The issue with the complex score keeping of tennis is the fact that each game has a beginning and an ending. The score is not cumulative like soccer, football or basketball. You win points in an effort to try to win games. The cumulative count of games helps you close out a set but the match isn’t over. It doesn’t matter how even or lopsided the score is after the first set – if you won it you are up a set, if you lost it you are down a set. The margin of victory or defeat by set is irrelevant in regards to the score. Learning how to play freely, without being paralyzed by the score is so important to success in tennis. What holds tennis players back is thinking about the past score or the future score rather than focusing on the moment at hand. If you just lost the first set 6-0 or you lost it 7-6 you are only down a set. The score of that set is irrelevant to the point at hand. Playing freely may mean assertively or aggressively to some and consistently or patiently to others. It means to lose yourself in the moment, relaxing, having confidence to know that you can hit your shots to the best of your ability while enjoying every moment. It sounds easy to say but it can be difficult to do.

How can you play freely? Care enough not to care. The match is important but not that important. You will have other opportunities. It’s really not as important as you think. Those who shrug off the importance too much are just escaping the pressure. Find your rhythm – find your flow – find your zone. Once you do, play don’t think. Hit don’t overthink. Just do what you know how to do and let the result handle itself. The thing is that once we get closer to the end we tend to dwell on the end without finishing each point. The human mind is unable to think about more than one thing at a time. So if you are thinking about holding the trophy if you are ahead at the end of the match or what your friends, coach or teammates will think if you lose if you are behind in a match, then you are unable to focus effectively on the task at hand, which is the ball and each shot within each point.
There have been some moments in professional tennis (i.e. Venus Williams against Karolina Sprem at the 2004 Wimbledon and Roger Federer in 2014 at Halle on grass against Kei Nishikori) where a player has actually forgotten the score. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? My contention is that although on the surface it means the player isn’t engaged or focused enough because the player was unable to remember the score it actually means that the player is so absorbed in finding the flow or zone that the score becomes less critical and the process becomes more top of mind. Does this mean that the score doesn’t matter? No. The score is an important factor in selecting tactics. If you are up you may play percentage tennis or in basketball terms “trade baskets” and if you are down you may play more assertively to change momentum. With that said, a general awareness of the score is important but it shouldn’t be a “paralysis of analysis”. Think between the points and take action during them. Your mind sets the game plan for each point and your body executes it.

In regards to enjoying the process, statistically speaking if you play an opponent who is at your level then you can expect to win 50% of the time. With that said, it means that if you pin your enjoyment to only receiving a “W” with the outcome then you will be disappointed half of the time. If however, you play YOUR game, focusing on “controlling the controllables” you are more apt to enjoy the process, play better tennis and ultimately achieve much more favorable results. Holding your enjoyment of tennis hostage unless you win is a good way to hold back your tennis potential and enjoyment of the game.

 

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
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Playing Freely and Enjoying the Process

The Most Effective Way to Use Visualization

Carli-Lloyd-Word-Artby Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

Although the term “visualization” is commonly used among top athletes not everyone understands it or does it correctly.

According to the book tennis science, how player and racket work together, the definition of visualization is “The act of imagining an outcome or result of an action – such as the placing of a shot, the execution of a particular move, or even the result of a match. Visualizing a successful outcome is a psychological tool for bolstering confidence and improving performance.”

Try this exercise. Imagine yourself playing tennis or any sport. Visualize you doing what you do best. Now, take a moment and think about whether you “see yourself performing” the action like it was on video or TV or do you “see yourself through your own eyes”.

Carli Lloyd once shared at a recent mental toughness conference that she’d “spend time in my room with my headphones on visualizing.” “I’d actually visualized that we were down (in the World Cup finals) … 2-0 and I came in and scored the winning goal. Ever since that moment I’ve been visualizing.” She ended up not only scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final but also securing a hat trick of 3 goals, scoring the first 2 goals and her third goal from midfield. If one of the world’s best soccer players and athletes prioritizes visualization so much, it’s something that you should adopt as part of your training as well.

If you are using visualization by seeing yourself doing it and not through your own eyes then you are limiting the power of imagery because you are only using the visual sense rather than all five of our primary senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. (There are more senses, however, that involve the use of multiple sensory organs like awareness of balance (equilibrioception), pressure, temperature (thermoception), pain (nociception), and motion.) It is much more effective to use imagery as if you are performing a task through your own eyes because you utilize all of your senses. You can smell the fresh fuzz of a new can of tennis balls, you can feel the smooth grip of your handle, you can sense your mouth salivating on that easy overhead smash as you hear yourself make solid contact. You get where I’m going with this. If you train yourself to visualize by using all of your senses then your results will be much more effective.

Put yourself in the moment rather than watching yourself in the moment. Be a participant with your visualization not a spectator. Most people stifle their results by conducting visualization incorrectly. Make sure to use imagery the right way to optimize your results.

Additional reading: tennis science – how player and racket work together, edited by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott & Miguel Crespo

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
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The Most Effective Way to Use Visualization

Confidence vs. Winning

Soccer: Women's World Cup-Final-Japan at United States
Jul 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; United States midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) reacts after scoring a goal against Japan in the first half of the final of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup at BC Place Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

The chicken or the egg causality dilemma certainly applies to tennis, and all sports for that matter, as it relates to confidence and winning.

You can say that winning leads to confidence but without some form of confidence it’s very difficult to win.

That’s why when an athlete wins their first match, a Grand Slam (like Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open) or tournament their celebration is an explosion of emotion. It’s a combination of surprise, disbelief and relief. When I heard Team USA’s soccer player Carli Lloyd speak, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, she said that she imagined scoring three goals in the 2015 World Cup finals the night before. When the first goal happened she was surprised, when the second goal happened she was excited and when her third goal happened she wasn’t surprised just happy that she did what she had imagined she would do.

The thing is that although winning does create confidence you don’t have to win first. This is where imagery comes in.

The best athletes use imagery as a way to bolster confidence.

Some people confuse imagery with visualization. Visualization is primarily when you use just your “vision,” whereas imagery you use all of your senses. Done correctly, it puts you in the eyes of the person accomplishing the task or goal rather than seeing yourself do something like watching yourself on television. Putting yourself doing it is more effective. To use an example, when my brother and I set the Guinness World Records™ Title for the longest tennis rally in August of 2008, we had never held a world record, although we tried and failed in 2007 when set the U.S. record. We wrote a press release of what the headlines and story would be the day after our world record. We put it our achievement into words and started to imagine actually setting the record before it actually happened. By writing it and by reading it you start to believe that you will actually accomplish it. We used imagery to build confidence and belief without having actually done it before.

You can break it down into small pieces of confidence. Confidence can be gained from small successes not just from the overall winning. If you are serving big, returning the way you want, attacking or executing your game plan, improving on a weakness or building up a strength, these are small steps to achieving confidence. Rather than allow yourself the confidence only when you win, you need to allow yourself to gain confidence with other things besides winning. You can’t think about the end during the match but focus on the process.

Another way to use imagery is to imagine failure in order to come up with solutions to deal with failure. The world’s best athletes use imagery to experience failure so they don’t have to actually fail to practice the right mindset to deal with not performing well. When you lose your cool you can use imagery to deal with how you would handle losing your cool. What would your thought process be to remove yourself from these negative thoughts and emotions and how will you respond.

Confidence is the degree of certainty that players have in their ability to be successful in executing a skill or series of tasks, which is proven to be one of the best predictors of competition success. (tennis science – how player and racket work together; edited by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott & Miguel Crespo)

Use imagery to rehearse the good and the bad in order to bolster confidence and belief rather than waiting to win to improve your confidence.

Your past success gives you the confidence that you can. Your past failure gives the humbleness that you can’t. However, if you believe you will.
-Angelo A. Rossetti, 1-26-13

Additional reading: tennis science – how player and racket work together, edited by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott & Miguel Crespo

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
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Confidence vs. Winning

Focus On Only ONE Thing

RogerFederer-ForehandWordArt

by Angelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2x Guinness World Records™ holder 

I find that most tennis players try to accomplish more than one thing at a time when playing a match. They try to focus on winning but also hitting a more consistent serve or having a positive attitude and being more assertive or taking more risks but improving consistency. The problem is that the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. We loosely say that we want to multitask in today’s society but multitasking isn’t what people think it is. Multitasking originally from a computer dealing with several different processes but the key is that it was only one at a time, contrary to what most people think. The phrase is misleading because it has been misused. Even computers can only deal with one item at a time.

Although our bodies can physically do two things at once (i.e. walking and chewing gum), we cannot FOCUS on more than one thing at a time with our minds. Our attention shifts from one task to another. We “think” we can so therefore we think we “should.” Recovering from your distractions in a tennis match can take several points. Case in point is when you see a professional tennis player complain about a bad line call. More often than not they are distracted by their emotional outburst that they lose the next point. John McEnroe was probably the only player that I know of who was able to get fired up and play better under circumstances where negative emotions surface. Considering that we average as many as 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day according to the National Science Foundation, and that they can change every few seconds, we would have hundreds of things to focus on in a full tennis match with many opportunities to shift thoughts and become distracted from our ONE thing.

If your intention is to do many things with mediocrity then multitasking is for you. But if you want to do ONE thing really well, then you need to have the self-discipline to focus on only ONE thing. Now the most important part of this concept is selecting the “right” thing for you to focus on. The right thing would be the thing that would lead you to victory the most often or the one thing that you need to improve the most. It’s more about selecting the right thing to do right, rather than doing everything right.

When I competed in the past I would carry an index card in my tennis bag of the 10 things that I was working on improving going into tournaments. Some of them were Positive Attitude, Relax, Be Aggressive and Have Fun/Be Happy. Then, before each match, I would narrow them down by circling the top 3 that were most important or most timely. After the warmup, I would narrow that down even further to just ONE thing. Now the trick is to convince yourself that only one thing would be good to propel you to play your best. Some estimate that upwards of 70% of our daily thoughts are negative, so having a positive mental attitude is critical for positive results in athletics.

Playing one particular nationally ranked opponent I had to focus on “letting go” any anger from poor line calls, bullying and out-right cheating. I learned from the past that if I lost my composure, I lost my game and I lost the match. Focusing on this one thing worked as I defeated him the finals in straight sets without being broken once I committed to focusing on ONE thing.

Your mind is like your eyes. If you place two items in front of you and try to focus on both at the same time it’s not possible. But if you focus on one item you can still be “aware” of the other item. That means that when you are playing a tennis match you should have one primary factor to focus on and several factors in your peripheral vision like the opponent’s weakness, what direction the wind is blowing, if the opponent has a one-handed or two-handed backhand, and so on. But if you try to focus on all of those things at the same time you won’t be able to focus on your primary game plan.

As a practical matter, what you select to focus on can be counterintuitive. There are three types of tennis players: players at your level, players above your level and players lower than your level. When playing an opponent at your level you need to focus on patience or playing smart. When playing an opponent above your level you need to play aggressive or take risks. Finally, when playing an opponent lower than you level you need to play consistently or counter punch.

Focusing on more than one thing is like texting and driving at the same time. You become comfortable with the driving part of it but the texting distraction can have hazardous results. With the new technology upon us of cars driving themselves it is projected to reduced car accidents by 80%. This is because the car’s computer will only focus on one thing at a time and won’t get distracted like us human beings do.

Look at it this way: have you ever seen a tennis play win a match and hold up the #2 sign or #3 sign when winning? I’ve just seen #1! Remember to focus on ONE thing and you will be holding up #1.

Additional reading: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary W. Keller, Jay Papasan

I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.

You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of:

FOX News Story
Inspirational Tennis Story: Tennis Begins with Love
If you found this article of value please consider making a donation to Save the Children. Otherwise, please share this article so that we can educate, inform and inspire others.
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Focus On Only ONE Thing