Updated: May 28, 2020
There are three ways you can focus your attention in a tennis match. You can focus your attention on (1) the process of winning, (2) winning itself, or (3) a distraction such as watching the match next to you. In this article, I explain why you want to focus your attention on process-oriented behaviors.
Player A is a process-oriented individual
- Before the Match: Player A does a dynamic warm up, visualizes himself playing well, and expresses gratitude for being able to play tennis.
Dynamic Warm Up: Player A’s blood flow and core body temperature increase resulting in a match-ready body and a decrease in the chance of getting injured.
Visualization: Player A is priming his body to play good tennis.
Gratitude: Player A is priming his body to (1) play well and (2) have fun on the court.
- During the Match: Player A focuses his attention on the sound of the ball, expressing positive energy, and developing/adapting strategies against his opponent.
Sound of the Ball: Player A is able to stay present and prevent his mind from wandering.
Positive Energy: Player A is able to maintain high energy levels and stay happy/peaceful on the court in the face of adversity.
Strategies: Player A is able to put his opponent in positions that his opponent would rather not be in.
- After the Match:
If Player A Wins: Player A focuses his attention on humbleness, recovery, and reflection.
Humbleness: Player A shakes his opponents hand with compassion and neither feels, thinks, nor talks about the win.
1. Other players will like Player A because he does not boast about his results.
2. Player A will develop a good reputation.
3. Player A keeps winning from becoming part of his identity. Thus, giving him the best chance of staying process-oriented for his next match.
Recovery: Player A stretches and does ice therapy.
Benefit: Player A will have a strong body for his next match. Player A will avoid injuries.
Reflection: Player A immediately goes to his notebook and writes down (1) things he did well and (2) things he can improve on. Then, Player A spends 5 minutes visualizing these things.
Visualizing things you did well primes your body to repeat those things.
Visualizing yourself doing the things you wish you did primes your body to do those things in the future.
- If Player A loses: Player A focuses on expressing gratitude to his opponent, recovery, and reflection.
Gratitude: After the match, Player A congratulates his opponent and internally and/or externally expresses gratitude to his opponent for beating him.
Why Express Gratitude To Your Opponent?:
Player A Learned More About His Weaknesses: Player A knows that the more challenging the opponent, the greater opportunity there is for Player A to discover and extend his true potential. Thus, by winning, the opponent gave Player A the wonderful opportunity to learn more about the weaknesses in his game. Now, Player A can work on these weaknesses and improve his game. All thanks to his opponent.
Benefits of Gratitude:
Player A stays peaceful and happy even though he lost.
The opponent now likes Player A which can result in a good reputation or the opponent wanting to hit with Player A which will result in Player A getting better.
Recovery/Reflection: The benefits of recovery and reflection stay the same.
Now lets look at all the drawbacks of being a result-oriented player.
Player B is a result-oriented player meaning his attention and/or identity is based on winning.
- Before the Match: Player B’s attention is often on “what if” scenarios about winning or losing the match. He thinks thoughts such as, “what will my family think if I lose this match against this unseeded player,” “I have to win this match to increase my ranking,” “I trained so hard this summer. If I lose, all my work was pointless.”
Drawbacks: These thoughts prime Player B’s body to tighten up which will result in a greater chance of Player B losing and not having fun.
- During the Match: Player B criticizes himself/opponent, makes bad line calls , and gets nervous before important points.
Self-Criticism: Player B criticizes himself for not doing well. Player B thinks or says, “how did you miss that shot, it was so easy!” ”You are so bad!” “You are so slow!”
Player B is programing his body to repeat the behavior
Player B is programming his body to decrease its energy.
Opponent-Criticism: Player B criticizes his opponent. Examples include, “how am I losing to this player, he is so bad” and mocking the opponents grunt.
Player B’s opponent will not like him which will result in an enemy and a bad reputation
Player B is unfocused.
Bad Line Calls: Player B makes bad line calls
The opponent will respond with bad line calls.
The opponent will dislike Player B and talk bad about him to others which will hurt Player’s B reputation.
Player B is creating self-guilt which will always result in the loss of future points.
Nerves: On big points, Player B attention shifts to “winning the point.” He thinks about all the outcomes that could come from winning/losing the point.
Player B body will tighten up and thus decrease his chances of winning the point.
- After the Match
- If Player B Loses: Since Player B’s identity is based on winning, losing is a huge blow to his identity. The common result is negativity towards himself, his opponent, and others.
Negativity Towards Himself: Sometimes Player B will act in physical negativity such as breaking a racket. Other times, Player B will act in mental negativity such as acting in a state of despair for a certain amount of time. Regardless, the result is the same. Player B and everyone around Player B is unhappy.
Negativity Towards His Opponent: Because Player’s B opponent caused the destruction of his identify, Player B often shows negativity towards his opponent. This can be in the form of insulting/ignoring his opponent in future encounters or gossiping about his opponent to others.
Drawback: Player B is creating negative energy which always results in unhappiness to Player B and everyone around Player B.
- If Player B Wins: Winning reinforces and strengthens Player B’s identity as “a winner.” The result is often a rush of pride/superiority but always ends with negativity.
Player B is Priming Himself To Experience Negative Emotions In The Future: Player B will inevitably lose sometime in the future. When he does, the loss will go against his now stronger identity as a winner. Thus, he is bound to experience some form of negativity in the future.
A Rush Of Pride: A sense of pride for winning will lead Player B to develop a “vibe” that he is better than others or lead him to constantly talk about his win to others. Either way, no one likes a person who thinks he is better than others or talks about his own achievements.
Thus in conclusion, focusing on the process of winning will (1) increase your chances of winning both your current match and future matches and (2) will always result in happiness to yourself and others. Focusing on the results will (1) decrease your chances of winning your current match and future matches and (2) will always eventually lead to unhappiness. Be process-oriented.