Quantcast
nodot nodot
Mental Equipment
November 1999 Article

Contact John Murray

Mental Equipment Archive

Get John F. Murray's book The Mental Performance Index at Amazon.com

Get John F. Murray's book Smart Tennis at Amazon.com

Tennis Server
HOME PAGE

Do You Want To Be A Better Tennis Player?

Then Sign Up For A Free Subscription to the Tennis Server INTERACTIVE
E-mail Newsletter!

You will join 25,000 other subscribers in receiving news of updates to the Tennis Server along with monthly tennis tips from tennis pro Tom Veneziano that won't be found on the web site.
 
Best of all, it is free!

Player Profiles:
 
Top Pros (Women)
tennis ball Serena Williams
tennis ball Maria Sharapova
tennis ball Petra Kvitova
tennis ball Simona Halep
tennis ball Eugenie Bouchard
tennis ball Agnieszka Radwanska
tennis ball Ana Ivanovic
tennis ball Caroline Wozniacki
tennis ball Na Li
tennis ball Angelique Kerber
 ... more profiles
 
Top Pros (Men)
tennis ball Novak Djokovic
tennis ball Roger Federer
tennis ball Rafael Nadal
tennis ball Stanislas Wawrinka
tennis ball David Ferrer
tennis ball Tomas Berdych
tennis ball Kei Nishikori
tennis ball Marin Cilic
tennis ball Milos Raonic
tennis ball Andy Murray
 ... more profiles
 
Tennis Features Icon TENNIS FEATURES:

BETWEEN THE LINES - Ray Bowers takes an analytical and sometimes controversial look at the ATP/WTA professional tour.
 
PRO TENNIS SHOWCASE - Tennis match reports and photography from around the world.
 
TURBO TENNIS - Ron Waite turbocharges your tennis game with tennis tips, strategic considerations, training and practice regimens, and mental mindsets and exercises.
 
TENNIS ANYONE? - USPTA Pro John Mills' quick player tip.
 
WILD CARDS - Each month a guest column by a new writer.
 
TENNIS SET - Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D. looks at tennis science, engineering and technology.
 
MORTAL TENNIS - Greg Moran's tennis archive on how regular humans can play better tennis.
 
MENTAL EQUIPMENT - Explore the mental side of the game with Dr. John Murray.
 
TENNIS WARRIOR - Tom Veneziano's Tennis Warrior archive.
 
HARDSCRABBLE SCRAMBLE - USPTA pro Mike Whittington's player tip archive.
 
TENNIS EQUIPMENT TIPS.

Tennis Community Icon TENNIS COMMUNITY:


Tennis Book, DVD, and Video Index
 
Tennis Server Match Reports
 
Editor's Letter
 
Become a Tennis Server Sponsor

Explore The Tennis Net Icon EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:

Pro Tennis Calendar & Event Links
 
Tennis News and Live Tennis Scores
 
Tennis Links on the Web
 
nodot
Mental Equipment By Dr. John Murray


 

Green Dot
 
Tennis Warehouse Logo
 
Green Dot

 
nodot
Social Obstruction in Tennis

Dr. John Murray Photo
Dr. John Murray

What would happen to your game if the whole world suddenly stopped what they were doing to scrutinize your next tennis match? That's right, the ESPN truck pulls alongside the court just as you begin warming up.

If you're on the pro tour, you'd probably seize the opportunity. The limelight is great and this is your chance to display your awesome power and deft touch, and perhaps secure a new endorsement package!

On the other hand, if you are beginning to learn tennis, you might ask to use the restroom and never return! Novice players are much more vulnerable to the effects of pressure caused by observers.

Let's take a look this month at what I'll call "social obstruction," the reduction in performance produced by onlookers. This is contrasted with the more well known improvement seen in front of others called "social facilitation."

The Effects of an Audience

Perhaps closer to reality, what if your girlfriend, father, and ten friends decide to attend your next challenge match to watch you show off your newly learned forehand? You might be excited at first, but will this really help you perform better?

Research has demonstrated that athletic performance improves in front of a crowd and most world records are broken in front of massive crowds rather than in practice. However, this social facilitation effect works primarily with simple tasks or advanced performers. Energy levels rise with the presence of others, making it more probable that well learned habits and skills emerge.

If your forehand is new, or if it just went through a major overhaul, more onlookers rarely helps. On the other hand, if the task were to run faster or jump higher, crowds would likely inspire you to perform better. The difference is that tennis is a very complex sport requiring a relatively low level of intensity (recall my article Optimizing Arousal in Tennis. You need every ounce of your mental equipment directed to the task at hand and rising arousal levels are often distracting and unnecessary. In sum, unless you're very skilled at tennis, realize that social obstruction is a more likely outcome when the world shows up to watch you play.

Embarrassment

One fallout of social obstruction is often embarrassment, and this can escalate into an even poorer performance! I'm not trying to scare you here, just pointing out some of the potential landmines so that we can defuse them.

With an increasingly larger crowd, or your favorite onlookers present, players want to make a good impression. This "impression management" takes a life of it's own and competes with your need to perform naturally and effectively. After making a mistake, players will often become flustered by their inability to impress their fans. The thinking becomes increasingly self-reflective, and may go something like this: "The whole world is here and they realize that I did not do my part!" People are often terrified by the awareness that their public ineptness is observed and negatively evaluated by others. Once this happens, the problem becomes lack of confidence too (See my previous article The Art of Confidence further undermining performance.

Solutions

What can you do to cope more effectively with the potential nightmares caused by social obstruction? Here are a few tips:

  1. Concern for what others are thinking is often the source of the problem. While this respect is encouraged and noble in most social situations, realize that it is impossible to concentrate effectively on two things well at the same time. If you are focused on performance, forget about the crowd. There will be time later to catch up, chat and compare notes. Learn to block external distractions from your awareness. One good way to do this is to practice hitting your shots while your partner actively tries to rattle you verbally. Switch roles and try to destroy your partner's concentration so that he/she can practice this too. Review my article on Attentional Control in Tennis.

  2. Lower your own unnecessary ideals. You want to impress yourself as well as others, but the problem is that you think your shots should look perfect, that you should never miss, or that you should appear really impressive. This is deep fantasyland. Tennis is a sport in which staying in the moment and reacting effectively to adversity is rewarded. There are no form points awarded and you only need one more ball over the net than your opponent to win the point. Work on your technique and style in practice, but once the game begins keep your mind on staying in the game and exploiting weaknesses.

  3. Work as hard as possible to keep your energy level down in front of a crowd. Remember that the tendency is to become over-energized. Fight this urge by breathing deeply, slowing down your actions, and remaining focused on the task at hand. Refrain from doing too much with your shots. Go with the ones you're comfortable hitting. Take your time and think in slow motion if you find yourself getting overactivated.

You are only as good as your practices. Once the match begins you'll tend to reproduce what is already there, so trying to do more in front of a crowd is rarely helpful. After you've learned to defeat the demons of social obstruction, you may welcome all the major sports networks to your next match! See you next month...

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

Mental Equipment Archive

If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here. You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis Server and news of new columns posted on our site.

This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.

Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.


 

nodot
nodot
Google
Web tennisserver.com
nodot nodot
The Tennis Server
Ticket Exchange

Your Source for tickets to professional tennis & golf events.
 
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Tennis Tickets 11/7-11/14
 
Davis Cup Finals: France vs Switzerland Tennis Tickets 11/21
 
Chris Evert Pro-Celeb Tennis Classic Tickets 11/22-11/23
 
2015 BNP Paribas Open Tickets Indian Wells 3/11-3/22
 
2015 Miami Open Tennis Tickets 3/23-4/5
 
2015 US Open Tennis Tickets 8/31-9/13
 

 

Tennis MindGame

 
Popular Tennis books:
 
Smart Tennis by John Murray
 
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis-Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert, Steve Jamison
 
The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald
 
The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
 
Most Recent Articles:
 
Tennis Warrior: Five Powerful Tennis Concepts by Tom Veneziano.
 
October 2014 Tennis Anyone: Why Can I Not Poach? by John Mills.
 
October 2014 Turbo Tennis: Momentum Revisited by Ron Waite.
 
October 12, 2014 Between The Lines: Home Stretch 2014 -- On the Hard Courts of Asia by Ray Bowers.
 
Tennis Warrior: In Tennis, Principle Trumps Emotion by Tom Veneziano.
 
September 2014 Tennis Anyone: Things To Do and Not To Do by John Mills.
 
September 2014 Turbo Tennis: The Only Thing You Have To Fear Is Fear Itself!!! by Ron Waite.
 
September 9, 2014 Between The Lines: Dissecting U.S. Open 2014 by Ray Bowers.
 
August 2014 Wild Cards: The Tennis Round Table: Interviews With Jim Courier, Todd Martin & Mark Philippoussis in Arizona by Vince Barr.
 
May 2014 Wild Cards: Michael Chang Wins Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Challenge in Arizona by Vince Barr.
 

 

 

 

 
 
Featured events in the Tennis Server Ticket Exchanges:
 
  Featured Tickets:
BNP Paribas Open Tickets Indian Wells CA Tennis Garden
Miami Open Tennis Tickets Miami Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
 

  Featured Tickets:
Western & Southern Open Cincinnati Tennis Tickets Session 9 W&SFG Cincy Mason OH Lindner Family Center Financial Group Masters
Western & Southern Open Cincinnati Tennis Tickets Session 10 W&SFG Cincy Mason OH Lindner Family Center Financial Group Masters
Western & Southern Open Cincinnati Tennis Tickets Session 11 W&SFG Cincy Mason OH Lindner Family Center Financial Group Masters
Western & Southern Open Cincinnati Tennis Tickets Session 12 W&SFG Cincy Mason OH Lindner Family Center Financial Group Masters

  Featured Tickets:
US Open Tennis Tickets Session 16 Fourth Round New York City NYC NY Flushing Meadows Corona
US Open Tennis Tickets Session 15 Fourth Round New York City NYC NY Flushing Meadows Corona
US Open Tennis Tickets Session 14 Men's Third Round Women's Fourth Round New York City NYC NY Flushing Meadows Corona
US Open Tennis Tickets Session 13 Men's Third Round Women's Fourth Round New York City NYC NY Flushing Meadows Corona
US Open Tennis Tickets Session 12 Third Round New York City NYC NY Flushing Meadows Corona

  Featured Tickets:
Sony Open Tennis Session 9 Tickets Miami Men's Singles 2nd Round Women's Singles 3rd Round Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 10 Tickets Miami Men's Singles 2nd Round Women's Singles 3rd Round Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 11 Tickets Miami Men's & Women's Singles 3rd Round Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 12 Tickets Miami Men's & Women's Singles 3rd Round Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center

  Featured Tickets:
Sony Open Tennis Session 17 Tickets Miami Men's & Women's Singles & Doubles Quarterfinals Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 18 Tickets Miami Men's & Women's Singles & Doubles Quarterfinals Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 19 Tickets Miami Women's Semifinals Men's Singles Quarterfinals Men's Doubles Semifinals Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center
Sony Open Tennis Session 20 Tickets Miami Women's Semifinals Men's Singles Quarterfinals Men's Doubles Semifinals Key Biscayne FL Crandon Park Center

 
 
"Tennis Server" is a registered trademark and "Tennis Server INTERACTIVE" is a trademark of Tennis Server. All original material and graphics on the Tennis Server are copyrighted 1994 - by Tennis Server and its sponsors and contributors. Please do not reproduce without permission.

 

Tennis Server
Cliff Kurtzman
Editor-in-chief
2323 Clear Lake City Boulevard
Suite 180-139
Houston, Texas 77062-8120
Phone: (281) 480-6300
Fax: (281) 480-7715
Online Contact Form
How to support Tennis Server as a Sponsor/Advertiser
Tennis Server Privacy Policy