Tennis Psychology

Tennis Psychology refers to tennis-specific motivation, emotions, thoughts and focus as well as tactics and on-court decision making.

Tennis Psychology
Tennis Psychology – The Great Ones Take It Very Seriously

We are slowly moving towards a set of values that basically replaces sports psychology with the sport-specific versions. In other words, golf psychology, tennis psychology, ballet psychology etc replacing sport and performance psychology.

In doing so we’re not treating sports as being psychologically all the same, or even that similar to be honest. If you’re a traditionalist reading this then a) relax – read one b) excellent, our SEO endeavours must be working and c) we are not talking about mental health in the context of the sport here we’re referring only the psychological aspects of playing or competing in that sport. 

Tennis Psychology Is Not Wellbeing Within The Tennis Community

So tennis psychology is not the discipline applicable when working with a tennis player who has crippling bipolar disorder. Rather the field of tennis psychology is what helps tennis players and coaches improve mental aspects directly related to tennis.

Plug Alert: Of course the psychologists who consult for Condor Performance can and do assist with both of the above. In other words we help with wellbeing as well as sporting mental toughness. For more on why it’s useful to keep these two “mentals” apart then read this blog post here.

Tennis is, of course, most commonly played one versus one. Therefore the M, E, T and the F from Metuf are all essential parts of tennis psychology. But the U – which stands for Unity – is not irrelevant either due to the fact that many tennis players play doubles and/or team-based competitions (such as the Fed Cup and David Cup).

In fact, it’s interesting to observe the tennis career of Australia’s Sam Stosur who despite having a reputation for being a little mentally vulnerable as a singles players is one of the world’s best doubles and team players. If you factor in the U as being a part of the best definition of mental toughness is would be hard to say that SS doesn’t have a strong mental game.

The Big Four of Tennis Psychology

But the real clues when it comes to being mentally the best on court relate to The Big Four mental aspects of sports:

  • Motivation; In many ways the core of mental toughness and overall performance. When you improve your enthusiasm, passion, desire every aspect of your tennis benefits.
  • Emotions; John McEnroe would have won a lot more than seven Grand Slams has he worked on managing his emotions.
  • Thoughts; Learning to think more about the areas that you have a lot of influence over will have a huge impact on your tennis psychology.
  • Focus; Do you have a pre-point routine that allows you to refocus before the start of each point? If not then get in touch and we’ll show you how.

Tennis Psychology Includes Tactics

And let’s not forget decision making here. Very few sports have the same amount of decision-making requirements compared with tennis.

So when we refer to someone like RF as being the best of all time what we’re actually saying is he’s worked out a way to become really, really good at the above. Sure, he’s technically great and physically good enough but it’s his tennis psychology that makes him a legend.

A quick on-court tennis psychology video is currently being produced and will be placed here when ready.

The Coach Whisperer(s)

The Real Coach Whisperers

Sporting coaches are amongst the most obvious benefactors of performance psychology services.

The Coach Whisperer

Recently, there was a large article about an individual who has become known as the coach whisperer. To keep this article ‘above the waist’ I will refrain from mentioning his name. Nor will I be linking to the abovementioned article online. Instead, I will discuss a number of common themes that have been in the various news articles that I have come across about the coach whisperer:

  • He works (has worked) mainly with sporting coaches
  • The work he appears to be doing is highly psychological in nature
  • He charges for these services
  • He is open about not having any formal qualifications

I am not going to criticise the coach whisperer; mainly due to the fact that I have never met him and prefer to hold off on judging people I do not know. Instead, I shall comment on each of the above. I will describe how they relate to the work that my colleagues and I are currently doing with sporting coaches.

Helping Coaches Become Better Mental Coaches

From memory, I started working with my first sporting coaches around 2010. That means that for the initial five years of our existence we worked with only athletes and other performers. That coach, who I still work with today for two months a year, had one simple request. She asked me to help her become a much better mental coach. And by mental coach, she really meant mental toughness coach rather than a mental health coach. And so we got to work upskilling her mental toolkit. Which, by the way, was not that empty to start with!

It might be worth mentioning that at no point during our many Skype consultations did I actually whisper. In fact, if anything, the conversations have been the opposite of whispering with a reasonable amount of amicable shouting not being uncommon.

Of course, when you work one-on-one with someone for that long it’s virtually impossible not to spend some time on mental health and wellbeing. But when we did, it was to help her as a person, a mother, a wife and ultimately as an employee. At no point were we trying to help her become a mental health expert in her own right.

Coaching Is Highly Psychological 

I remember once having a meeting with a top-level soccer coach and during the meeting, he said: “I am actually the sport psychologist of the team”. I knew what he meant so chose NOT to interrupt him. Only in my head, I said in Australia one can’t refer to oneself as a psychologist with being registered with AHPRA. What he meant, of course, is that being a sporting coach has always been and will always be highly psychological in nature.

Think about it for a second. One of the most sought after attributes of the world’s best coaches is their ability to motivate people. Motivation is arguably the cornerstone of sport psychology and it’s no coincidence that the M from Metuf – our online mental training course – stands for Motivation.

I have read anecdotes about how the coach whisperer motivates the coaches he works with (and therefore their players). These methods are nothing like the ones we use – taken from sports science.

Be Careful What You Pay For

There are rumours that the coach whisperer charges a lot for his “services”. These alleged amounts are significantly higher than the cost of working one on one with a member of the Condor Performance team*. I have always stood by the belief that anyone should be able to give away psychological advice away for free. In other words, do all the counselling and coaching you want with your friends and family as long as no money is changing hands.

But this all changes when there is a fee involved. When you buy something, whether it be a product or a service, you expect value for money in return. In other words, the more you pay the more you should get in return.

I recently upgraded our family car and spent almost exactly double compared with the last time we bought a vehicle. But in my view, this has resulted in us getting a car that is about twice as good – for our purposes – compared to the last one. I was happy to pay more, as got more in return.

There is a story about the coach whisperer working with the head coach of the Queensland Rugby League team during this year’s state of origin series. It’s alleged he charged around $5000 an hour for his advice and told everyone – including those he worked with – they would beat New South Wales three games to zero. In the end, NSW won the series 2-1.

Be careful what you pay for.

*At Condor Performance we charge by the month not by the session and the average spend is between AUS$130 and AUS$350 a month. For this, the client will typically get between 60 and 90 minutes of sessions time. Furthermore, they will get unlimited email and text message support from their psychologist.

We are really confident that our fees provide excellent value-for-money and return on investment. If you want to put this assertion to the test just email [email protected] and ask for a breakdown of our current fees.

How Important Are Qualifications?

My final point is about the controversial topic of qualifications or lack therefore. The coach whisperer is apparently quite proud of his lack of recognised credentials – often boastfull in fact.

As many of you either know or would have worked out the entire Condor Performance team are psychologists. In other words, due to us all living in Australia, we are all fully registered as psychologists with AHPRA. The best way to get an understanding of the benefits of choosing a psychologist, over say a ‘whisperer’ is to listen to my answer to this very question here.

Since I first started working with our first sporting coach in 2010 the ratio of coaches that make up our growing client base has slowly improved. In fact, on the cusp of 2020 close to a fifth of all of the individual client are sporting coaches.

If you are a sporting coach looking to improve your mental toolkit the best place to start is to complete our MTQ-C below.

Golf Psychology

We know more about the psychology of golf than ever before. This article addresses some of the basics of Golf Psychology as we know it in 2020.

The Psychology of Golf
The Psychology of Golf

Golf Psychology Combines Both The Mental and Tactical Aspects of Golf

At Condor Performance we have always worked with a lot of golfers. In fact, since we started providing performance psychology services we’ve worked with more golfers than athletes of any other sport.

One of the many bonuses of this is that we have really come to know the weird and wonderful game of golf well. Our collective familiarity with golf is now so good that we might consider using the term ‘golf psychology‘ to describe what we do with golfers.

In the future, it’s likely the concept of sport psychology will be replaced by performance psychology. When this happens, a psychologist with considerable experience within a performance area (like golf) should be allowed to call themselves a ‘golf psychologist‘. I would happily and confidently refer to the entire Condor Performance team as golf psychologists in golfing contexts.

Why Do We Work With Some Many Golfers?

Golfers are amazing at understanding that their sport is very psychological in nature. Every golfer that has ever played the game has found out the hard way that good swing mechanics will only get them so far. Maybe it was because of a lapse in concentration that resulted in a four-putt. Or just the natural frustration of not knowing why the ball sometimes goes where you want it to and sometimes it doesn’t. Most golfers don’t need to be convinced of the fact that their sport is mostly won and lost between the ears.

Interestingly, many golfers think the famous Yogi Berra quote was about golf when in fact it was about baseball. The actual direct quote from 1925 was “Baseball is 90 per cent mental. The other half is physical.” Somehow this evolved into a version uttered by golfers the world over that “golf is 90% mental”. But is it?

Golfing success, like with any individual competitive sport, is made up of about half non-golfing aspects and half very sporty elements.

Golf Psychology and the Metuf Model

Our Metuf model includes the below analogy of the golfer being like a four-engine plane. The main body of the plane is mental health and wellbeing – and would contribute about half towards golfing success.

Golf Psychology
Golf Psychology starts with mental health and wellbeing.

This half needs to be prioritised first. Why? Because it’s more important to be a happier person than an excellent golfer. The other half consists of the four pillars of modern sports science. Physical, Technical, Tactical and Mental. Tactical is obviously psychological so when I think about golf psychology I am also thinking about on-course decision making.

I recently watched the episode of the Netflix docu-series Loosers featuring Jean van de Velde. During which he reflects on the heartbreak from his famous last hole of the 1999 Open Championship. I was 23 at that time which was the peak of my obsession with all sports but I couldn’t remember most the details. On watching the episode it reminded me that it was a decision making error than actually cost Jean victory that year. On the final hole, with a three-shot buffer, he decided to try and carry the “burn” protecting the green. He didn’t choke, he made one very poor shot selection. The right decision, of course, was to lay up well before the burn.

Golf is 25% Mental To Start With

So golf starts out being 25% mental and then increases from that point due to the fact that it commonly gets ignored – but not by everyone.

A growing ratio of our sporting clients are actually coaches rather than athletes. Many of these coaches are golf coaches or instructors. They come to us when they realise that traditional coaching pathways fall woefully short when it comes to helping them become great mental coaches. We love this approach to golf psychology. The sport psychologist upskilling those in the trenches with the golfers. We literally teach them how to help their golfers master the mental games from the very time that they take up golf in the first place.

Pre Shot Routines Are Essential

A great example of the benefit of this approach is through the use of Pre Shot Routines. PSRs are at the centre of golf psychology because they focused on the 10 to 15 seconds before each short. As my golf clients know after you have established a basic swing I believe that every shot – included those in practice – should follow a PSR. I have seen golf coaches break down into tears when I explain to them that golf shots in practice without a PSR is not actually golf practice at all. Ball bashing, maybe but it certainly doesn’t resemble what will take place out there on the course.

Below is an old video that I dug up to explain how to develop Pre Shot Routines for golf. Note, the video is outdated now so I suggest you watch with curiosity more than trying to copy every single element.

Only 1.5% Of A Round Of Golf Is About The Swing

You need to remember that about the 98.5% of a round of golf – for pros and amateurs alike – does not involve hitting a golf ball. Defined from the start of the backswing to the end of the follow-through. Do the maths if you like:

4 hours = 240 mins to hit, let’s say 80 shots. Each of those shots takes about 2 seconds. 80 multiplied by 2 = 160 seconds or about 3 minutes. So about 3 of the 240 minutes of a round of golf requires “swing mechanics”. Or another way to look at it is 3 hours and 57 minutes of a round of golf has nothing to do with how well you can hit the ball. That’s 98.5% in case you’re still doing the maths.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some my top favourite golf psychology quotes from golfers you might have heard of.

Great Mental Game Golf Quotes

It’s such a psychological and mental game, golf, that the smallest wrong thing at the wrong time can distract you from what you’re trying to achieve.

Lee Westwood

You could have all the tools in the world, but if you really don’t want to be there, or if there’s something that’s off course that’s playing on your mind. The game of golf is so mental, and if you don’t have everything in the right order, it’s very difficult to win golf tournaments.

Jason Day

Rest is huge because if you’re sleep-deprived, that can definitely run into the mental side of the game and can definitely hurt your game if you’re playing tournament golf.

Jason Day

Staying in the present is the key to any golfer’s game. Once you start thinking about a shot you just messed up or what you have to do on the next nine to catch somebody, you’re lost.

Paul Azinger

If you are a golf coach looking to improve the way you coach the mental side then start is by completing our Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Coaches here.

If you’re a golfer then fill in our Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Athletes and one of our “golf psychologists” will get back to you.