Controlling your emotions throughout a match or competition can often be the difference between winning and losing. No matter your ability, or the ability of your opponent, not being able to control your emotions will more than likely have a negative impact on your performance. Sport evokes a wide range of emotions from joy and pride to despair and anger, all of which can have a significant effect on a players performance.
If not dealt with properly your emotions will get the best of you which will further impact your ability and can result in poor performances when you experience a similar situation again. So how can you control your negative thoughts and leave any emotional baggage off the court?
Dealing with emotional baggage
The emotions you feel in a particular situation are often a result of how you previously dealt with a similar experience in the past. Any athlete will form a set of attitudes and beliefs for different scenarios and competitions that will ultimately affect how they perform when faced with a similar situation in the future. For example, if a tennis player hasn’t performed particularly well in a specific competition in the past, this will likely play on their mind if they were to re-enter this competition the following year. The emotions a player feels based on these beliefs is what is often referred to as “baggage”. Negative emotional baggage can significantly impact a players performance as they are often in the wrong state of mind before the match has even started. The best players can drop any negative emotional baggage from previous experiences and control their emotions in the present.
Dropping negative emotions
Negative emotions can impact a player on both a physical and mental level, depending on how that player responds to their feelings. On a physical level, anger and frustration are two of the strongest emotions that will have a significant effect on a tennis players game. Anger can be a very energy draining emotion depending on how a player responds. Muscle tension and heightened breathing are common issues experienced by players who have problems controlling their frustration and anger, which in turn, can lead to a significant drop in performance. A reduction in performance can lead to further frustration causing players to get stuck in a vicious cycle if they aren’t able to let go of their negative emotions.
Not only will negative emotions have a detrimental on a player's physical ability they can also hurt you mentally. Players who struggle for lack of confidence are often those who notice that their emotions can play a significant role during a match. If a player is not confident in their ability they will likely struggle to perform at their best, therefore, inhibiting their chances of reaching their competitive goals. Once again this results in a downward spiral if players aren’t able to drop the emotional baggage and let go of any negative thoughts.
These negative emotions are often provoked by some key decisions and moments throughout a match, such as bad decisions from the umpire, making an error at a crucial point in the game, or generally poor performance. In all of these scenarios, the player may feel like they have little control over the outcome of the match with these ‘obstacles’ blocking their path to success. Ultimately the main obstacle standing in the way is the athlete’s mental ability to handle their emotions. Once a player has learned to master their emotions by living in the present and let go of any emotional baggage they will then start to see their overall game improve as a result.