The Inner Game of Tennis – Part 3
Direct your attention to where it is needed now by training your mind to focus systematically.
What do you want to focus your attention on right now?
What you will learn from this book or how you will use this information in the future?
The problem is that many people get lost too easily in the haze of an imaginary future. Stop fighting off your own thoughts. Master them. Your Self 1 is restless and will keep rushing into things unless you give it a task, this is crucial.
Keep it in the present if you want to keep it on track. Do not think about what could have been or what happened before. If you want to win at tennis, you need to stop thinking about where the ball might go or how you might react and instead focus on where it is right now.
By focusing your attention on the ball and concentrating on it’s movement, you can prevent your thoughts from wandering and improve your performance.
Rafa Nadal gives a good example of this, by focusing his attention on the position and placing of his water bottles next to his chair.
His attention to such minute details may appear random at first until you realize what he is really doing.
He is giving his Self 1 a task to concentrate on, this prevents Self 1 from allowing the mind to wander. It is actually quite easy to train your mind to focus, but not by staring fixedly.
The best strategy is to relax and direct your attention where you want it to go. Paying close attention to the timing of the ball bounce and looking for the seam of the ball on racket contact – or like Rafa, at the change of court ends, adjusting the position of his water bottles.
This narrows your area of concentration and prevents your mind from focusing on the stress and anxiety that might otherwise be present.
You can only focus on something so calmly if you have confidence in yourself, accept yourself, and do not judge your own actions. When you focus on the task at hand, you can perform better, but this skill must be developed through repeated effort.
You can train your concentration on the present moment by becoming more attuned to your body, for example, by consciously holding your tennis racket in your hand.
To do that, you need to let go of worrying about what you are going to do next.