Like most tennis fans, I spent Sunday afternoon in front of the tv watching the Murray / Djokovic Wimbledon final, marvelling at the physical and mental strength of the two players involved in rallies frequently over twenty shots on such a warm day.
Only a few hours earlier I had taken my son to his own tennis competition. It was a scorching morning for ten year olds to play three matches, all best of three short sets.
In his first match he walked onto court with his carefully packed tennis bag containing drinks, sun glasses, baseball cap and in pride of place the new purple hand towel he had bought on his Monday visit to Wimbledon.
He won his first two matches and there is no doubt that he carefully managed himself in the heat, evidenced by the following strategies he used:
1) Took his time in between points
2) In preparing for his second serve he bounced the ball a number of times
3) Whilst preparing to return serve you could see him bouncing on the balls of his feet (we have nicknamed this ‘happy feet’)
4) I could hear regular positive self talk in between points and when he made an error
5) He wore his sunglasses and white baseball cap all the time
6) In between games he wiped his face with his towel
7) At changeover he always took a drink
In the third match, the sun was really beating down on both players, the rallies were long with my son going for his shots whilst his opponent went for less pace and a more defensive game plan, concentrating on keeping the ball in. My son fell behind but I didn’t mind as I would rather him get good practice of going for the right shot even if the operation does not always work.
However what was noticeable than as the games went on and the sweat began to pour, the techniques he had used in earlier matches were forgotten; drinks were not taken, points were rushed, the sunglasses and hat removed, the towel ignored and self talk became more negative.
He lost the match and the other boy should be congratulated for sticking with his game plan. I don’t mind that he lost as there is an excellent learning opportunity for him to consider how he manages himself in the future. So during the Murray / Djoko final we played ‘managing yourself’ bingo and Andy Murray’s use of the towel in between points was one excellent example of this.
In addition for my son’s next match, I am going to make sure that in his notebook that he takes onto court, the seven points above are listed and I intend keep a tally of when he uses them.
Ps I shared this blog with my son, he helped me take the photograph and he is now more eager to put the ideas into action than if I had just explained the advice to him!