Written by: Peter Straub
***Peter is a Mind Trainer and former #2 Junior in Canada Under 18, who played tennis full time for 7 years. More recently, in 2011 and 2012, he played for Canada on the Dubler Cup team over 45, in the World Team Championships.
Motivated by his passion to benefit others he has trained his mind extensively for the last 20 years. Understanding that by changing his mind in a positive way, he would be able to benefit others more. Peter has travelled, at great expense, to study with the best teachers and practitioners, including doing 16 months of silent meditation retreats.
Peter now wants to help tennis players become happier and perform better on the tennis court.
To have the ideal mental conditions to play our best tennis we have to train our mind regularly and correctly. We might think that the top players in the world have better minds than other players, but we probably just have a vague idea of what that means. It is true that, mostly they have less negative minds functioning and therefore, in general, they can: stay better focused; won’t give up; and are more relaxed in big points, while they are playing a tennis match. However, this is occurring naturally and not through a deliberate Training of the mind. Their minds are very weak and negative compared to people who really understand the importance of training their minds. If you have a strong mind that is always positive and free from any negativity, you will have a huge advantage over any opponent.
I believe it is more important to train our mind correctly than to train our body, but we need to do both. Up until now the focus has been primarily physical training. Our mind’s potential is limitless, and right now the good news is that it is very limited, so we have a lot of room for improvement. Our tennis game can become so much better when we train our mind with the intention of changing it in a positive way.
Our mind determines: (a brief list)
- Our motivation
- How we learn
- If we make correct decisions / do the right thing
- Our habits and tendencies
- How good we will be
- Our confidence and self-esteem
- How smart we are/ how much wisdom we have
- How happy, calm, relaxed, scared, nervous, patient we are
If we understand the mind deeply, we will see that it actually determines everything. If you look at just the short list above and think of how those things affect everything you do, you will start to get an idea of how important this is.
In watching many tournaments every year, such as, the Under 18 Indoor Junior Nationals, and many Futures tournaments, as well as, watching the senior tournament players I compete with internationally, I see many tennis players that are not happy and have very little control over their minds.
To know for oneself what the best mental conditions are, we need to understand more about what the mind is. We want to be in control of our mind on the tennis court. We want to be able to stay focused for as long as any match will take. We want to try our hardest every point and never give up. In order to do this, we need to understand the nature and functions of our mind. We might think we know our mind because we know what state our mind is in right now and whether it is happy or sad. If someone were to ask us what the mind is would we be able to answer clearly what the precise nature of our mind is and how it functions? If not then we can say we don’t have a clear understanding of our mind. Only through knowing our mind does it become possible to change in many significant ways.
So what is the best state of mind to play our best tennis? It is a calm, clear, positive, stable mind, free from any disturbances. Not only is this possible, but it is a must to perform our best at anything we are doing. If we check, any condition in our mind that is different from this makes our game worse. We will start to explore this topic in this article and in more depth in future articles.
A clear vision of the final result we want
Our vision only needs to be clear enough that if we saw it we would recognize it. It is what we really want, not what others want, or want for us, or think we should want. If we don’t really want something we will not put the effort into attaining it for years, to bring our vision into reality. We must not limit our vision thinking maybe I can’t accomplish it; I am not good enough, etc. The bigger our vision is, the more energy it will bring us to accomplish it. Our vision for our mind, related to our tennis, is how we ideally want our mind to be while we are playing.
Here are some of the things we can accomplish through training our mind
- Understand our mental mistakes so well that we never make them again
- Lessen and eradicate all our negative minds
- Increase fully our positive minds
- Fully develop capabilities of our mind, such as concentration.
- Enjoy tennis more by changing our views of: our self; other people; and situations
- Stay happy (a calm, clear, positive mind free from any disturbance) during practice and matches including situations that used to bother us
- Stay highly motivated to accomplish what we want
- Be confident and have strong self esteem; have control of our mind; stay focused with a clear mind; learn from everything and therefore improve quickly
Our current reality in relation to our vision
Knowing our current reality correctly is usually quite difficult, because there are certain things we don’t want to know about ourselves. Also, we are often unrealistic about our abilities, thinking we are either better or worse than how we actually are. To look at where we are currently in a specific area of our life we need to: not judge what we are looking at; get rid of the labels ‘‘good” and “bad”; just look at what is, not a commentary about it, not what we think about it, just the facts. The more realistic we are about our current situation, the faster we will move towards our vision.
What are the obstructions in our mind now that are limiting our tennis? Our main obstructions are delusions. Delusions are distorted ways of looking at ourselves, other people and the world around us. They arise from inappropriate attention, which focuses on an object that disturbs our mind, keeps focusing on it and exaggerates its apparent qualities. The function of delusions is to make our mind unpeaceful and uncontrolled. They are our actual enemy, not our opponent, the weather, losing, the courts, our strings and all the other things we may normally blame for our unhappiness.
We also have to get rid of: bad habits of body, speech and mind; negative core beliefs; being influenced by others who are negative; and being unrealistic.
How to lessen delusions and increase positive minds to play our best
Through a greater and greater understanding of our mind, it becomes more evident what we need to do. We need to know what to eliminate in our mind and what we need to accomplish. We need to see what is actually functioning in our mind, not what we hope is functioning. When we see directly what is actually disturbing our mind, a delusion, it is easy to stop the delusion temporarily. When there is a delusion functioning in our mind we can’t just think positively. Our negative thinking and our harmful beliefs are strong habits and our mind is so familiar with them that they automatically operate in particular situations. So we have to weaken and eliminate them, and at the same time become more familiar with a positive alternative.
We need to become more aware of what is going on in our mind. In order to do this we need an intellectual understanding of the types of mind and learn how to watch our mind once we know what to look for.
As a mind trainer I lead people to getting in touch with what is actually functioning in their mind. We can go deeper and deeper till we get to the root of a specific problem. With this level of understanding it is easy to eliminate the problem.
Through meditation we can familiarize our mind with positive thoughts and we can train in remembering them throughout the day.
In the next article we will look specifically at what our mental obstructions have to do with tennis, and how to lessen and eradicate them. We will look at a specific example.