Tennis Identity

Tennis players, mind your mental toolbox. Roger certainly does.

RogerFederer-Portrait US Open Style 2009 Anyone who has competed in tennis at any level will agree, tennis is a heady game.  Despite years of training and fitness, most pro players spend time honing their ‘mental tools,’  strategies that go beyond strokes, footwork and ball placement. Those rising to the top of the ranks are masters.  Roger Federer is a perfect example.

“The truly great athletes get into a ‘purposeful calm’ when they are at the height of competition…blocking out any adversity caused by physical ailments or other areas of the human experience,”  says Jim Fannin, Peak Performance Coach to seven former top ten players (not RF). "In order to get into what many call ‘the zone,’ athletes need to focus solely on real-time information, to effectively eliminate between thirty and forty percent of excess thoughts so they can have more clarity while they compete.”

So what’s a rec player to do? Fannin’s ‘mental toolbox’  is built around the word S.C.O.R.E.® which stands for Self Discipline, Concentration, Optimism, Relaxation and Enjoyment. Each word is associated with specific strategies to help your mindset stay focused and in that purposeful calm.  Fannin says that when all five components are balanced the zone will kick in.

A few starter tips: Keep your game under and within your control. Play higher over the net, play slower and deeper to gain control. Fannin calls the opposing side of the net your information center. Watch it vigilantly to know what’s coming. Use a take, not hold, mentality when serving and use small unnoticeable tension releasing exercises between points. Your jaw, for example, should be unhinged when playing, contributing to an all-over relaxation that will benefit your game.  Remain positive, and state an affirmation while you play, even after an error.  Enjoy yourself. Think of a song that keeps your engine running. Bring it on when your energy reserves are low.

Where can you get more? You can check into a place like The IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy which builds mental training into its programming or you can hire a coach dedicated to this realm of the game; many work over the phone.  There are also websites like, FuzzyYellowBalls, that offer regularly updated material on the subject.

Fannin’s coaching is available on CD /download – he of course does offer live support as well. His Tennis in the Zone can be found on his website. For anyone who can’t afford to travel or hire a personal coach – and that’s most of us – this is a real helpful and game improving listen.

Please drop a comment below if you’ve found any other sources to be particularly helpful on the subject.

Image: Nike