The lines of a tennis court are clearly defined. The athletes within them, however, must have mental flexibility to maximize training time as well as match day execution. Two prevailing methodologies to explore include “or” and “and” mindsets. There are advantages to both; the time and place in which they are used is the key to high performance.
The “or” technique is a simple one. This mindset is based upon making quick judgments when little or no time is available. This reactive approach allows the athlete to make decisions efficiently on the court without expending too much mental effort.
Examples include “attack the net or hang behind the baseline,” “go cross-court or down-the-line,” and “hit with slice or topspin.” This method is highly effective for match-time when the stress of the situation naturally places a limit on thought, attention, and introspection. Competition is the time to simply embrace the challenge of the match and react with an “or” approach on the court. Commitment to executing a game plan with as little deviation as possible benefits even the best players during the heat of match play.
The second approach -- the “and” mentality – takes into account the countless options and “shades of gray” offered when developing skills and making decisions. This mindset opens the door to tremendous improvements over the course of a career. Increased awareness of both the advantages and disadvantages of various grips, strokes, and tactics allows a player to see the game from multiple perspectives. In addition, it encourages players to create their own style, which enhances confidence and ownership of their game.
The “and” approach requires time, energy, and abundant resources of attention as it’s filled with creativity, exploration, and experimentation. A high percentage of practice time can be spent effectively exploring this “and” methodology as the non-judgmental flow of thought allows for the true learning and player development to unfold away from the stress of competition.
The “or” mindset and “and” methodology are both required to create an elite tennis player. Where and when they are applied tends to be the key for an individual to truly reach their potential.
As noted, long-term, high priority areas of development will greatly benefit from an “and” methodology when competitive emotion is low and introspection naturally runs a little deeper. Lower priority, short-term, match-time decisions are best approached in an “or” context, as stress leads to dwindling resources of attention and little effectiveness of deep thought.
Those who perform at a high level consistently train in cycles and remain aware of decision-making tendencies as they flow through cycles of both training and competition. Be thoughtful about your approach to the game and enjoy the challenge of finding balance in your decisions on and around the court.
Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Lendl’s desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. Lendl, a former world No.1 and winner of eight Grand Slams, subscribes to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.
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