Performance Anxiety on the Tennis Court

Donald “Don” Gomsi, an experienced tennis coach, currently serves as an instructor at Carmel Valley Tennis in San Diego, California. In this role, Don Gomsi helps his players to prepare mentally before playing a match and to develop coping techniques to decrease anxiety and improve on-court performance.

Anxiety on the tennis court is damaging to more than just a player’s psyche. It can cause muscles to tense, which negatively impacts coordination and causes more anxiety-producing mistakes. This cycle can be very difficult for a player to escape, as attempting to ignore the anxiety typically only leads the player to focus more on those same feelings.

Although one cannot simply tell oneself to “stay calm,” a number of mental strategies may have that same effect. Guided imagery and meditation can help to quiet the mind and to refocus it on elements unrelated to the anxiety. Players have a number of such techniques from which to choose, one of the most popular being breath control. This simple act of consciously breathing in and out helps not only focus the mind but decrease muscular tension.

Some tennis players also find that positive visualization is helpful. In this technique, the player imagines the result he or she desires from the experience, whether it’s playing with good technique or simply finishing the match without anxiety. This allows the player to reframe negative self-talk and gain control over his or her own thoughts.