The tragic coronavirus pandemic has required unprecedented social distancing efforts to stem the contagion. This increases the possibility of feeling isolated, lonely, anxious and down. For tennis players, the pandemic has also led to the loss of a passion, and perhaps your primary source of physical activity. These changes add stress to what is already an incredibly stressful time.
Always try and look for the good in the bad. The silver lining here is that the human species is resilient, and the requirements needed of us now are temporary. In this “new normal,” realize that this time will pass, and that there are ways you can continue to connect with tennis—and even improve in its absence.
To grow and make the most of this time at home without tennis, set exciting goals. Athletes are programmed to look for challenges and overcome them. Create two or three that you believe will better you as a tennis player and as a person. Doing shadow strokes while visualizing playing points at home allows you to move, have a racquet in your hand, and feel like you are playing the sport.
Next, create a schedule that reflects your goals and how you will spend your time. Not only is it important to connect with family through technology like FaceTime and Zoom, but you should also do so with tennis friends. Watch old matches together, or connect over an online happy hour.
Furthermore, schedule consistent times to engage with your tennis goals. Blocking out 45 minutes of the day to hit against a wall or backboard creates goal-focus and excitement to start each day. Your schedule moves you forward, and focuses your mind on creative tennis activities that will help you stay engaged with the game. There is much to gain from being creative and using this time wisely.
In stressful situations, it helps to be grateful for what we have and focus on the things we can control. Engaging in mindfulness, mediation, tennis visualization and breathing exercises each morning starts the day with feelings of ease, gratitude and purpose. In addition, end each day by reflecting with family and friends on things you enjoyed, and how you worked on your game.
We may not be on the court right now, but we can continue to enjoy tennis and improve.
Dr. Larry Lauer is a mental skills specialist for USTA Player Development and heads the mental performance team at the USTA National Campus.