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Whether it was a dodgy line call

Turning point – how to be mentally tough

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Originally published on 01/01/14

“I’ve watched matches where you can pinpoint the moment where something happens and you can see from their physiology that something has changed,” says Louise Deeley, a leading sports psychologist and head trainer at the Inside Performance consultancy.

“It might be really subtle but it’s a turning point and their play starts to go downhill. “They’re dwelling on that moment and it affects their mood. They tense up so they aren’t hitting shots as cleanly and they’re not moving as freely so won’t reach the balls they did earlier in the match.”

Deeley, who has worked with the LTA and UK Sport as well as leading teams and individuals in rugby and cricket, specialises in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and its application in sports performance.

“There’s a lot in NLP about the mind-body connection, how important your physiology is,” Deeley explains. “In a nutshell it’s about how our thinking affects how we feel, and how that influences how we behave. Some athletes are very good at coming off the court after a defeat, assessing what happened, moving on and letting go. But sometimes there might have been a particular point where they should have won it and didn’t. Instead of focusing on the match they kept rehashing it in their head.

“People talk about the concept of mental toughness. We work with players so in association with To find out more about PlayBrave go to www.playbravesports.com psychology braingame they are more robust, teaching them techniques so that if something does happen in the moment they can change their thinking immediately.

“For example, we have a technique called anchoring. In the same way that you hear a song on the radio that can instantly change your mood, we use the same principle to set an anchor so a player can change their emotional state by using a trigger. You might see a player readjust their strings or fiddle with their wristband. These aren’t just meaningless rituals – they are specific routines. 

“The player recalls a specific moment when they felt particularly focused. When they are fully engrossed in that feeling, at the height of that state, you set an anchor – let’s say you adjust your sweatband.

“If the match isn’t going to plan you give yourself a moment, go to the back of the court and fire up that trigger. It can be a visual trigger, or kinaesthetic. You could just close your eyes and say a word.

"You have to ensure the anchor is robust so the player can bring it back time after time even in a Grand Slam final. But as long as you feel that confidence and don’t just think about it, it will work 100% of the time.” 

Sport is all about being as good as you can be throughout each and every moment and having the concentration and confidence to use your skills to their full extent in spite of the pressure. This philosophy requires bravery, the bravery to control your fear and to play freely without the tension that fear imposes – to PlayBrave.

This article appeared in tennishead Volume 4 Issue 6. Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.

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Whether it was a dodgy line call
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