Life on Tour With Jean-Yves Aubone (@JYNole) August 2015 Update #9 A Message to Junior Tennis Players
Jean-Yves Aubone, Tennis Atlantic
A Message To Junior Tennis Players
Dear junior tennis players,
You’re not alone.
Recently I asked my followers on Instagram to e-mail me with any questions they had regarding the life of a professional tennis player or tennis in general. To my surprise, the majority of e-mails I received were from junior tennis players looking for advice on how to deal with low confidence, getting frustrated all the time, and handling their nerves. In more simple terms, they were looking for help with the mental side of the game.
As I read each e-mail carefully, I remembered I was just like them. I remembered how a devastating loss could put me into complete sadness. I remembered how many times I would lose matches because I got nervous during big moments and made some bad decisions. Before answering I thought to myself, “what do I wish I knew then that I know now?”
I wish I understood the importance of training the mind.
For most of my life, I tried to have fun on the court. I tried to let it fly and enjoy the game. I tried endlessly to believe in myself and my abilities as a tennis player. Yet every time things started going wrong, I would get so frustrated things only got worse.
I was always told to have fun and play relaxed but how could I when I was losing? I was told to not worry about winning or losing, but how could I when the ultimate goal was to win? Telling someone to do something without giving them the proper instruction on how to do it, is completely useless.
Up until the last year and a half, no one had ever taught me how to actually play relaxed. No one taught me how to not get frustrated if I started losing. No one ever taught me how to breathe properly so that I could calm myself down. No one ever taught me how to quiet the damn voices in my head that repeatedly said things such as:
“I suck at tennis.
I hate this game.
I knew I was going to lose.
This always happens to me.
I’m just not good enough.”
These mental wars I had with myself were the primary reasons I quit tennis after playing at the collegiate level. The wars began to tear me apart. I suffered on the court and off of it as well. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and quit. Nothing in life, especially a damn game, is worth suffering so much over.
Two years after college the stress from tennis faded away and I decided to leave the office life and give tennis another try. Unfortunately the mental wars began again. I still hadn’t learned how to control my thoughts and nerves. Out of complete desperation, I finally decided to work with a mental coach (I prefer mental coach over psychologist). Slowly I started to learn the proper way to think, the proper words to use in my head, and the proper way to breathe so I could slow my heart rate down when I became nervous.
Since then, tennis has become less stressful and the emotions of it almost never spill into my personal life. More importantly, at the age of 27 I’m finally able to enjoy the game to the fullest.
We (tennis players) are willing to put an extraordinary amount of hours practicing how to hit a tennis ball, yet almost never work on the most important part of the game: the mind. When a professional tennis player or coach is asked how much of the game is mental, the typical answer is roughly 80%. If the game is about 80% mental, then why are we spending nearly 100% of our practice time on the court and in the gym? The numbers don’t make sense.
My best advice to junior tennis players: start working on the mental side of things as soon as possible. Read books; I personally recommend to begin with The Inner Game of Tennis and Winning Ugly. If your coach is not training your mind- ask him to. If he does not have the proper skills to do so, then find a mental coach. Don’t waste years of your tennis life being continuously stressed on court. Enjoy the beautiful game while having an easier pathway to being the best player you can be.