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Can this psychological tactic help your tennis game?

Can this psychological tactic help your tennis game?

As a tennis player, you've heard it all before. You have to be a killer out there! Take no prisoners! Prepare for battle — it's war on the tennis court! But what if all this grisly advice turned out to be wrong? 

Steve Tignor (via took a look back at this year's Wimbledon and said it represented, surprisingly, "the fortnight of the smile." Why? Well, for one thing, "Carlos Alcaraz won the men’s title with a wide and seemingly permanent grin etched across his face. 

"Alcaraz, of course, is the acknowledged leader when it comes to showing that tennis is a sport, and that it’s supposed to be fun. Like many players, he smiles ruefully when he misses an easy shot. But the sheer joy of competing—of sprinting across the court to try to belt an outrageous winner—is enough to light up his face, even when he misses.

"There seems to be universal agreement that Alcaraz’s visible delight in his work is a good thing for tennis. But is it good for you, too? Can smiling more help your game?"

Tignor spoke with Dr. Patrick Cohn, founder of Peak Performance Sports, a mental coaching firm based in Windermere, Florida. Cohn recommends smiling as an “outside-in” psychological tactic to interrupt negative self-talk that often plagues tennis players during a tough match.

“A lot of tennis players are perfectionists, and they’re very self-critical,” Cohn says. “We all know the script that we can get into: After every miss, you say to yourself, ‘that was awful,’ or ‘what am I doing?’ Smiling is a way to interrupt that negative script.”

But Cohn admits it might not work for every player. 

“Smiling more is something that can help players who are really wound up and serious, and who need to back it down a little,” he says. But if you’re already calm and relaxed, “smiling all the time may break up your concentration and make you lose focus.”

Nevertheless, Tignor predicts, "Alcaraz may usher in a fad for smiling. If it helps the rest of us stay more positive on court, that will be one more reason we should be glad to have the kid around."


Source: Top Photo: El Hormiguero (CC BY-NC 2.0) / Flickr. Second Photo: Pete Edgeler (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) / Flickr.

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